From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
Learning how to store food properly is a simple way to save money, avoid food waste, and enhance physical health. This is a great skill to build upon and integrate into daily practice to be a more economical and sustainable food consumer.
With proper storing methods, food items can stay fresh longer, keep their flavor, and retain greater nutritional value. You will also be able to stretch your grocery dollars further.
Let’s explore how to optimize kitchen storage in order to gain the huge payoff it lends to overall well-being.
Storing Foods to Increase Shelf Life
It is easy to fall into the mindset that all fresh products belong in the fridge; however, this is not completely true. There are many best practices when it comes to keeping food fresh and safe. Here’s how you can best store some common items for optimal quality and freshness:
Ideal place of storage: On the counter.
Why not the refrigerator? Cucumbers are sensitive to cold temperatures and will last only up to three days stored here. If you must keep these in the fridge, place cucumbers on the front of the top shelf for best results.
Ideal place of storage: On the counter.
Why not the refrigerator? Tomatoes are also sensitive to cold temperatures and lose flavor/texture quickly here. Store stem side down on the counter to lock in moisture and freshness until ready for use.
Ideal place of storage: A cool, dry place like the bottom of the pantry. Keep them in a dark spot, as exposure to light can cause their skins to develop green spots. If the green permeates the flesh, the potato can develop toxic compounds and become unsafe to eat.
How to prevent sprouting? Store potatoes with apples. These pair well together to allow for longer lasting potatoes with minimal sprouting.
Ideal place of storage: On the counter in a fruit bowl.
How to prevent from ripening too fast? Separate all bananas from the core stem and place them in a fruit bowl to slow the ripening process. Bananas should last for a week or more with minimal development of brown or mushy spots.
Ideal place of storage: On the counter in a fruit bowl to ripen; or in a brown paper bag kept in the fridge to slow ripening.
How to prevent browning on a leftover avocado half? Squeeze lime or lemon juice over it, keep the skin on, and store in a reusable avocado hugger or airtight container.
Ideal place of storage: Sprouted grain products should be stored in the fridge. Other bread products can be stored in the fridge or a bread box.
How to keep bread fresh, mold-free, and usable for months? Store in the freezer and pull it out slice by slice as needed.
Mapping the Refrigerator
Knowing how to store food in the fridge is key to food safety and shelf life. Though putting away groceries in the fridge may feel like a free-for-all, there is a method to building a more sustainable and safety-conscious space. Read below to see what belongs where.
The temperature fluctuates the most here, and it is the warmest location of the fridge. Avoid storing any perishable items here. Instead, organize doors with:
- Condiments and sauces
- Items that do not spoil easily
The Bottom Shelf
This is the coldest part of the fridge and an important place to keep animal products, which require these low temperatures for proper storage. Storing animal products, primarily uncooked meats, on the bottom shelf helps prevent contamination of other food due to possible leakage. Keeping all items in a sealed container or wrapped will also prevent cross-contamination. Place any of these items on the lowest shelf:
- Raw meat
- Raw poultry
- Raw fish
The Top & Middle Shelves
This space has the most consistent temperatures in the fridge and is best for the following items:
- Prepared meals
- Dairy products
- Healthy snacks
Certain fruits and vegetables tend to make each other rot faster, as these require being stored at different humidity levels. Ethylene-sensitive produce that is also sensitive to moisture loss should be stored at the high humidity setting, while ethylene-producing produce that is not sensitive to moisture loss should be stored at the low humidity setting.
High Humidity Drawer:
- Leafy greens
Low Humidity Drawer:
- Ripe stone fruit (ex: peaches, plums, nectarines)
- Ripe pears