It happens to all of us: you make a little too much food and there's some left over for the next few days. So you tend to put the pot in the fridge with the spoon, or directly on a plate. For those of us who are more experienced, an airtight box is the rule of thumb. Let's separate the real from the fake and see what mistakes should be avoided in order to keep your leftovers in the best conditions.
Putting warm dishes back in the fridge
If you have a warm dish that you won't finish, be careful not to put it back in the fridge or freezer if it hasn't cooled down properly. A warm dish in a cold place encourages the growth of bacteria. In addition, the heat source can create temperature variations, which is not ideal for storing other foods.
Leaving dishes out in the open
If you don't finish your plate, don't leave it lying around on the counter for too long. Be aware that room temperature is very much appreciated by the bacteria that grow there at a high speed. Even if it's not life-threatening, you risk stomach aches and some vomiting.
A dish can be left out in the open for up to 2 hours. Once it has cooled, put it in the fridge without any delay.
Not covering the dishes
Covering the dishes is not mandatory, but may change their appearance. Some foods will dry out or discolour, such as pasta or raw vegetables. It is, therefore, preferable to cover the dishes well, with a reusable wax film or in an airtight box. Your dish will keep longer and look more appetising.
Letting certain foods oxidise
Have you just eaten half an avocado, hummus or a raw vegetable dish that you can't finish? Be aware that these foods will not keep in the freezer. It is best to put them in the fridge. However, they may darken or wilt. The best solution is to sprinkle them with olive oil or lemon juice. They will maintain a better appearance.
Disregarding expiry dates
Even for leftovers, there are expiration dates. Sauce dishes, sandwiches and emulsions can be kept for a maximum of two days. For cooked meat and fish, it is three days. Soups will keep for four to five days, while pasta or rice can survive in the fridge for a week.
If you can't eat your leftovers within a few days, keep them in the freezer for up to two months.