Safely taking vego food to work? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 08-28-2010, 01:50 PM
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I used to always take sandwiches ( we actually have lunch provided for us! but it's ALWAYS meat) but now that I'm gluten free and the bread is disgusting, I've been cooking potatoes/quinoa/rice etc. for lunch at home when not working and buying lunch at the place next door when I am. Can't afford to do the latter now though so figured I'd just bring in what I'd cooked (like a huge chunk of the working population, obviously, none of whom had to ask this question but I'd rather ask than get sick).

A colleague who brings his own food for similar reasons got really sick the other day despite refridgerating his food (there's a fridge at work) , apparently because it just wasn't ok to keep even in a fridge and then microwave when it'd been initially cooked in a microwave anyway..or..something.

SO my question..
What are the general rules about food storage? It takes me half an hour to walk to work so I'm not concerned about that part, but can i cook say, quinoa and veg the night before and take it with me the next day then microwave it? Or would I leave the veg raw and cook them while microwaving the quinoa? Can i take..I... Oh the queries. I'm terrified of food poisoning after a bad bout of it years ago, to the point of phobia!
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#2 Old 08-28-2010, 01:52 PM
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or what about pizza covered in cheese cooked the night before :I ?
My partner is a food risk taker and leaves meat (omni) on bench for days then eats it and has only gotten sick twice but I refuse to follow his advice...ehehe
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#3 Old 08-28-2010, 04:03 PM
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Well, in my case, either I go out and buy some vegetarian sushi at the sushi restaurant next to my office or I get up early and make my food the same day. I really don't like microwaving my food.

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#4 Old 08-28-2010, 04:26 PM
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The meals I make in the crock pot last us about a week and they do fine in single portion sealed containers in the fridge/freezer. We just pull one out, microwave it for a few minutes and it's ready to take to work in an insulated lunch bag (boyfriend has no access to microwaves at work) or to eat at home. If I make something for him that requires cooling instead, I'll throw a cold icepack at the bottom of his lunch bag before packing the food. Same with large meals I prepare entirely in the microwave when I'm feeling lazy (rice+veg, pasta+veg, sweet potato mac & 'cheez'), they seem to keep for as long as it takes to eat them (about a week or less) and can last longer with freezing. There are people that cook huge portions of food for themselves/their family and then freeze them so they don't have to cook again the entire month. I'm sure preparing food the night before will be okay so long as it's properly stored.

How old was your colleague's food/leftovers and was it refrigerated/frozen/sealed properly? Was it left sitting out for too long before refrigeration? Was it heated thoroughly enough?

Forgot to add: It's a good idea not to use ingredients that may be past their time or expired either. Be sure to store those properly as well before cooking/preparing.

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#5 Old 08-28-2010, 06:34 PM
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yho, understandable. I guess since it's my only break during a long day I don't know if sushi would sustain me as much as the other types of things I'd cook. But you're right, there are sushi places everywhere, I could probably just do that. Although $4AU for a sushi roll is a bit silly when trying to save Will investigate.

Rhys, thank you SO much. That's exactly the kind of info I was looking for Do those cooler blocks actually keep food cool? I always wondered how effective they really were?! Guess they must be pretty great! And the crock pot business, perfect! As is cooking a lot and freezing it. Much much easier. I thought I was being silly worrying about microwaving food I'd cooked then frozen, but who knows. (Well, I do!.. now.)

I don't know how long colleague's food had been out but I guess it was a while. And yup, I'm wary about used by dates

Thank you sooooo much . I'm going to cook tonight (yay Sunday nights) and have tasty wholesome food all week long
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#6 Old 08-28-2010, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by greenie25 View Post

yho, understandable. I guess since it's my only break during a long day I don't know if sushi would sustain me as much as the other types of things I'd cook. But you're right, there are sushi places everywhere, I could probably just do that. Although $4AU for a sushi roll is a bit silly when trying to save Will investigate.

Yay! I'm making empanadas and I'll be saving the dough for the week so I'll just have to fill, fry/bake, save and enjoy!

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#7 Old 08-29-2010, 11:15 AM
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We use a gel ice pack, the insulation in his lunch bag keeps everything pretty cool (or hot if it's heated). For meals that you freeze, you can pull one out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge overnight before bed until you can heat and pack it in the morning. Good luck with your tasty meal planning. :9

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#8 Old 08-29-2010, 12:40 PM
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Rabbit, Rhys, your brilliant replies were inspiring. Clearly this is totally doable (I thought so, since so many people do it) and the coworker was unlucky. Will buy one of those insulated bags and get cracking on the deliciousness
Today is leftover dahl topped gluten free veggie pie yay!
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#9 Old 08-30-2010, 11:28 AM
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There are a few important things when it comes to bringing leftovers. Foods without meat or eggs are less of a concern when it comes to food poisoning, but you still need to handle them properly. First, you need to make sure the leftovers are refrigerated as soon as possible after your meal is cooked. Within 2 hours is the rule of thumb (from the FDA here: Fight Bac safe food handling), but really the sooner the better because bacteria will grow quickly in foods left at room temperature. If you have refrigerated your leftovers, use them up (or freeze them) within 3 or 4 days. If you tend to have lots of things in the fridge, it might be helpful to label them with dates. Rice really should be used within one day because it is particularly susceptible growth of a food poisoning bacterium Bacillus cereus. You can freeze rice if you want to store it for longer. I prefer to err on the safe side, since I have gotten food poisoning from restaurants several times and it is not fun. When in doubt, throw it out!

I bring my lunch to work almost every day in an insulated lunch bag with a cold gel pack. Make sure that your food is pre-chilled (no warm food: warm food + cold pack = good temperature for bacteria to grow), and you shouldn't have a problem. For frozen foods, it helps to thaw it in the fridge the night before. In my experience the food is usually still frozen in the morning, but begins to thaw by lunchtime and takes less time to heat in the microwave than a solidly frozen chunk. Bringing already hot foods is a little more tricky - I used to do this in high school by pre-heating a thermos with boiling water, then dumping that and putting in the hot food. It worked well, but probably isn't worth the effort if you have access to a microwave.

Wishing you many happy and healthy lunches!
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#10 Old 08-30-2010, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by RunnerVeggie View Post

... First, you need to make sure the leftovers are refrigerated as soon as possible after your meal is cooked. Within 2 hours is the rule of thumb (from the FDA here: Fight Bac safe food handling), but really the sooner the better because bacteria will grow quickly in foods left at room temperature.

The trade-off here is that if you put something hot in the refrigerator, it will warm everything up and risk contaminating all the other food. So let it cool a bit before putting it in the fridge, but not too much.

When you warm it up, microwave the heck out of it. Make sure it is hot all the way through. I bring leftovers to work a lot, it is very doable.
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#11 Old 08-31-2010, 05:45 AM
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The trade-off here is that if you put something hot in the refrigerator, it will warm everything up and risk contaminating all the other food. So let it cool a bit before putting it in the fridge, but not too much.

That's not true. Unless you are putting a really large amount of boiling hot food in the fridge, your refrigerator will still maintain the proper air temperature so that other foods inside will stay cold and the food you just put in will cool down. If you put in something hot, your fridge will have to work a bit harder. Usually by the time I eat dinner and put my leftovers in storage containers, the food has cooled to just barely lukewarm. When I put things that are still warm in the fridge, I make sure they have some space around them so they won't be in contact with other containers and heat them up.

Here are a couple of links that explain: Chow: Should you put hot foods in the fridge?, and Safe refrigeration from the USDA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RabbitLuvr View Post

I regularly (as in, almost every week) eat rice that's been in the fridge for up to 5 days with no problems. I have also eaten rice that's been in the closed rice cooker (on the counter) for 2 days without becoming sick. As long as it doesn't have a slimy appearance/texture, I'll eat it. *shrug*

Like I said, I prefer to be cautious. If you eat food that hasn't been handled properly, you won't get sick 100% of the time. Even if chances are small, I prefer to avoid the risk - like I said, food poisoning is extremely unpleasant. Here is some more information on food safety with rice: UK Food Standards Agency on rice and food poisoning.
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#12 Old 08-31-2010, 04:12 PM
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this..i ... i can't even begin to thank you enough. seriously. all of you. i was so clueless pre-this thread. you've much things clearer and solved many a problem! (have to be brief coz am at said workplace riiiight now).
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#13 Old 09-12-2010, 02:18 PM
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so..i probably won't read the answer to this before eating this arvo but i'll just put it out there anyway.
re: the heating of the leftovers..
if the work microwave has died, and I'm just gonna eat yummy cold pasta (no sarcasm, it's still delish!) ... that's safe..right? I assume so. People eat cold leftovers all the time. I just know that it's the heat that kills off all the nasties so am I increasing any risks there?

Man, I'm such a newbie at this stuff. Whaaaat stupid questions..
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#14 Old 09-13-2010, 12:16 AM
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it was awesome! so much better than hunger. WOOOOOO
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#15 Old 09-13-2010, 04:01 AM
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I'm really lax. After dinner, I often won't put the left-overs away for 3 or 4 hours. The next morning, I pack up some of the left-overs for lunch. Sometimes, I use an ice pack, sometimes I don't and my lunch remains unrefrigerated until I eat it around noon. I've never made myself sick. The only food poisoning I've ever experienced has been from restaurants (twice).

I am not recommending others do what I do...
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#16 Old 09-13-2010, 10:16 PM
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Our fridge at work doesn't keep things (it freezes everything) so I just pack it in an insulated lunch box (the case that came with my laptop lunchbox, but I use lock and lock containers now) and keep it in my cupboard. So far, no problems I get to work at 8 and usually eat at 12 or 12:30.
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#17 Old 09-16-2010, 08:06 AM
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Whenever I bring cold lunches to work, I use an insulated lunch box with cold pak. I pack the lunch around 8 AM, before going to work, and it's stayed cold through 2-3 PM easily on days when I have lunch late.

--Fromper
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#18 Old 09-23-2010, 02:18 AM
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I agree with being careful with rice. From what I recall reading in the past, it's got about 2 - 3 days tops in the fridge. Much better to cook it all and freeze it in small portions.
I'm pretty relaxed with most foods and I will cut bad bits off veggies and stuff, but not rice.
Pearl barley goes rank pretty quick too.
Look, smell, taste a little even, but if in doubt, chuck it.

You are very unlikely to get food poisoning by taking perfectly good food to work, refrigerating and then reheating.
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