For many people, fridges and freezers are an important element of the kitchen. They are food-saving devices that store everything from ice cream to orange juice, including everything you need for an omelette and all the meals beyond.
By now, you’ve learned all the important hacks you need to know about storing fresh fruits and vegetables for longer, but are you aware that not everything likes to sit in a cold fridge?
Beer and watermelon, sure.
Though you should only put that melon in the fridge to chill before eating it. Till then, it’s perfectly fine sitting on the floor of your pantry. We’ll get to the business of storing melons a little further down.
The most important reason for storing food properly, is to not waste space. Not only that, when you can see all the way to the back of your fridge, you’ll be less likely to waste the food you bought.
Knowing what can go in – and what should stay out of – your fridge is a simple matter. Let’s go through the most common fruits and veggies that shouldn’t set root, stem or leaf in the second coldest space in your home.
Fruits and Vegetables You Should Never Store in the Fridge
With all the talk about food waste these days, the way we store food is becoming a heavy issue.
In the U.S. it’s estimated that 30-40% of the entire food supply is lost to discarded food waste every year. That’s about 219 pounds of waste per person, billions of pounds each and every single year!
Storing food properly is not the only break in the food chain, though it is something you can take control of at home. Let’s put an end to the confusion of where to store your grapes and tomatoes so as to prevent food waste from ending up in the landfill at worst, your compost bin at second best.
Ethylene is the main reason why many fruits and vegetables should be stored further apart in the pantry, on the countertop and in the fridge.
Avocados are one of those foods that are harvested long before they are ripe. Then the ripening happens on the store shelf and continues when you bring them home.
If your avocados are rock hard and in need of time (and ethylene) to turn them into a luscious guacamole, all you have to do, is store them next to another ethylene-producing fruit such as bananas or apples.
Until avocados are fully ripe, keep them out of the fridge, as the cold will prevent them from becoming the green fruit they are meant to be.
As you’ll find with many items on this list, the way you find fruit at the store is a pretty good indication of how you should continue storing it at home.
Bananas require warm temperatures of 59-68°F (15-20°C) to ripen their beautiful yellow jackets. Storing a bunch in the fridge would halt this process.
Not only that, cold temperatures turn the banana skins black in the fridge – or freezer – showing what sort of effect the cold has on the cell walls of the fruit.
Instead of chilling down your tropical fruits, the ideal situation is to store that bunch of bananas in a darker place without sunlight. Not too hot and not too cold.
If they are ripening too fast, it calls for an amazing slice of banana bread.
3. Citrus Fruits
When it comes to storing citrus fruits, there seems to be some debate on whether they belong in the fridge, or not.
Truth be told, citrus fruits are much more flavorful at room temperature. And maybe they weren’t made to last more than a couple of weeks, so why force it? Storing lemons, limes and oranges seems to be personal, so I’ll let you decide what works best for you. In our home, they sit in a small crate in the pantry where direct sunlight rarely touches them.
A cool, dry space is where they should be stored, preferably not touching one another; that’s how mold spreads the fastest.
If it’s length of storage time you are after, and you have extra fridge space, try putting them in the crisper drawer and see what happens. It never hurts to try.
Another debateable fruit to not store in the fridge is the cool cucumber. Though they do taste wonderfully refreshing when they are chilled, it’s best to let them sit in a dark place until they are needed.
Cucumbers that are stored in the coldest part of the fridge often develop watery spots and they experience accelerated decay. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?
Before your cucumbers pass their “expiration date”, it’s time to make 5-minute fridge pickles. This way, no food will be wasted.
5. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit and moisture don’t make the best combination.
If you’ve been storing your dried fruit in the fridge, make the switch to airtight containers in a dark cupboard, the next time you buy a bag of prunes or dried apricots. They will last far longer outside of the fridge, than in.
Storing dried goods also gives you a zero-waste chance to use up all those excess jars you’ve been saving.
Resources say that eggplants can last up to a week in the fridge when they are covered with paper towels to protect them from moisture.
Though they can last the same time without the aid of the fridge too. So, if space is tight, go ahead and store your eggplants in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. A pantry, cellar, garage or basement is the perfect place for them.
7. Fresh Herbs (soft)
The ultimate best way to have a fresh supply of herbs, is to grow them in containers on your kitchen countertop or windowsill.
Second best is to purchase or cut a few stems from your garden and simply set them in a glass of water. Not in the fridge, but on the counter.
This no-fuss method works well for soft herbs such as basil, dill, coriander, mint, parsley.
Tougher herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme can be wrapped in a tea towel and stored in the crisper drawer of the fridge.
It always surprises me to see garlic in someone else’s fridge. When it lasts for months outside the fridge, why take it out of its comfort zone?
Again, moisture is the downfall here. A proper storage place for dry heads of garlic is a dry, sunlight-free room with good air circulation. Only separate the garlic cloves as you need them for cooking, this will also help them last for longer.
If you consume mangoes on a more frequent basis, you may have found out by now that, like avocados, the cold of the fridge will significantly slow down the ripenening process of this fruit.
In other words, until your mangoes are ripe, do not store them in the fridge.
Afterwards, you can put them in the fridge where they will last up to 5 days.
Storing melons whole is definitely the way to roll. Once they are cut into, they keep for a maximum of three days in the fridge.
Think about it from a practical standpoint, canteloupes and honeydews take up quite a bit of space. Watermelons, even more. Just recently we bought a 25-pound melon – try fitting that into an already full fridge!
It’s said that storing melons at room temperature may even help the nutrients, including antioxidants stay intact. Being a fruit that ripens in the heat of summer, it goes without saying that you should eat it fresh, then make watermelon rind pickles with the remaining shell.
The reason you should never refrigerate onions, is this: in a cold, humid environment the starches convert to sugars, leaving you with soggy layers of onion destined for the compost bin.
Onions will also lend an unpleasant odor to other fruits and vegetables if they are stored together. It’s an easy enough problem to avoid when you store onions properly. Conventional wisdom says that onions can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 30 days. However, wise gardeners know that the shelf-life of onions can easily be extended to 3, 6 or even 12 months.
While storing peaches in the fridge does slow down the ripening process, it does tend to dehydrate the fruit. At the same time, it may affect the flavor, depending on what leftovers are hiding in the fridge.
As with many other fruits, peaches should be left on the counter to ripen to their fullest. If you are wanting to eat them fresh, it’s good to chill them before eating. If you are turning them into a peach pie or peach butter, go ahead and use them straight from the bowl.
Store-bought pickles are full of vinegar, salt and preservatives. So long as you don’t contaminate the jar with a dirty fork or spoon, the pickles will remain crunchy and sour outside of the fridge too. Where you choose to store them is simply a matter of having space – inside or outside the refrigerator.
Homemade pickles and other pickled goods can also be left out of the fridge after opening. Always use a clean utensil and make sure the lid is tight before putting it back on the shelf.
14. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
You should never store potatoes of any kind in the fridge.
I think this is an obvious one, but it’s always worth mentioning because the reason why is not what you think.
When raw potatoes are subject to low temperatures in the fridge, an enzyme breaks down the sugar sucrose into glucose and fructose. This can lead to the formation of acrylamide during cooking.
This is a possible cancer risk which you can easily avoid by storing potatoes in several other ways.
My grandma left her homegrown tomatoes to ripen on the counter, my mom did the same thing. The moment they were ripe, they disappeared.
No matter how many buckets of tomatoes we picked from the garden, they were used up as fast as they ripened. Sauce, salsa, salads, sun-dried. You name it, they all went down a treat.
But there is still a debate about whether tomatoes should be stored in the fridge – or not. Some say the cold damages the thin tomato skins’ membranes, causing the fruit to become watery. Others have devoted time to experimentation and say the answer isn’t as strightforward as you would think.
Try it for yourself and see if refrigerated or unrefrigerated tomatoes taste better.
16. Squash – Butternut
Butternut squashes and other thick-skinned winter squashes can be stored for several months outside of the fridge. In a cold environment, such as a fridge, you can’t expect them to last more than 5 days. You know what the winning situation is here.
Like with melons, they also take up a lot of space. That’s another reason to store squashes in a cellar, basement or other cool, dark place.
Did you know there are several foods outside of fruits and vegetables that you shouldn’t be storing in the fridge? Are you making these food storage mistakes?
A quick list of other foods you shouldn’t store in the fridge:
- dried spices
- honey – here’s our guide to properly storing honey before and after opening a jar
- jams and jellies
- peanut butter
- soy sauce
For one reason or another, the above items do not necessarily need to be refrigerated. Molasses, for example, becomes extra dense in a cold environment, almost too thick to be spoonable. Peanut butter does the same thing. It’s simply unnecessary for these items to take up fridge space.
Think about it, ketchup and soy sauce are condiments that often stay out on the table in restaurants. If you don’t have enough space in your fridge, go ahead and do the same, restaurant-style. Just make sure to use up a bottle of ketchup in about a month. Soy sauce can last a year behind the doors of a dark cabinet.
As for honey, it has the longest shelf-life of any foodstuff you may want to keep in storage.
And coffee, well, it’s prone to take on the smell of ingredients that surround it, plus too much moisture will make the beans take a turn for the worse. Store it in a dry place and brew it fresh. You can also store your caffeine-free herbal teas in a dry, dark cabinet for a couple of years at a time.
The big question of to keep, or not to keep eggs in the refrigerator depends on where you live and where your eggs come from. Are they factory raised, or raised on the farm? It doesn’t matter which came first, the chicken or the egg. But it does matter how they were processed before entering your kitchen space.
Related reading: 20 Foods You Should Never Store Together
Fruits and Vegetables to Store in the Fridge
If you don’t have a garden to harvest fresh veggies from, at least not yet, know that you can rely on your refrigerator to save those store-bought greens and fruits for a little while longer than leaving them out on the counter.
While many fruits prefer to be out of cold’s reach, there are a few that benefit from a slight chill, especially once they have reached peak ripeness. Fruits that don’t mind spending a few days to several weeks in the fridge are:
- apples – best if stored in a cellar, but they keep for several weeks in the fridge.
- berries – best is to eat them straight away or freeze them, you can also store them in the fridge and wash them right before eating.
- cherries – store unwashed cherries between layers of paper towels to keep them dry and cold.
- grapes – toss them in the crisper drawer of your fridge, the place with the highest humidity.
- kiwis – only store kiwis in the fridge once they are fully ripe.
- pineapple – store in the warmest part of your fridge, up to six days for an uncut fruit.
Many vegetables also last longer when they are in a chilled environment.
The following list is by no means complete, though it will give you a good indication as to what sort of fruits and vegetables are suitable for storing in your fridge.
Artichokes – seal in a plastic bag in the fridge with a little bit of water, fresh artichokes last 5-7 days this way.
Asparagus – place cut stalks in a glass of water and cover them with a plastic bag up to 4 days.
Beans (unshelled) – store unwashed beans in a plastic bag for up to a week in the fridge.
Beets – remove the beet greens (make sure to eat them!) and place the beet in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Broccoli – as with asparagus, place the stalks in water and cover with a bag; change the water every day and enjoy your brocolli up to a week later.
Brussesls sprouts – stored in a bag in the crisper drawer, unwashed Brussels sprouts will last 3-5 weeks.
Carrots – cut or whole carrots can be submerged in water for 2-3 weeks. They can also be stored dry and unpeeled for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.
Cauliflower – is a short-lived vegetable, aim to eat it all up in 3-5 days after harvesting.
Celery – store it whole and uncut, wrapped in foil in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Corn – fresh corn on the cob can be stored for 1-3 days in the fridge with the husks on.
Horseradish – store it unwashed in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks, once grated it has a shelf-life of a few days, unless you add vinegar.
Kohlrabi – unpeeled kohlrabi will last up to 3 weeks in the fridge, be sure to remove the greens before storing.
Leafy greens, including kale – keep your kale for a week in the fridge by wrapping it in paper towels and storing it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer, wash only before eating.
More vegetables that benefit from refrigeration:
Mushrooms – are fungi, not vegetables, that should be stored in a brown bag in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Peas – store green peas in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Peppers – store peppers in a resealable bag in the crisper drawer, uncut peppers will last 1-2 weeks, cooked peppers just a few days.
Purslane – an uncommon vegetable (typically know as a weed), can be stored for up to a week in the fridge, wash before consuming.
Radishes – cover radishes with water in a jar for the longest shelf-life, up to 10 days in the fridge, change water frequently.
Rhubarb – place trimmed stalks in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Salad leaves – Tracey has her method for storing salad greens for two weeks or more here.
Spinach – stored in the packaging it came in, fresh spinach can last for 7-10 days in the fridge; otherwise store it in an airtight container away from ethylene-producing fruits.
Sprouts – sprouts continue to grow rapidly, until you put them in the fridge. Drain the sprouts well, then place them in the fridge in a container with lid lined with paper towels.
Summer squash – once off the vine, summer squash should be stored in the crisper drawer of the fridge for up to 7 days.
Tomatillos – can be stored in their husks in the fridge for 2-3 weeks in a paper bag in the refrigerator.
Reading through the list of vegetables to store in the fridge, you’ll have noticed the word plastic repeated a lot. That’s the most common way to store fruits and veggies. However, it’s not the only way. You can also store foods in the fridge without plastic – here’s how.