You are looking through the fridge for a last minute dinner idea and you are not sure whether you can use something a day or two over the “use-by” date, the “sell by” date or worse yet the package has no date on it. Or how about that left over spaghetti or soup from a few nights ago – is that still good? Wait – what about the pizza that was left over from the weekend?
For the most part, any cooked beef such as steaks, roasts or meatloaf for example will last for 3 to 5 days after being cooked. Chicken and turkey on the other hand, is not recommended to eat leftover after more than 2 days after you cooked it – so that chicken soup – only good for a couple of days unless you freeze it, in which it would be good for up 2 month. Seafood is also like chicken in that it should not be eaten more than 2 days after being stored in the fridge. Seafood does not re-freeze well for storage. A cooked honey baked type ham is good for 3 to 5 days, and also can be frozen for 1 to 2 months. Pasta only dishes or even pasta with veggies or mac and cheese are fine for 3 to 4 days. Lunch meats that have been opened should be eaten within 3 to 5 days. Deli prepared foods or homemade items like macaroni salad, cole slaw or potato salad are good for 3 to 5 days. A package of breakfast sausage should be used within 1 to 2 days and bacon in 7 days. With bacon costing as much as $7 for a pack, make sure and freeze whatever you think you might not use up in a week. Bacon can be frozen for up to 1 month. The best way to freeze items is to use zip-lock bags and write on the outside the item and the date you are putting it in the freezer.
Use the same guidelines with takeout food or leftovers from eating dinner out. So a kung pao chicken or house fried rice would only be good for a couple of days, a sausage pizza only 2 days as well, while a ham and pineapple pizza would be fine for 3 to 5 days.
Please note, these guidelines work if you did not leave the food sitting out for an extended amount of time. So if the pizza sat out for 2 hours during the football game, or it took you an hour to get home with your left over dinner, it is best to discard rather than save for another date.