Master the art of storage to help your groceries last longer, cut kitchen waste and save a few dollars.
There are optimal places to store food in the refrigerator, and some might be surprising. Did you know, for example, that eggs should be kept in a spot with consistent cool temperatures – that means the lower shelves, not the door. The same goes for milk and other dairy products.
Proper food storage not only ensures food stays fresh and lasts longer but helps your bottom line by reducing waste and energy. It also keeps food safe by preventing the growth of bacteria and other microbes that make food spoil (read: health hazard!).
eggs should be kept in a spot with consistent cool temperatures – that means the lower shelves, not the door
Cayman’s humidity and heat can present some challenges, so foodstuffs normally relegated to the cupboard might be better in the fridge to boost shelf life.
A good way to think of storage is from top to bottom, with cooked and ready-to-eat foods toward the top, and raw foods that must be cooked toward the bottom.
Your refrigerator should maintain a temperature of 40 F, and your freezer should be at zero.
Don’t overcrowd the refrigerator as cold air needs to circulate freely around the contents to keep them cool. If it’s stuffed, you’ll get inconsistent temperatures.
The freezer is a different story. When you open the door, warm air flows in and most of the energy the freezer uses goes towards cooling it down. When the freezer is full, there is less room for warmer air so packing it tightly will save on energy.
Don’t put hot foods directly into the fridge as this will increase condensation and spoilage of food and affect the inside temperature.
Tips for smarter food storage…
Eggs, milk and butter
As temperatures fluctuate the most on refrigerator doors, dairy products should be stored on a shelf where temperatures are cooler and more consistent. Place milk towards the back, since it is typically the coldest there. Keep eggs in their store-bought cartons to prevent moisture loss and odor absorption. (Note: Unlike in the U.S., eggs are not refrigerated in the U.K. and some European countries. The difference is linked to way that eggs are farmed and processed in the U.S.)
The best items to store on the fridge door are those most resistant to spoiling, such as soda, ketchup, pickles, olives, mustard, relish and other condiments.
Many put bread in the fridge to keep it fresh, but that isn’t the best place to store it. The fridge will dry it out and the recrystallization of starch will cause it to go stale. Store in a cool cupboard – or a good option in Cayman is to freeze it, which will be fine for up to three months.
To prolong the freshness of flour, put it in an airtight container rather than leaving it in the original paper packaging. Flour takes longer to go bad than most foods, but it will last longer if stored in the fridge or freezer, as this slows down the oxidation process. Whole-grain flours are particularly sensitive. Store other dry staples in air-tight containers, as pantry pests such as weevils can be an issue in Cayman.
Most fruit should be stored in the low-humidity crisper. Don’t store fruit and vegetables together, as fruits can give off gases that can cause veggies to ripen and spoil faster. Apples and citrus fruits can be kept at room temperature but will enjoy greater longevity in the crisper.
Berries will last longer on the upper shelves – the crisper can be too moist, while the lower shelves are colder which can damage your fragile berries.
Tomatoes, potatoes and onions
Certain foods don’t belong in the fridge at all. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions are among them. Potatoes and onions need a cool, dry, dark place – but not together as they will bring out moisture and gasses in each other, causing them to ripen faster. Tomatoes are also sensitive, and refrigeration will impact their flavor and make them mushy.
Greens tend to wilt or get slimy, so store them in the crisper in a perforated bag, with a square of paper towel to absorb extra moisture. If you wash the leaves, they should be dried thoroughly before putting in the fridge.
Items that don’t need to be cooked should be stored near the top of the fridge. This includes such foods as leftovers, hummus, yogurt, deli meats and tortillas.
Because of the humid climate, it’s best to store cereal in the fridge or in an airtight container in the cupboard.
Raw meat, chicken and seafood
Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that juices don’t drip onto other foods and cause cross-contamination. When thawing meat in the fridge, always place on a plate or in a container. Many fridges have a meat compartment that is designed to keep it colder than the rest of the fridge.
FoodKeeper helps you understand how different storing methods affect a product’s shelf life, maximizing the storage life of foods and beverages in your home. In addition, the app can remind you to use items before they are likely to spoil. It offers storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. Available from Google Play and iTunes.