How long are leftovers safe to eat?

In general, most perishable leftover foods have a shelf life of just three to five days. However, different foods have different timelines, so use this quick reference list as a guideline:

Main dishes
  • Beef, pork, poultry and fish: 3 to 4 days
  • Lunch meats: 3 to 5 days
  • Seafood: 2 days
  • Pasta: 3 to 5 days
Side dishes
  • Cooked fresh vegetables: 3 to 4 days
  • Rice: 1 week
  • Soup: 3 to 4 days
Always check for unusual odors. And if ever in doubt, the best rule is to throw it out.
Deborah Beauvais
Nutrition & Dietetics
Manage Your Own Leftovers! Most perishable foods have a shelf life of just three to five days; don’t wait for the clean-up crew to throw out your leftovers: Label and date your food and make sure to toss it in a timely fashion. If you aren’t sure how old something is, remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

When cleaning prepackaged food out of the office fridge or home fridge remember:
  • “Use by” or “best if used by” date is not a safety-related date. It’s the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality.
  • “Expiration” date means don’t consume the product after this date.


Continue Learning about Food Storage & Health

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How Can I Tell If My Food Is Contaminated?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.