How to Store Fresh Foods
One of the key principles behind proper nutrition is eating clean. This means kicking fast food and packaged products to the curb. Your next challenge: keeping fresh food fresh. Unprocessed foods go bad faster than processed products, and spoiled food means wasted money. Use these simple tips to keep your food fresher, longer.
General Storage Tips
- Keep refrigerator clean at all times. Clean up spills immediately.
- Line drawers with paper towels and change them regularly.
- Wipe all moisture from fruits and vegetables before refrigerating them.
- Remove fruits and vegetables from plastic bags and store them in produce bags.
- Label all leftovers, meat, and dairy products with dates.
- Store fruits and vegetables separately.
- Store raw food below cooked foods.
- Keep your refrigerator at 40º F. Put a thermometer in the refrigerator to get an idea of the true temperate inside the refrigerator.
To keep your foods fresh (and safe for your family), use the guide below. For smaller refrigerators, store ready-to-eat and cooked foods on the top shelf and tier down as much as possible. Always store poultry on the bottom shelf.
Top Shelf: ready-to-eat foods, fully-cooked foods
Second Shelf: raw seafood, fish, eggs
Third Shelf: whole beef (steak)
Fourth Shelf: raw pork (ham, bacon, etc.)
Fifth Shelf: raw ground meat
Bottom Shelf: poultry
Door: condiments, bottled drinks
Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas. If other ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables are exposed to this gas, they will rot faster. For a list of ethylene-producing and ethylene-sensitive foods, read "Why Fresh Produce Goes Bad So Fast."
Refrigerated apples can last for up to two months. For best results, store apples without them touching each other.
Store asparagus upright with the stems in 1-2 inches of water for up to 10 days.
Place beef in a plastic bag to keep juice from spilling and causing cross-contamination. This will last for two to four days stored below fresh foods and above poultry. Ground beef is only good for one to two days.
Separate the roots from the greens. Store greens for seven days and roots for up to a month. Don't wash until ready to use.
Remove rotting or soggy berries and place blueberries in a glass or plastic container. They'll stay good for up to two weeks.
Broccoli can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Store cut broccoli in a produce bag.
Place broccoli sprouts directly on the refrigerator shelf for up to a month.
Cabbage will stay fresh anywhere in your fridge for up to two months.
Wrap carrots tightly in plastic before placing in the fridge for up to one month. The key to longevity with carrots is keeping them moist. If they dry out, they lose taste and nutrients.
Cauliflower will stay fresh for up to two weeks when stored directly on a shelf in the fridge.
Place celery in plastic and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Place cucumbers in the fridge for up to a week.
Store eggs in the original carton in the fridge. Don't store them in the door (even if it has an egg compartment) because it isn't cold enough.
Put figs in a paper towel-lined basket in the fridge. Do not stack figs or allow them to touch.
Store grapefruit on a shelf in the refrigerator. Before eating, allow grapefruit to sit at room temperature for maximum sweetness. Once cut, store in the refrigerator for up to three days. An uncut grapefruit will last for two to three weeks in the refrigerator.
Green beans can be stored in a covered plastic container or plastic bag.
Store herbs in water or with the roots wrapped in a wet paper towel in the refrigerator. Change water regularly.
Wash and dry lettuce, then wrap it in a paper towel. Store in a sealed plastic bag. For large quantities, place moist paper towels on top of lettuce and cover in plastic for up to two weeks.
Never store milk in the door of the fridge. It isn't cold enough to keep it fresh.
Store mushrooms in a closed paper bag in the fridge for up to one week. Don't store mushrooms in the crisper drawer—it's too moist.
Place onions in a perforated bag in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.
Oranges will last for three to four weeks when stored in the refrigerator in a bag, container, or directly on the shelf.
Put peppers in a covered plastic container or in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.
Store pork products below fresh foods and above poultry. Place in a plastic bag to avoid cross-contamination. Most pork products will last for two to four days. Bacon is good for seven days.
Wrap packaged poultry in a plastic bag to keep the juices from dripping and causing cross-contamination. Place poultry on the bottom shelf and cook within two days.
Remove raspberries from packaging, separate any damaged berries, and place in towel-lined container (uncovered). Raspberries will last for five to six days at the most.
Put seafood/shellfish on ice in the fridge with a plate below for the melted ice to drip into. If this isn't an option, store it tightly wrapped above meat, but below fresh foods. While seafood/shellfish is best used the same day it's purchased, you can store it for up to two days.
Remove strawberries from packaging, separate any damaged berries, and place in a small colander. Don't wash until ready to use. For the best flavor, rinse and let them sit at room temperate for one hour before eating. Strawberries are good for up to five days.
Store uncut watermelons in the warmest part of the refrigerator or at room temperature. An uncut watermelon will last for one to two weeks. Once cut, store watermelon for up to three days.
Room Temperature Foods
The foods below should be stored at room temperature. Some of these items need to be ripened at room temperature and then stored in the refrigerator to lengthen their life.
Ripen apricots at room temperature, and then store them in the fridge for up to one week.
An unripened avocado can take up to five days to ripen at room temperature. Once ripe, you can store them in the fridge for up to two days.
Hang bananas from a hook to prevent accelerated ripening that occurs when bananas touch surfaces. They'll last for up to 10 days.
Store basil in water or with the roots wrapped in a wet paper towel at room temperature.
Wrap bread in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. Don't store bread in the refrigerator (it will dry out). Bread may be frozen and defrosted one time. Defrost bread at room temperature and refresh in the oven.
Ripen cantaloupe at room temperature, then place it in the fridge. Cantaloupes can carry foodborne illnesses. Once cut, keep cantaloupe covered in the fridge. If it's at room temperature for more than one hour, throw it away.
Ripen eggplant at room temperature, then place it in a perforated bag in the fridge for one week.
Never store raw garlic in oil. This can lead to botulism, a paralytic illness caused by bacteria. Instead, place garlic in a cool place in your kitchen. It's best stored in a garlic keeper that's ventilated.
Ripen mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature. Once ripe, mangoes can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for one week.
Store pineapples in a perforated bag in the refrigerator for four to five days. Pineapples stored on the counter at room temperature are good for one to two days (this will not increase sweetness).
Place potatoes in a paper bag at room temperature for up to one week. Don't rinse potatoes before storing them.
Remove tomatoes from plastic bags. Store at room temperature in a paper towel-lined box or tray with the stems facing up. Avoid heat, cold or sunlight. If some tomatoes begin to rot, separate them from the fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are good for one week.