How To Store Groceries Properly

Updated on 30. Apr. 2020
The Creative Exchange
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The fresher the ingredient the more flavorful and nutritious it is, and a lot of that has to do with how it is stored. Every product, from fresh apples to canned fish, has a specific environment that will keep it as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Check out below EAT SMARTER’s  full guide on storing your foods.

Why Do Foods Spoil?

Whether a few days or a few years, all foods have a shelf life. Over time, the chemical, physical and microbiological properties of all foods change, eventually making them unsuitable for consumption.

Bacteria, mold and yeast are responsible for microbial spoilage, causing rotting, fermentation and mold. Physical influences such as heat and freeze, as well as light or darkness, also cause food to decay. 

Where Can Food Be Stored?

For A Few Days, The Refrigerator Is Your Best Bet

The majority of your perishable foods should be stored in the refrigerator, from raw meat, to fresh vegetables and fruits, to dairy and eggs. A typical refrigerator maintains a temperature from around 39 degrees to 47 degrees. This low temperature helps to slow down the decay of many types of foods, thus keeping them fresh for longer.

Check out our refrigerator organization guide to learn how to arrange your ingredients to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

The Freezer Is A Great Tool, If Utilized Properly

If you’re looking to store your fresh food for weeks or even months instead of days, the freezer is a great option. Frozen vegetables, fruits, meats and even bread can stay in the freezer for several months. Just dethaw when you’re ready to eat! 

It’s important to follow some rules when freezing foods though. First, remember to pack your food into water and airtight bags or containers, to protect against freezer burn. A rapid freezing process can also cause freezer burn, so make sure not to place hot food in the freezer, instead letting it cool beforehand, so no large water crystals form.

If possible, don’t freeze too many foods at the same time; this will result in a delayed cooling process and can have an effect on quality

If you’re freezing your own food, make sure to label it with the contents of the container and a best before date. Not sure how long your food will keep? The following table gives you a rough overview of which food can be stored in the freezer for how long.

For Non-Perishables, Head To The Pantry

The pantry is a great place for your non-perishables, including dry foods like flour, noodles and cereal, spices, canned beans, fruits and vegetables, unopened jarred foods like jams, and cooking oils. Best storage practices will obviously vary some between these disparate ingredients, however keeping your pantry as dark, dry and cool as possible will make for an ideal environment for the majority of these non-perishables.

Remember that once you’ve opened air-tight cans or containers, the food is immediately a perishable item, and should be stored in the refrigerator as such.

Storing Fresh Food Correctly

Storing Fruit Correctly

With so many different kinds of fruit comes many different types of storage as well. 

Berries can be kept in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator from two to five days, while exotic fruits such as mango, papaya, bananas and kiwi are best stored at room temperature, where they stay fresh for five to seven days. Apples and pears can go either in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place in your home, such as a cellar.

Stone fruit (e.g. cherry, plum and nectarine) as well as all citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc.) also keep well in the refrigerator. However make sure to take them our of the refrigerator for a few hours before eating, as they lose most of their aroma in the cold, but will regain it at room temperature. 

Storing Vegetables Correctly

Root vegetables like carrots or parsnips have a particularly long shelf life, and can generally be kept in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for about two weeks, sometimes up to four.  Cabbage vegetables such as cauliflower or kohlrabi should also be stored in the refrigerator, however will keep for far shorter, generally just under a week. Mushrooms, asparagus and green beans are other vegetables which gain a longer shelf life in the refrigerator. For asparagus, as well as lettuces, remember to place a damp paper towel in the bag with the vegetable. This extends freshness even longer.

Storing Bread Properly

Baked goods release water continuously and therefore need a storage area with good air circulation to prevent the growth of mold. A wooden bread box is a great way to keep your bread dry without drying out the product. Most breads will stay good up to a week in a good wooden bread box. 

If you’re only looking to store your bread for a day or two, bread bags or baker's bags are also a good option.

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