Seriously, How Long Should You Keep Your Pre-Made Meals For?

No one wants food poisoning.


Chandré Davids |

Food poisoning is something that can happen to anyone but when you’re meal prepping you might be putting yourself more at risk. Earlier this year, a university student died from food poisoning when he ate five-day-old pasta. According to reports he made the meal on a Sunday then ate it five days later after leaving it to get to room temperature.

While cases like these are rare, how you store and prep your meals are of utmost importance, especially since you’ll be storing it for extended periods of time. But don’t let this stop you from experiencing the amazing benefits of meal prepping, we chatted to self-proclaimed “Queen of Meal Prepping”, Natasha ‘Fitlikemummy’ Kisten-Skuce, to find out how to do it safely.

How Meal Prep Can Help You

Natasha says that meal prepping is a great way, to reassess, reinforce and set new goals for the week ahead. “Meal prepping has helped remove the temptation and all excuses. I’ve managed to stay on track and, having ready-made meals on hand is a huge money and time saver. Two hours of meal prep on a Sunday saves me approximately eight hours in the week. That in itself is an absolute win for me,” she explains.

READ MOREThese 6 Meal-Prepping Habits Saved My Waistline And My Wallet

(Food) Safety First

Since you’re going to prepare meals in bulk, you’ll want to ensure you’re cooking your food correctly and storing it safely. To ensure you’re not guessing your way through if your food has gone bad, label your prepared meals. Most food items can be stored for about three to four days when refrigerated, longer when frozen. When storing food, it’s best to refrigerate it as soon as it cooled down after cooking. And once you’ve reheated your meals, immediately eat it — leaving it out too long can cause bacteria to build.

It’s probably a good idea to invest in a kitchen thermometer. Cooking food at the correct temperature is one of the best ways to prevent bacteria. Here are some guidelines:

  • 145 degrees for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
  • 160 degrees for ground meats, such as beef and pork
  • 165 degrees for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
  • 165 degrees for leftovers and casseroles

What containers you store your food is important too. Glass is best — both for your health and the environment. But if you’re a bit too clumsy for glass, ensure that the plastic containers you are using are BPA (bisphenol A) free, a chemical which mimics estrogen.

READ MORE6 Meal-Prep Mistakes That Are Making You Gain Weight

Natasha’s Tips on How to Ace Meal Prepping

  • Plan ahead — plan your meals for the week ahead and while you are at it compile a grocery list. Making sure you stick to the list will prevent those impulsive buys. It will also prevent food wastage.
  • The right tool for the job — in this instance I’m talking about making sure you have good quality airtight containers. Containers also need to be able to go from freezer to microwave. Good quality containers are the key to successful meal prepping. They prevent food from spoiling and will save you money and time in the long run.
  • Routine is key — choose a meal prep day and time. Meal prep should become a way of life that holds you accountable and keeps you honest and on track.  Sundays work for me, but many people prep twice a week. It’s important to establish a routine that best fits to accommodate your lifestyle.
  • Keep it simple — Keep your meals simple, balanced and healthy. This will help you meal prep like a boss.
  • Cook extra — I always meal prep in bulk. This way I am able to prepare meals for my family as well.

READ MORE ON: Nutrition Nutrition Advice