Thanksgiving in The Garden State.  It’s a wonderful thing.  The beautiful fall foliage, the multitude of farm stands selling warm cider, and the other 1199 people within your square mile running around crazy.  The holiday season is in full swing.  There’s already Christmas music on the radio.  The air is crisp and cold.  And on Thursday, everything will quiet down as we gather to enjoy the largest meal many of us will eat all year. 

When that meal is over, there will be leftovers.  Lots of them.  Follow these guidelines when handling them and you will throw less of them away. 

  1. 2 Hours- Eat, refrigerate, or freeze any food within two hours of cooking.  That includes the time it was sitting on the table during dinner.
  2. 165 Degrees- Heat all your leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. 
  3. 4 Days- Keep leftovers for a maximum of four days in the refrigerator, until 11/28.  Then freeze or discard. 
  4. Freeze- Freeze everything you can’t eat.  Do this by the Sunday after the holiday.  You can freeze virtually anything.  Use it within six months, otherwise quality starts to suffer, but it is still ok to eat.

Some additional tips:

  • Buy a stick thermometer.  Otherwise, you won’t know when you’ve hit 165 degrees on those leftovers.
  • Invest in some quality freezer bags.  You save a lot of space using them over containers.
  • Get a permanent marker to write on those bags.  Write the contents and the date on which you froze it.
  • Buy some masking tape to use as labels.  Label and date the containers of leftovers before they go into the fridge for the four days after the meal.  Do this in your everyday life and you will throw out less food.
  • Buy thermometers for your freezer and refrigerator.  You want to make sure the fridge is 40 degrees or a little less and the freezer is around zero.
  • Trust your senses.  If you go to eat something and it smells bad or looks bad, it isn’t worth it to take the chance.  Throw it away or compost it. 

Follow these basic guidelines and you will not only stay healthy and safe, but you will end up throwing less food away.  Remember, there are about 2 million food-insecure people in New Jersey that would have liked all that food you’re throwing away.  Also, think of all the time and money you wasted cooking it just to throw 30% or 40% of it away.  C’mon!

Happy Thanksgiving!