In this post, I show you how to store food in your fridge and pantry. In addition to sustainable and cruelty-free nutrition, it is also particularly important to pay attention to the proper storage and shelf life of food. Many foods end up more or less spoiled in the trash, although this can be avoided quite easily and immediately.
By storing food correctly, you are not only doing something good for yourself, but also for the environment, your budget and something against the constant waste of food.
How to store food properly in the refrigerator
When it comes to food storage, we have several options. We can store them in the refrigerator or in the pantry.
Above all, refrigerators should be put away with care, because not every level has the same temperature and not everything is suitable for each compartment. For perfect storage of my food, I chose this Combined Refrigerator-Freezer. Not only is this fridge-freezer ideal for storing raw / fresh food, but also pre-cooked food, pastries and others. This refrigerator provides the ideal room temperature and humidity for fruits and vegetables. Thus, with proper storage can ensure longer freshness and shelf life of food. This way, you can eat healthy food sustainably and freshly for a longer time.
So if you have the problem that your food spoils quickly in the refrigerator, you should take another look at your appliance and take a closer look. Maybe it’s worth switching for a sustainable way of eating with less food waste.
How to organize the fridge – What goes where?
Refrigerators have different levels, inserts and compartments. After shopping, you should put frozen items directly in the freezer to maintain the cold chain. Likewise, the normally refrigerated things. But even in the refrigerator it is important that you store food properly.
- It’s best to store fresh vegetables in the designated vegetable compartment, because that’s where the temperature is appropriately adjusted and lowest.
- After a successful Meal Prep, you can store your cooked food in an airtight container for 3-5 days, depending on the dish. Frozen meals will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. It’s best to always note the fill date on the container before you freeze it.
- The optimal temperature for refrigerators is usually 7 degrees. However, check your owner’s manual beforehand to see what temperature you should set.
- The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator, as well as the upper compartments.
When organizing your pantry, keep in mind that not all food is (or has to be) stored in the refrigerator.
Each refrigerator is divided into certain climate zones:
1st level: the vegetable compartment has a comfortable temperature, ideal for fruits and vegetables.
2nd level: Here it is usually the coldest, so you can easily put quickly perishable food on the vegetable compartment.
3rd level: The middle level is best for dairy products and milk alternatives, yogurts, cheese, etc.
4th level: The top level is quite mild. Therefore, this is the best place to store your packaged leftovers, such as curries, soups, stews, or pasta.
5th refrigerator door: Here it is warmest, so you can store open drinks, oil, spreads or tomato paste here.
What does not belong in the refrigerator?
- Honey or other syrup
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Onions and garlic
- Fruits like apples, pears, bananas
- Pineapple, melon, papaya
- Citrus fruits
Tips for proper storage of certain foods
- Mushrooms: when you buy mushrooms, it’s best to transfer them to paper bags. If you store them wrapped in paper in the vegetable crisper, you may get a longer shelf life.
- Herbs: It is best to store fresh herbs either wrapped in wet paper towels in the crisper or in a jar of water in the kitchen. Find a suitable place where it is not too cold and too sunny if you buy fresh herbs in a pot and want to have something from them for a long time. There are even special small herb refrigerators designed for storing fresh herbs. (If you buy basil, you can always cut the leaves off at the stem, so bushy branches grow back and you gradually increase your plant).
- You can grow sprouts wonderfully in appropriate sprout jars, making them ideal for storage.
- If you buy fresh bananas, keep them out of the refrigerator. If you refrigerate them, they will become hard and will not be as good for pastries and sweetening dishes. However, if you want to make a nicecream, you can either put them in the refrigerator or freeze them.
- In general, fruit does not belong in the refrigerator with the exception of berries or fruits that perish quickly. If you need to use up fruit quickly, it’s worth baking an apple crumble, apple pie or banana bread, making waffles, muffins or something else quick with it. On the blog I have many quick recipe ideas for using leftover fruit.
- You can also cook creatively with leftover vegetables. How about a gnocchi vegetable stir-fry or fried rice? Feel free to try out Zero Waste recipes and prevent food waste.
Store food properly in the pantry
Now that we have properly organized the refrigerator, let’s turn our attention to the pantry.
Ideally, your pantry should be located in or near the kitchen, well ventilated and not too warm (15-20°C). Putting things away is more about a smart system, rather than what goes in what place. This is where you can store your dry foods, like coffee, sugar, flour, pasta, rice, grains, spices, millet, quinoa, amaranth, etc.
- Always pay attention to the best before date.
- First in First out: New food always goes in the back, use up older produce first.
- Seal packages airtight after opening or transfer to airtight glass or plastic containers.
- Check regularly for any food moth infestation. (If there is an infestation, you must discard all open food, clean the shelf completely, and check the closed packages).
- Always label canned foods with a date.
- You can also store some things like canned goods, potatoes, onions, preserves in the basement or on the balcony to save space in the kitchen¹.
What is the shelf life of food?
When storing your food, you should always pay attention to the best-before date. Different products have different shelf lives.
As a rule, you can eat many foods even after the best-before date has expired. Just trust your senses – see, taste, smell. This applies to fresh food, opened products and also stored goods.
What is the shelf life of pasta?
Dried, store-bought pasta has a 2-year shelf life according to the manufacturer, but it can’t really expire. You can store them indefinitely and cook them as needed.
Cooked pasta should be consumed within 3-5 days.
What is the shelf life of rice?
Rice also has a shelf life of about 2 years. However, the longer the rice is stored, the longer the cooking time will end up being. In principle, however, you can store rice indefinitely.
If you have overcooked, you can either store the rice in the refrigerator and use it within 3-5 days or freeze it for 3 months.
What is the shelf life of flour?
With flour, you should always check for food moth infestation. If the flour is affected, it must be discarded completely.
It is best to fill the purchased flour into airtight containers. Flour can be stored in these containers (and also in the packaging) for different lengths of time, depending on the degree of grinding and fat content. Wheat flour usually keeps for up to 1.5 years, while whole wheat flour can only be stored for half to three quarters of a year².
What is the shelf life of spices?
It’s best to buy spices only in the quantities you need, as they don’t keep indefinitely. Whole grains have the longest shelf life, while powdered form has a shorter shelf life.
Spices, such as ginger, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns or nutmeg will keep for up to 4 years. Dried herbs, such as basil, marjoram, thyme or rosemary should be used within 1 year. The longer spices are stored, the more aroma and flavor they lose.
When storing spices, you can use special spice jars as a guide or transfer them to airtight and aroma-sealed cans³.
What is the shelf life of potatoes?
If you store potatoes properly, they can keep for several months. In Germany, they are part of the storage commodity and can be stored in your own cellar or in a cold, dark room just like pumpkin, apples, cabbage or other foods with a long shelf life.
You can also freeze cooked potatoes, then you should use them within 12 months. Frozen dishes with potatoes, such as gratin, should be consumed after 3 months.
When storing potatoes, make sure that the sprouts are not longer than 5 cm and the tubers do not have green spots. Then you should not consume them due to the potential toxin solanine.
What is the shelf life of fresh fruit?
Depending on the type of fruit, the shelf life is of course completely different.
- Berries should be consumed quickly, within 1-3 days, as it is very delicate. (It is best to store in the refrigerator in the vegetable crisper).
- Exotic fruits should be stored at room temperature and consumed within a few days, a week at most.
- Pome fruits, such as apples or pears can be stored for a long time and are fine in the refrigerator or cellar. At room temperature, fruits usually keep for only a week before becoming wrinkled. At cool temperatures, they will keep for a few weeks.
- Stone fruits, such as apricots, plums or cherries will only last about 3 days at room temperature, but up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Melons can be stored for up to 3 weeks if they are still whole. Cut melons should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3 days. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and place them cut-side down. This way they will stay fresh longer and won’t dry out in the refrigerator. Otherwise, you can use them to make delicious popsicles or a smoothie / cocktail.
- Citrus fruits can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks*.
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