Top 5 Meal Prep Food Safety Tips

September 19, 2017

Keep your family safe and healthy with these five meal prep food safety tips.

Keep your family safe and healthy with these five meal prep food safety tips @jlevinsonrd.

It’s no surprise that I’m passionate about meal planning and meal prep – if you get my newsletter you hopefully received my meal planning e-book, and if you visit Small Bites by Jessica on a regular basis, you have seen my Menu Plan Monday posts on an (almost) weekly basis. So when my friend Toby came out with her latest book, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, I didn’t have to think twice before getting a copy and letting you all know about this new resource.

The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook includes the basics of meal prep – the benefits of doing it, the principles of healthy meal prep, must-have kitchen supplies to have on hand, and a sample run down of what a meal prep day looks like. There are also six meal plans in the book and more than 100 recipes included.

One of the things Toby is known for is her expertise in food safety, something that’s of great importance when cooking, especially when meal prepping in large batches. Toby includes some food safety information in the book, but I invited her to share her top meal prep food safety tips to keep you and your family healthy.

The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook includes meal prep food safety tips

Toby’s Top 5 Meal Prep Food Safety Tips

1. Organize Your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry

I recommend organizing your fridge at least weekly. Clean any spills and read any use-by dates to prevent food from spoiling and being tossed. Clean out the refrigerator drawers, especially where fruits and vegetables are stored. Many microorganisms thrive in those drawers and can make their way onto your food.

Organize your freezer at least every few weeks so you know what’s inside. Frozen food still has a shelf life, so you do want to eat the older foods first. Once a month organize your pantry. Line your dry goods so the items with the soonest use-by date are in front. This will also help you see what’s in your pantry so you don’t by ingredients you already have. It can also help you identify any packages that may contain insects- you don’t want those getting stuck in the back of your pantry.

2. Smart Labelling

It’s tough to remember when a container was put in the fridge or freezer. Labelling takes the away the guesswork. Label each container with the food item (or recipe name) and the date you should eat it by. Frozen dishes should not be stored for over 2 months and refrigerated dishes should not be stored for over 7 days.

meal prep food safety tips when storing multiple meals at once
Photo credit: Nat & Cody Gantz

3. Store Food Properly in the Fridge

The air needs to circulate in your fridge so the proper temperature can be maintained. Don’t crowd your fridge or line the shelves with aluminum as this will cut off proper circulation. Also, do not place hot food in the fridge – it will increase the temperature of the fridge and all the food inside. Plus, it will make the fridge work harder, which will increase your electricity bill and make your unit work harder (and may even cause it to be replaced sooner).

4. Thaw Food Safely

Frozen proteins like beef, chicken, and fish should be thawed properly. Do not leave these foods at room temperature to thaw overnight as bacteria can multiply to levels that can make you sick. Thaw meats and fish in the fridge overnight. If there are a lot of frozen foods to be thawed, it may take 2 to 3 days to thaw out. Also, store the foods being thawed below ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables. This can help prevent illness in case raw juices from the meat or fish start dripping.

A dish that has been frozen needs to also thaw properly. Typically you can thaw it right in the fridge overnight. Avoid setting it at room temperature for long periods of time to thaw.

easy tri color pepper steak from The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook by Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN
Photo credit: Gail Watson Photography

5. Reheat Food Properly

Once the food is properly thawed, it can be reheated several ways. For smaller or single portions of food, you can reheat in the microwave, which is ideal if you’re eating at work. If you have a dish with a sauce, like my Easy Tricolor Pepper Steak (shown above) or Slow Cooker Beef Stew, you can place the dish in a saucepan and reheat it stovetop. Some dishes, like my Barbecue Chicken Pizza, can be reheated in the oven.

Special thanks to Toby for sharing her meal prep food safety tips today. If you want a copy of Toby’s book you can get it here, and of course you can get my menu of the week for inspiration or to follow yourself every Monday!

Do you practice these meal prep food safety tips at home?

Share with me in the comments below!
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  1. I’m not a meal prepper – I am a meal right now-er. I like fresh food… And my meals I make at home typically take me 30 minutes or less… But perhaps I will be more of a meal-prepper if/when I have a kid?!

    1. If all your meals take you 30 min or less that’s pretty amazing and you don’t really need to prep in advance. Keep me posted what happens if/when you have kids 😉

  2. Just curious where you’re getting that it’s safe to store cooked food for 7 days? No resource I’ve ever seen recommends storing cooked food in the refrigerator > 3-4 days.

    1. Thanks for your comment. While most cooked food should only be stored for 3-4 days, there are some foods that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. FoodSafety.gov provides charts with details.