The general perception is that if you refrigerate food, it will last longer because the cold temperature slows bacterial growth. While keeping food cool is indeed better in most cases, it sometimes make it taste worse and decay faster due to moisture absorption.
You probably keep some foods refrigerated when they shouldn’t be and vice versa. As a result, much of your produce gets thrown out. In fact, Americans waste about 150,000 tons of food a day, with fruits and vegetables being the most frequently tossed items, followed by dairy and meat, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Uneaten food is by far the biggest single source of trash in municipal landfills. About 40% of the food produced in the country is wasted every year, consequently wasting all of the resources used to make the food, including fresh water and millions of acres of farmland.
The best way to prevent food waste and the related environmental costs is to stop throwing it out in the first place. But to do so, people need to know how to keep food safe and fresh for longer.
To create the list of foods that should and should not be kept refrigerated, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed dozens of reports and guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its affiliates on food safety and selected the products that are commonly found in people’s kitchens.
If honey is stored in a sealed container it can remain stable for several years. But to be on the safe side, manufacturers recommend no more than two years, as it can chemically change and lose its aroma depending on the temperature. Honey should be stored in a cool and dark place where the temperature is not higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid moisture absorption, which can lead to fermentation and a decrease in quality.
Peppers definitely don’t need to be kept in the refrigerator. That is a total myth. Refrigerator air will preserve peppers and make them last longer, but it will also cause the peppers to taste more dull and flavorless.
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Store pepper is a cool, dry place. Yes, this also applies to chili peppers. If you really love peppers, you can even go swimming with them like the man in the photo above.
Peanut butter products should be kept in a dry and cool place, away from strong light and heat (and even appliances, as some can produce heat). An unopened jar of peanut butter does not have to be refrigerated. However, once you open it, keeping it in the fridge will ensure it stays fresh for up to nine months. Otherwise, its shelf life will be no more than three months.
Coffee beans must be kept away from air, moisture, heat and light. The National Coffee Association recommends that they be stored in a dark, airtight container at room temperature to preserve their fresh roasted flavor. Cabinets near the oven and kitchen counters are not recommended.
Potatoes can stay fresh for several months if stored properly, which means not washing them before storing because dampness increases the likelihood of decay. Keep them in a cool – 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit – dark place, with good ventilation. Higher temperatures often lead to sprouting.
A quarter of tomatoes consumed in the United States, the largest tomato producer in the world, are eaten raw. They should be stored in a cool, dry place – not in a plastic bag – and away from other produce and meats to prevent cross-contamination. Store them in a single layer to prevent them from becoming mushy. You can freeze tomatoes for up to eight months.
Onions can actually turn moldy if you leave them in the fridge. Leave onions in a dark, dry area to keep them fresher for longer. You should have a designated onion drawer to keep them separate from your other pantry food items.
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Whole onions should be kept for up to four weeks in a cool place (though not in the fridge), away from light, and in a well-ventilated container such as a mesh bag. Sweet onions have a shorter shelf life. Once cut, onions should be kept in the fridge and used within a few days.
Garlic should not be kept in the fridge as the cold temperature will stimulate sprouting. Keeping garlic in a cool, dark and dry place will ensure its freshness for up to five months.
Melons, a popular fresh addition to salads and desserts, include cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon. The best way to store ripe cantaloupe is 36 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit with optimal humidity between 95% and 100%, which will prevent it from drying out. It lasts in the fridge five to 15 days. Honeydew melons should be stored at room temperature, and in the fridge for up to two weeks once they are cut. Whole watermelons should also be stored at room temperature and in airtight containers in the fridge once cut.
Look, we all love a chilled melon. We discussed this already back when we were talking about watermelons. But before you put a melon in the fridge, think about how long it’s going to last.
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Research proves that refrigeration actually lowers the number of anti-oxidants within a sealed melon. Slice up your cantaloupe, place it in a sealed container, and chill it before serving (but not any earlier). Which melon do you think is better, watermelon or cantaloupe?
Bread should be kept in its original wrapper in a breadbox or in the fridge – although, it will stay fresh for longer at room temperature – and it should be consumed within a week. But it's better protected from mold when refrigerated. If you freeze it, the bread will keep its quality for up to three months.
How you should store nuts depends on how soon you're going to eat them. Keeping small quantities at room temperature is fine. For long term use, however, store them in the freezer because the high fat content may become stale. For best quality, you should keep them in a moisture-proof container.
It's a bad idea to keep chocolate in the fridge or freezer because it may pick up other flavors. Store it at room temperature for maximum flavor. Quick changes in humidity or temperature may cause the surface to become discolored. The best way to store chocolate is to keep it wrapped tightly in plastic in a cool and dry place.
Parmesan cheese can last for a long time if stored properly, due to its low water content and texture. The cheese should be kept in the fridge (never freezer) in a glass or plastic container to maintain the flavor. Otherwise, it may dry out and absorb the smell of other foods in the fridge.
Not only should soft cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, ricotta, mozzarella, and Muenster be kept in the fridge, they should be discarded if left out at room temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above for more than two hours.
Bananas should be left to ripen at room temperature. After that, it's OK to keep them in the fridge. The skin will darken but this won't affect the freshness or flavor of the fruit -- as long as you eat them within five days.
Olive oil should be kept in a cool, dry and dark place -- never close to the stove as the heat will quickly lead to rancidity. Clear glass bottles should even be wrapped in foil to protect from light and heat so the oil will last longer. Once the bottle is opened, the olive oil is good for three months.
If the avocados are not yet ripe, you should keep them in a paper bag at room temperature. After that you can store them in the fridge for up to three days. At the supermarket, you should look for avocados that yield when gently pressed, with firm skin and no soft spots.
Bell peppers should be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge and used within five days. They should be dry before put in storage. For food safety purposes, they should also be kept separate from raw meats and fish, as well as tools that have been used to cut these foods.
Putting papaya in the fridge will slow down the fruit’s ripening process, and it could also give it a watery taste. Nobody likes papaya with a watery taste. This fruit needs all of the flavor it can get, so you’re going to want to keep it out of the refrigerator.
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When it’s ripe and ready, you can cut it up into small, bite-sized pieces, and enjoy this delicious, though mild, tropical fruit.
Berries need to be handled with care. Store them in the fridge in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the bottom ones from getting crushed. Don't wash them beforehand. Put them in a moist area in the fridge, such as the vegetable keeper, in order to extend the shelf life. Blueberries are OK in these conditions for up to five days; blueberries and raspberries are good up to two days.
Apples should be refrigerated in a plastic bag, kept away from other produce with strong smells, and used within three weeks. Apples that are not going to be sold in fresh markets are stored at low temperatures with little oxygen to slow aging and prevent rotting, but fungicides must then be applied to stop fungal rots.
Pumpkins are now inseparable from October and Halloween, probably because October is a harvest month and pumpkins are harvested in the fall.
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Pumpkins also thrive in cool, dark places. Your basement is a good place for them. Or in cold storage. Or in a pantry. Just not in the fridge. Refrigerators are too moist for pumpkins. Magic can turn a pumpkin into a carriage, but I don’t know if it can revive a pumpkin that’s gone bad from being in the fridge for too long.
As is the case with all fresh fruits and vegetables, oranges should be stored away from raw meats. Oranges will last up to eight weeks if kept in the crisper drawer of the fridge with a temperature between 38 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity between 90% and 95%.
Corn keeps well frozen, which is why so many people store it that way. You can freeze it on the cob, whole kernel or cream style. Whatever method you choose, you should blanch the corn (scalding in boiling water or steam for a short time) beforehand. Then, cool, drain, seal and freeze.
Whole wheat flour
Most whole grain flour has a shelf life of two to three months if kept refrigerated in an air-tight non-metal container, and up to eight months if frozen. Unopened packages should be kept in a cool and dry place. Seal tightly after opening.
Whole grain tortillas should be stored frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Fresh tortillas should be placed in a cooler within six hours after baking at a maximum temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or a freezer. If frozen, they should be delivered no more than 90 days after baking.
You may have heard that red wine, for example, should not be served cold, but there is no reason to keep it in the pantry after opening. Refrigerating wine will help preserve its freshness significantly because it slows the natural breaking down process. The colder temperature slows bacterial growth. In fact, cooking wine dates back to at least the 16th century.
The shelf life of whole spices is about two years; ground spices and herbs, on the other hand, are good for about a year. Don't make the mistake of keeping them on the counter or close to the stove as heat and sunlight will only destroy them faster. Keep the spices in airtight containers in dry places.
Mustard is similar to ketchup in that it can last longer outside of the fridge. In fact, mustard can last even longer than ketchup because it contains a natural acid that acts as a preservative.
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Mustard can last way longer than you’d think, in or out of the fridge, but you don’t need to take up fridge space with this condiment. Save room in the fridge for all of those leftover hotdogs.
You shouldn’t store basil cuttings in the fridge. Refrigerators are dark and your basil can’t get any sunlight in there. Basil has been known to wilt in the fridge.
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Instead, place any leftover basil in a cup half full of fresh water, and then place that cup by a sunny window. Your basil will last a lot longer, and it may even sprout roots, which means that you can replant it and grow infinite basil.
Carrots can actually rot and become waterlogged and droopy if they’re left in the fridge for too long. You should store your carrots away from direct sunlight in a place with low moisture.
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If you’re cutting up a bunch of carrots to serve alongside chicken wings or something, you can put them in a container of water and place that in the fridge, but only if you’re going to eat them within a few hours.
I don’t know anybody who stores cereal in the fridge. I shouldn’t need to tell you this, but the fridge is not a place where cereal belongs. The moisture in there will cause the cereal to wilt and become much less crunchy.
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Cereal should always be stored in a cool dry place, like a pantry or a cupboard. Nobody likes soggy cereal. Unless you’re one of those people who like to let your cereal get soggy in the milk before you eat it…
Most Tropical Fruits Like Tropical Environments.Tropical fruits come from tropical places where it’s warm and rainy and the sun is always shining. You don’t want to take a tropical fruit and put it in a cool, dry fridge. That’s the opposite of what it needs.
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Fruit like mangoes, plums, kiwi, apricots, and peaches actually ripen at a slower rate in the fridge and they’ll lose flavor and nutrients faster. Just leave tropical fruit in a bowl out on your table or kitchen counter. They’re so pretty to look at, too. Leave them out for everybody to see.
Pears don’t actually ripen on the tree. They ripen at room temperature on grocery store shelves and in your home. Keep them at room temperature to get that perfect pear taste.
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Cold air will only delay the ripening process and make the pears taste stale. Once the pears have reached peak ripeness, then you can put them in the fridge to keep them crisp and delicious for longer. Have you tried making poached pears? Poached pears are delicious.
Hot Sauce Likes It Hot. When it comes to any kind of hot sauce, you have to remember that these products have a pretty long shelf life. They’re full of natural preservatives like vinegar and they often don’t contain very many actual fruits or vegetables.
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You should store hot sauce away from direct sunlight and keep it in a cool, dry place like a pantry or a cupboard. If you’re a hot sauce fanatic, you might just want to leave it on the table because you know you’re going to use it again with your next meal.
Pickles are full of natural preservatives like vinegar and salt, so you don’t need to store them in the fridge. They can stay out of the fridge for three years even after they’re opened. If you really like cold pickles, you can leave them in the fridge, but you don’t have to store them in the fridge.
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Save the fridge space if you need it. What kind of pickles do you like? Sweet or sour?
You can also leave full salads out of the fridge for extended periods of time as long as that salad doesn’t contain cheese or other dairy products. Mayonnaise-based dressings should also not be left out of the fridge for long periods of time.
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You probably don’t want to put dressing on your salad until right before you’re going to eat it anyway, but if you’ve brought a salad to work for lunch and your work fridge is broken or full or something, it’s safe to eat room temperature salad.
There is no reason at all to store canned tuna in the fridge. As long as the can is sealed, this fish can last forever outside of a cold environment. These cans are packed with preservatives.
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The same is not true for fresh tuna or even opened cans of tuna though. That fish needs to go in the fridge asap. Basically, anything in a can can stay in the pantry.
While salad dressings that contain dairy products like ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing do need to be kept in the fridge, many oil-based vinaigrettes can be kept out of the cold.
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Neither vinegar or oil require refrigeration. As we saw with olive oil, some oils can actually harden when kept at cool temperatures. You can even make your own vinaigrette and store that at room temperature as well. Vinaigrette is known to be healthier for you than dairy-based dressings anyway. Note: if your vinaigrette contains garlic or lemon juice it’s best to store it in the fridge (and used within three days).
Sweet Potato Stays In The Potato Drawer
When you put sweet potatoes in the fridge, the structure of their cell walls changes. The cell walls fortify and become hard— even more rigid than the already are.
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You really don’t want to be eating hard sweet potato. Store these potatoes in a cool, dark, and dry place where they can receive good airflow. If they get too moist, they can rot or become moldy. You definitely don’t want to keep them in a plastic bag.