One of the biggest ways we can reduce food waste in our homes is by learning to store food properly. There's nothing worse than reaching for an ingredient and realizing it's gone bad (for our wallets and the environment)! Thankfully, there are lots of tricks and tips to help us get more out of the life of our produce.
Factors Impacting Shelf-Life
There are 3 main factors that affect shelf life: temperature, ethylene, and airflow. Foods that emit ethylene can cause other foods to ripen faster, so it’s important to know which foods produce ethylene, which are sensitive to ethylene, and to keep them separate (a list of foods by type is shared at the end of this post).
It can get confusing to keep all of this straight, though, and so here are some quick rules of thumb to make things easier:
- Do not store avocado and bananas together
- Do not store onions and potatoes together
- Do not store tomatoes in the fridge. Keep at room temperature in a separate container
- Store garlic in a cool, dry place, not the fridge
- Keep apples in a crisper in the fridge, not on the countertop
- Cut the leafy tops off of tubers and carrots and store them separately in the fridge
- Do not wash leafy greens before putting them in the fridge
How to Store Food by Type:
Here are some specific tips for various types of food:
Apples and Pears
- Keep in the crisper in the fridge, away from vegetables
- If whole, keep on the countertop (away from bananas)
- If half, keep the skin on and pit in and store in an airttight container in the fridge.
- Refrigerate, unwrapped
- Once cut, store in an airtight container (although realistically, you'll be fine if you leave it out too, just cut away the outside layer before using).
- Refrigerate (ideally in a resealable bag)
- Do NOT wash - the moisture will make them go bad faster
Lemons and Limes
- Refrigerate, but away from apples and pears.
- You can keep them out on a coutertop if planning to use within a few days
Onions and Garlic
- Store in a cool, dry spot (they thrive in low humidity)
- Keep in a container, without a lid
- Do not refrigerate
- Do not store near potatoes
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
- Store in a cool, DARK, dry place with air circulation (they like humidity)
- Do not refrigerate (other than in a wine fridge, which is actually a great place to store them).
- Do not store near onions - they both produce moisture that causes them to spoil faster
- Store at room temperature
- Keep away from bananas and ethylene producing foods
- Store at room temperature.
- Do NOT refrigerate (affects taste)
Tubers and Root Vegetables
- Keep in a crisper in the fridge (not with apples or pears)
- Cut off leafy tops, since those can draw out moisture, and store the leafs separately