If your onions have sprouts and your potatoes have eyes, if your expensive olive oil is rancid or your fresh tomatoes taste mealy, you will celebrate these food storage tips that I’ve picked up in school and in the kitchen. They may save you the time, trouble and money of replacing spoiled food, and they’ll keep your fresh produce and other foods tasting their best. (Be sure to check with your diabetes care team before making changes to your meal plan.)
6 foods to keep out of the refrigerator
While the fridge is great for keeping some fruits and vegetables from an early spoilage, the temperature and humidity inside the icebox is no best friend to some foods.
- Potatoes: Keep these in a cool, dark, well-ventilated spot in your pantry.
- Onions: Store onions in a separate cool, dark, well-ventilated space. If onions are too close to the potatoes, they will absorb the potato’s moisture and sprout. After cutting an onion, wrap it tightly and store it the refrigerator.
- Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes lose flavor and may develop a mealy texture in the refrigerator. Store them on the kitchen counter away from direct sunlight.
- Unripe fruits: Generally, the cold of the refrigerator prevents ripening. Keep unripe fruits at room temperature. Once they ripen to delicious readiness, refrigerate them to slow further ripening. Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas during ripening. Keep these away from others to avoid over-ripening of non-ethylene producing produce. Some high ethylene producers are: apples, apricots, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, papayas, peaches, pears and plums.
- Bread: The temperature in the refrigerator is ideal for making bread go stale. Keep bread at room temperature if you eat it quickly. Otherwise, store it in the freezer, and remove a slice or two at a time.
- Coffee: Neither the refrigerator nor the freezer is the ideal storage spot for whole or ground coffee beans. Instead brew your daily cup from beans stored in an airtight glass or ceramic container in a cool, dark spot in your kitchen. Air, moisture, heat and light deteriorate coffee’s flavor.
3 foods to store in the freezer
The freezer is the perfect spot to maintain the flavor and freshness of some foods.
- Nuts and seeds: Oxygen from the air attacks the healthy unsaturated fats in nuts and seeds making them rancid. Wrap these crunchy gems tightly before placing them in the freezer.
- Nut flours such as peanut flour and almond meal: These have the same good-for-you unsaturated fats that are prone to oxidation.
- Whole-wheat flour: This doesn’t appear to be rich in fat, but whole-wheat flour has more fats than white flour. Unless you use it quickly, store it in the freezer. Do the same for all of your whole grain flours.
2 foods that shouldn’t be near the stove
Heat and steam are the enemies of many foods. Two such foods are frequently stored in the cabinet adjacent to the stove.
- Olive oil and other cooking oils: Like nuts, cooking oils are rich in the healthful fats that are likely to deteriorate. Store them in a cool, dark cabinet away from heat.
- Dried herbs and spices: Prolong their life and their potency by storing dried seasoning away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight. When cooking, pour them into a spoon or your hand before adding to a steamy pot to keep heat and moisture from the bottle.
5 foods deserving special treatment in the refrigerator
Here are a few tips to prolong the life of perishable foods. Use a thermometer to be sure that your refrigerator is at 40F or below.
- Leafy greens: After washing and drying them, wrap them loosely in a paper towel and store them in a plastic bag.
- Mushrooms: Keep them away from moisture by storing them unwashed in a paper bag.
- Berries: Store these tiny nutrient powerhouses in their plastic clamshell package. Wash just before eating.
- Fresh herbs: Place the stems into a jar of water, and cover the leaves with a plastic bag. Change the water every other day.
- Milk, cheese and eggs: Keep these out of the door. They all must be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is never the door.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition. She has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience