food storage tips

Food Storage Tips to Keep Your Food Fresh

Proper food storage is essential to keep food fresh and minimize waste. Discover food storage tips to help you extend the shelf life of your groceries.

Nothing is more frustrating than throwing away food that has gone past its best! That feeling when you discover moldy vegetables or rotten meat in the refrigerator is incredibly disheartening, especially when you’ve used your hard-earned cash to buy it in the first place. Rest assured that you’re not alone - the average American household wastes almost 32% of the food they purchase, at an average cost of $1,866 annually.

One of the keys to reducing food waste is to think carefully about how we store our food – the packaging food arrives in is not always the best to keep it in optimum condition. Storing food properly helps to keep it fresher for longer, reducing food waste and saving money on grocery bills. And, of course, correct food storage helps reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses - something we’re all keen to avoid!

In this guide, you’ll learn some quick and easy to tips to help you store your groceries, keeping them fresh and delicious for as long as possible. °

How to Store Food in the Fridge

To keep food safe from bacterial contamination, your refrigerator should maintain a temperature of 40°F (5°C) or below. The optimum fridge temperature to aim for is 37°F (3°C), as this keeps food fresh for as long as possible without the risk of ice crystal formation. If your fridge does not have a built-in thermometer, consider installing an appliance thermometer, which will give you the ability to monitor and regulate the temperature.

The fridge is one of the highest-risk areas for food deterioration, as this is where most perishable food items are stored. Some types of bacteria can multiply in the refrigerator and have the potential to cause foodborne illnesses.

tips for storing food in fridge

Let’s take a look at some of the key high-risk items and how to store them properly in the fridge:

  • Dairy products

Dairy products should be stored at the back of the fridge rather than in the door shelving. Unopened cheese and butter can be stored in their original packaging but must be kept in an airtight container when opened. Yogurt and cream normally come in resealable containers; if not, they should be transferred into a suitable alternative once opened to keep them fresh for longer.

  • Fresh meat

Air is the biggest risk factor when storing fresh meat, so keep it in an airtight bag or container. Raw meat, poultry, and fish should be stored on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator on a plate to avoid juices dripping onto other foods. There is the biggest risk of contamination from raw meat, so you need to be extra careful to ensure it's not touching anything else. Make sure to refrigerate fresh meat as soon as possible after purchase, especially on warmer days.

  • Cooked leftovers

Place any cooked leftovers into shallow containers to ensure they cool down as quickly as possible and aim to get them in the fridge within two hours. Single-portion stackable food containers are a great way to store cooked food in the fridge safely.

The 40°- 140°F (5°- 60°C) rule applies to all the food groups listed above – this temperature is the danger zone where bacteria can quickly multiply. Perishable foods exposed to temperatures above 40°F (5°C) for more than 2 hours, or 90°F (32°C) or above for 1 hour, are highly likely to be contaminated with bacteria and should be considered unsafe to eat. As a quick rule of thumb, 2 hours is the MAX time perishable foods should be left at room temperature. 

Tips for storing food in the fridge:

  • Don’t open doors more than necessary, and always make sure to close them promptly. Excessive time spent rummaging in the fridge to find a tasty snack can cause temperatures to shoot up!
  • Return items to the fridge as soon as you’ve used them before they’ve warmed up.
  • Allow cooked food to cool completely before placing it in the refrigerator.

How to Freeze Food for Long Shelf Life

The freezer can be your savior when it comes to efficient food storage! Many perishable food items can be stored for far longer when frozen, helping to reduce food waste and making the most of your weekly grocery shop. Freezer temperatures should be maintained at 0°F (-18°C).

Freezers are not just a storage space for foods from the freezer section at the grocery store – they can also be used to preserve a wide range of cooked foods, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and even bread. Here are our top tips for freezing food for a longer shelf life:

  • Label everything as it goes into the freezer with the date it should be consumed by.
  • Chill cooked foods in the fridge before placing them in the freezer.
  • Slice or dice vegetables and freeze them on a baking sheet before transferring them to a resealable container. Some vegetables should be blanched before freezing.
  • Fruits don’t retain their texture well when frozen but can still be used for baking, desserts, and smoothies.
  • Bread, butter, milk, and many other perishable food items can be frozen – a great way to extend the shelf-life of short-dated products!

Room Temperature Food Storage Tips

food storage containers

Foods stored at room temperature will deteriorate quickest in the presence of light, air, heat, and moisture, so your pantry area should be a cool, dark place with low humidity. Aim to keep temperatures in your pantry at 40 - 70°F (5 - 21°C). Non-perishable pantry products are normally labeled with a best-before date – remember that this is for guidance, not a hard and fast rule you must stick to.

Shelf-stable foods can be kept in their original packaging until opened, at which point they should be transferred into an airtight container. Dried foods such as pasta and rice can still be stored at room temperature once opened. Canned foods are not shelf-stable once opened and will need to be refrigerated.

Some fruits and vegetables can also be stored at room temperature. Apples and citrus fruits store well in a cool, dark place. Keep potatoes and onions in a mesh bag to prevent surface mold from forming.

Food Storage Containers

A set of reusable airtight containers is a worthwhile investment to help keep food fresh and reduce waste. Avoid plastic containers if possible. Steel or glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids are the best option. Choose stackable space-saving containers that are fridge and freezer-safe to increase your storage options.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, a buildup of moisture in plastic bags is a big problem, so put them into mesh bags to reduce humidity. Remove any ties or bands that can bruise delicate stems, and do not wash fresh produce until you are ready to use it, as the moisture can cause mold to grow faster.

Food Storage Tips and Tricks

food storage tips

Rather than making things too complicated, sticking to just a few golden rules can help simplify your food storage system, helping to keep food at its best for longer:

  • Implement a ‘First In, First Out’ stock rotation system.
  • Label containers with their contents and the date they should be used by.
  • Get creative with cooking food that is nearing its best-before date, building a stock of frozen ready-meals for consumption later.
  •  Designate areas in the fridge for different food groups to prevent cross-contamination.
  •  Explore different ways to freeze perishable foods to reduce food waste.

Minimize Waste and Maximize Flavor by Storing Food Properly

Efficient and safe food storage, weekly meal planning, and creative use of leftovers are the cornerstones of responsible food consumption, helping us become part of a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production system. By ensuring groceries are stored correctly and using them at their best, we can make the most of our flavorsome ingredients, turning them into new and exciting dishes for everyone to enjoy. And, of course, you’ll benefit from a freezer packed full of homemade ready-meals, perfect for those days when you don’t feel like cooking!