Pam Rainey: Don’t let food age past its prime

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When November winds blow and leaves begin to fall, we might as well get our party duds cleaned and ready to wear. Holiday festivities and get-togethers are just ahead.

I’m already looking for good recipes to make and take to some special events coming up. I know other events will allow me to enjoy many high- and low-calorie new foods to sample.

Doesn’t it seem a shame to let good food go to waste whether we are offered food to go at a party or we have been served too much at a restaurant? That’s what doggie bag containers are for.

But be careful with food you take away. A blog warns seniors (or anyone of any age) not to hold onto leftovers too long. They could make you sick, or worse, they could kill you.

“Food Safety Risks for the Elderly,” a blog posting on by dietitian Marisa Moore, states that roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illness each year. Yikes!

While food safety is a concern for everyone, it’s especially important to make sure we, as older adults, are educated as to how we can safely eat left over food.

The “To Your Health” publication on reminds us: “Care must be taken when handling these leftovers. If you will not be arriving home within two hours of being served (one hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees F) it is safer to leave the leftovers."

Also remember that the inside of a car can get very warm. Bacteria may grow rapidly, so it is always safer to go directly home after eating and put your leftovers in the refrigerator.

Food safety doesn’t stop with the food we bring from dining out. It is also very tempting to save food left over from a meal. In Julie Hall’s book The Boomer Burden, she says that in almost every estate she has handled, she finds lots and lots of washed-out Cool Whip cartons, canning jars and twist ties (like the type you get on bread). I am guilty of saving these things myself. They are perfect for storing food to be eaten later.

Look in your refrigerator. What sort of leftovers are there? You are probably fine if you have labeled them and know when to throw them away.

Aw … this all sounds so gloomy. Don’t despair. There are ways in which you can carefully save food. gives four basic tips for leftovers at home:

1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.

2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.

3. Cook: Cook food to the right temperature.

4. Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly.

Moore also suggests ways to safely store leftovers. For example, instead of leaving your food on the counter to cool down to room temperature, refrigerate the extra food promptly in an airtight, shallow container. This allows for quick cooling and helps to prevent bacterial growth.

Using a label or marker on your containers is another way to remind you when you prepared the food you have saved. It also might remind you it is time to invite a friend over to share the soup, stew or casserole before you have to throw it out.

I would say that would be killing two birds with one stone — sharing a meal with a friend and enjoying homemade food.

Speaking of friends, I would like to thank my lifelong friend, Linda McLemore, with whom I grew up in Columbus, Ga., for typing this column. She got it ready for editing. I had rotator cuff repair as well as carpal tunnel repair on Oct. 1.

E-mail is wonderful. I sent her my scribbled notes and she read my mind.

I’m better now and functioning. Neither miles, years, marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, or deaths of all of our parents (who were friends) kept Linda’s and my friendship apart.

Last March, after 42 years of phone calls, e-mails, then texting, I had a chance to join her on the Alabama coast for a week. It was as though we were in high school again as we drove along beside the water and laughed until tears of joy and greatness ruined our mascara. Our friendship has lasted a lifetime.

She was voted “Most Beautiful” in high school our senior year, and she still looks the same to me.

There is no medicine or makeup in the world more effective than spending time with a friend who makes you feel like a teenager again. Thanks, Linda.

PAM RAINEY is a longtime Denton resident and a real estate agent who has helped many seniors make decisions about living arrangements. You can reach her with suggestions at or 940-367-1188.

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