Surprising Foods that get Stored Wrong

Storing Food

Waste less, eat better: Follow these do's and don'ts to store food well.


You wouldn't casually toss hundreds of dollars into the trash every year, would you? We didn't think so.

When it comes to our groceries, however, that's exactly what we're doing. American families spend about $330 each month on groceries—and then throw away 20 pounds of food per person, every month. Ready to stop wasting and start storing food the right way? We are too. Follow these expert tips to keep food fresh longer in the fridge and pantry—and more Benjamins in your wallet:

1. It's the berries. Tender berries can turn toss-worthy in days. Try this trick, which costs pennies and helps double their staying power: Rinse in 1 part vinegar (which kills mold) and 10 parts water, then stash in the fridge.

2. Are you in or out? When it comes to food storage, there's often conflicting advice about fridge versus countertop. Here are three musts for non-fridge storage:

  • Bananas: Keep them at room temp, but individually wrap the stems to slow down ripening.
  • Avocados: Yes, counter is actually OK—but there's a catch. If you buy unripe avocados, keep them on the counter. Ripe ones go into the fridge, and sliced ones need a tight seal on the cut side (use plastic wrap) to keep them from disintegrating into a mushy brown mess.
  • Tomatoes: Tossed in the fridge, tomatoes take on an unwelcome taste; instead, opt for the counter.

3. Keep it spicy: Essentials such as paprika, cayenne, and chili power go in the fridge to preserve freshness, flavor, and color. Everything else spice-related? A drawer that's free from heat works just fine.

4. What's behind Door No. 1? Hint: It's not milk. Of course, milk goes in the fridge. But in the fridge door? Nope. Pop it in the main compartment instead to help dairy maintain its cool temperature.

Food on a Kitchen Island

5. It's not always better at the top. The storage recommendations for meat, poultry, and seafood differ (check the USDA food safety site for specifics), but in general, keep yours in its original packaging and in a drawer in the bottom of the fridge. Why? You'll contain any accidental drips.

6. More cheese, please—and fewer plastic bags. Who doesn't toss partial blocks of cheese in a super-simple, handy plastic bag? Turns out, that's bad for the cheese (it dries it out). And cheese is a terrible thing to waste. Instead go for parchment or wax paper for hard cheeses and an airtight container for soft ones (think mozzarella).

7. Some foods just can't play nice. Potatoes and onions are not happy shelf fellows: Each one makes the other go bad quickly. Stash them on shelves in open containers that circulate air.

8. No cooling-off period needed. Remember your mom telling you to let leftovers cool before you stored it in the fridge? Turns out that was a recipe for very bad bacteria. Instead, store those extras in sealed containers as quickly as you can after mealtime.

9. Take it as you find it. As you trek through the grocery store, take note of where you buy an item. Juice, for example: If you bought it on a shelf, it's OK to leave it in the pantry until you open it. After that, the fridge is the only safe storage. But if you bought it out of the cooler, then into the fridge it goes. The same rule generally applies to marinades, sauces, and syrups.

10. Offer a tall drink of water. Fresh flowers need to go into a water-filled vase to keep them fresh. The same applies to fresh herbs and asparagus. Tuck them in a jar of water, and gently cover with a plastic bag (which prevents drying out).

11. And finally, the stuff you actually care about: cookies, cake, and bread. If the item has dairy in it (whipped topping, for example), keep it in the fridge. Everything else is OK to keep in original packaging with the opening tightly sealed.

Food on a Kitchen Island