There’s a reason your grandmother kept her fresh-baked rye and pullman loaves in a breadbox on the kitchen counter and not in her icebox: Bread goes stale much quicker when you stow it in a refrigerator than at room temperature.
Grandma knew that proper storage will help your food maintain its flavor and freshness—and save you money since you won’t have to toss out so many spoiled items. Follow the advice here to get the most out of your weekly grocery shopping and watch our Food Gone Bad video (right).
- Store opened sticks of butter in a covered dish in the refrigerator’s butter compartment. You can keep unsalted butter wrapped in foil or plastic in the freezer for about five months; salted butter, six to nine months.
- Plastic wrap used on some cheeses can impart an off flavor, so remove it. Wrap the cheese in wax paper, and then tightly wrap it in plastic. Store the cheese in the refrigerator’s meat-and-cheese drawer. You can keep unopened hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Swiss, in the refrigerator for six months; if it’s opened, the cheese will last for up to four weeks. Soft cheeses, like Brie, will last a week in the refrigerator.
- Keep eggs in their carton on a shelf in the main cavity of the refrigerator, not on a shelf on the refrigerator door.
Meat, poultry, and fish
- Once your bananas have ripened, store them in the refrigerator to slow further ripening. The peel might darken, but the fruit will be good for up to five days.
- Wash and thoroughly dry greens before placing them in a resealable plastic bag and storing them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Do not place greens near fruit, which emit gasses that can spoil vegetables. When properly stored, most lettuce will last a week; tender greens like spinach or mesclun will keep for three days.
- Keep fresh mushrooms in their package. After you open them, store your button, shiitake, portobellos, and other mushrooms in a brown-paper lunch bag.
- More than three-quarters of Americans keep fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator, according to the Florida Tomato Committee. But these fridge-happy folks shouldn’t because refrigeration keeps tomatoes from ripening, kills their flavor, and makes them mealy. Store fresh whole tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct sunlight, with the stem side up to prevent bruising.
- Place raw meat, poultry, or fish in a covered dish to keep the juices from dripping onto other foods, and store it in the back of the refrigerator. Ground meats last one to two days; chops, roasts, and steaks should keep for three to five days. When you get home from the supermarket, remove the store packaging and rewrap the beef with plastic wrap; you can then keep it for up to two weeks in the freezer. For longer storage, repackage meat in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper, or a plastic freezer bag, eliminating as much air as possible when sealing it.
- Poultry lasts one to two days in the refrigerator. When you get home from the supermarket, remove the store packaging and rewrap the poultry with plastic wrap; you can freeze it for up to two months. If you’re freezing it for more than two months, wrap foil, plastic, or freezer paper over the original plastic packaging or place it in a freezer bag. You can keep whole poultry for a year; poultry pieces, nine months.
- Refrigerate fresh fish and shellfish for a day to two. For freezer storage, place the items in a tightly wrapped plastic package and cover it with foil or place in a resealable bag. You can store fish in the freezer for three to eight months; shellfish, three to 12 months.
We’d like to hear how you make your food last. Send your own food-storage tips—for the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry—to us at email@example.com
Back to your grandmother’s bread: You can freeze fresh bread— sealed in an airtight bag—for up to three months.
If you’ve ever picked up a piece of moldy cheese and wondered if it was safe to eat, read our guide to funky foods
. When you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, visit our refrigerator product hub
for the latest product information and Ratings and expert shopping advice. And to make sure you get the most refrigerator storage for your dollar, learn about capacity claims
and how they don’t always measure up.
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