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15 Food Storage Guidelines You Didn’t Know

To fridge or not to fridge? Discover what foods you should take out of your refrigerator and what unexpected items you should store there now.

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Believe it or not, there actually is a right and wrong way to store foods. We all want to make the most of our weekly trips to the grocery store by ensuring that our food lasts as long as possible. For most of us that means stop trying to shove foods where they fit in the fridge or in our cabinets and learn how to treat our food correctly. Let’s start with the basics, squash a few myths, and see where these common household staples really belong. Try some of these space-saving kitchen storage ideas to free up some much needed space.

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Better at room temp: Avocados

Perhaps the most irritating food in terms of ripening, avocados should be kept out of the fridge until they’re at their optimal freshness (which lasts, if you’ve ever bought one, about 5 minutes). Once they’re ripe, you can place them in the fridge for 5-10 days. Tip: Keep the pit in the half of the avocado that you’re not going to eat; it keeps it fresher, longer. Learn how you can keep your other fruits and veggies fresh for longer.

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Keep it cold: Nuts

This may come as a surprise, but your favorite healthy midday snack actually does better in the fridge. The oils in nuts can become rancid after a few months if they’re left at room temperature. Fun fact: They can also be frozen, since they have such a small water content. Don’t miss these kitchen hacks that will keep last week’s groceries super fresh.

Heap of watermelons, close-upFrank Rothe/Getty Images

Better at room temp: Uncut Watermelon

Stop letting your huge watermelons hog all of the room in the fridge! This fruit is good left on the counter until it’s cut. Once you slice it, wrap it up and place it in the fridge for optimal freshness. Learn the best way to tell if a watermelon is ripe for the sweetest and juiciest snack.

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Keep it cold: Opened salami or pepperoni

Meats that you’ll typically find on a cheese board, like salami, cured ham, and pepperoni, should be put in the fridge once you open them. The cut end becomes seriously susceptible to bacteria growth if it’s left out on the counter or in the pantry. Make sure you know exactly how long every kind of meat lasts in the fridge.

Hot Belgian Waffle Breakfast in DetailRyanJLane/Getty Images

Keep it cold: Pure maple syrup

The real stuff has no preservatives and can become moldy after opening if it’s not chilled within a few weeks or months. But if you’re using commercial, processed maple syrup, it’s good to stay in the pantry. If you’re not looking forward to pancakes with cold maple syrup, pour out a serving size and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds––it’ll take your flapjacks to the next level. See the foods you’ll never have to worry about expiring.

Full Frame Shot Of BananasAndrzej Siwiec/EyeEm/Getty Images

Keep it cold: Ripe bananas

Ripe bananas stay at their perfect peak for another week if you toss them in the refrigerator—but wait until they’re soft with plenty of spots. If you put still-green or not-quite-ripe bananas in the fridge, it’ll halt the ripening process and you’ll never get the perfect banana…unless you like ’em green (Tip: There is less sugar in them that way!). Check out these clever uses for bananas—besides eating them.

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Better at room temp: Garlic

Entire bulbs of garlic can be left on the counter for up to 3-4 months, while individual cloves will last up to 10 days. And if you’re afraid you won’t use it quickly enough, you can store whole, unpeeled garlic in the freezer and remove cloves as you need them. But who doesn’t use garlic quickly? Here are 10 more foods you didn’t know you could freeze.

Potatoes close-up3DConcepts/Shutterstock

Better at room temp: Potatoes

Moisture makes spuds go blah; store in the pantry or on the counter for up to three weeks. Once you see ’em start to grow sprouts or get soft, that’s a sign to use them quickly (especially in soups and stews!) or ditch them. Also, beware: Potatoes exude (non-scented) fumes when they’re sitting out that can spoil other foods like onions more quickly. See how you can fit more into your storage space with these hacks.

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Keep it cold: Natural peanut butter

The oils in natural peanut butter can go rancid quickly when stored at warm temperatures. Take your PB out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before use and gift it a good stir to soften it up. Commercial, processed peanut butters, which include more than just peanuts as an ingredient, can be left in the pantry for up to a year, since there are added preservatives in the mix.

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Better at room temp: Hot sauce

Acidic, vinegar-based foods like this fiery condiment are fine at room temperature. However, you can refrigerate it for longer-lasting flavor, just make sure to bring it to room temp before use. See how long these common condiments really last.

Close-up of sliced whole grain oat breadPaul Grossmann/Getty Images

Better at room temp: Bread

Nothing makes loaves go stale faster than a stint in the refrigerator. Freeze what you won’t eat within a few days. Now that eating bread is less popular in American diets, we recommend popping your loaf in the freezer right when you get home from the supermarket. That way, you don’t even have to worry about keeping an eye on it for mold. Don’t miss the one place you’re forgetting to check your bread for mold.

Coconut Oillauraag/Getty Images

Keep it cold: Coconut oil

All oils can become rancid after a few months on the counter, especially the oils that are used less frequently (enter: coconut oil). Coconut oil is a solid fat whether it’s in the pantry or in the fridge, so all you need to do is pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to bring it to its liquid state.

Close up of Rainbow Sprinkles or Jimmies or Sugar Strands on a Large Sheet CakeCyndi Monaghan/Getty Images

Better at room temp: Cake

Chilled air dries it out, no matter how well wrapped it is; unless frosting is literally melting off, store cake on the counter. However, if your kitchen is hot and humid, the cake can spoil quickly, so refrigeration isn’t the worst option. Don’t miss the items in your kitchen that you just need to throw out already.

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Better at room temp: Tomatoes

Avoid the fridge at all costs: Tomatoes will turn mushy and bland in there. They’re best left out of zip-locked bags and instead placed in a paper bag until they’re ripe. Once ripened, you can keep ’em out on the counter. Here are the other foods you’ve been spoiling by putting them in the fridge.

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Keep it cold: Butter

While butter is on the USDA’s safe-to-eat unrefrigerated list of foods, it’ll last a whole lot longer in the fridge. If you have a hot or humid kitchen, your butter could spoil within a few days, so it’s best kept chilled. Next, check out these 15 foods you should never keep in your pantry.

Sources

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest