Maybe it’s because of my deep love for the wonders of modern technology, but I’ve always been the kind of person to cram everything into the fridge. To me, the fridge is a cool, calm oasis where all my favorite foods live. But according to the experts, not all foods belong in my beloved appliance.
Who knew? I know there are clever produce charts that circulate on Pinterest, telling you which fruits and vegetables need to go into the fridge at what time, but I can never keep up. I, like so many of my friends and family, have been blindly refrigerating almost any perishable good in my grocery cart, and it turns out I have been doing it wrong this whole time.
There are several key benefits to learning how to use your refrigerator properly. Most obviously, if you don’t refrigerate food that doesn’t need it, you’ll have tons of extra space. You might just attain that Martha Stewart level of refrigerator perfection you have always hoped for — at least, that’s the dream. The second big benefit to properly storing food is that you’ll stop wasting money, especially on produce. Some foods break down at lower temperatures and become unusable after refrigeration. In translation, if you’re not using your refrigerator right, you’re going to be throwing out a lot of food.
Save yourself the time and money, and stop putting these foods in the fridge.
My kids eat roughly 1 million bananas a day, so this information is very pertinent to my mom life right now. Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen, vegetarian, vegan and pressure cooking expert, says banana storage should be countertop-only because “bananas get mushier in the fridge.”
Now I’m feeling pretty ashamed, because I always, always, always store fresh basil in the crisper. It’s time to repent and change my ways, says Nussinow. She explains, “Basil tends to get brown and wilted — store in a glass of water on the countertop. Other herbs are also OK on the countertop. They do not like it very cold.”
I’ve always been under the misconception that bread should go directly into the fridge so that it doesn’t mold on the counter. Boy, is my face red. Jackie Keller, founding director of NutriFit in Los Angeles, calls this a “common storage mistake,” advising, “Bread hardens and dries out under refrigeration, as does other forms of bread products, like buns and rolls. Eat when fresh or store in the freezer, using proper freezer storage containers/bags.”
This rule may be tough to swallow at first, but stick with me — and forget everything you know about refrigeration and cake. Jane Dizon, nurse and nutrition enthusiast at Gym & Fitness, says, “Cakes cut or uncut, frosted or unfrosted, can be kept within room temperature for several days. Keeping them inside the fridge only takes so much space!”
When you think of eggplant, try to envision it as a laid-back veggie that likes to kick it with a tropical drink on the beach. Nussinow says that, along with tomatoes, eggplant loves it when it’s warm or hot. “Eggplant tends to go bad in the fridge. Store for a day or few on the countertop,” she explains.
6. Extra-virgin olive oil
As tempting as it is, don’t even think about putting extra-virgin olive oil in the refrigerator. It’s never going to taste the same again. Keller explains, “Extra-virgin olive oil becomes cloudy and develops a ‘bloom’ under refrigeration. Store away from heat and light in a dry space.”
There are no two ways about it — garlic does not belong inside your fridge. The main problem stems from a lack of air circulation, explains Dizon. Keep garlic out of the refrigerator and in a well-ventilated storage area.
Popping onions into the veggie drawer is another big refrigeration no-no. Onions can turn moldy and mushy when refrigerated. They should be stored in a cool, dark place where air can circulate — and away from potatoes and garlic, says Keller.
Something kind of strange happens to potatoes when you put them in the refrigerator. Keller says that when refrigerated, starches in potatoes break down and turn to sugar. Store regular potatoes in a cool, dark place instead.
10. Sweet potatoes
Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes change their starch when refrigerated. Nussinow recommends storing regular and sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place, like a paper bag. Both vegetables are best kept away from onions.
Just like eggplant, tomatoes are another type of warm-loving produce. As Nussinow mentioned earlier, putting tomatoes in the refrigerator — probably one of my biggest food storage mistakes — will guarantee a mealy mess when you pull them out again. If you want to save your salad and your pasta sauce, remember Nussinow’s advice: Store tomatoes for several days on the countertop.