Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on October 21, 2019
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Time to crack down! Eggs are among the foods we throw out most often. It’s best to keep them in their original carton. The handy caddy that came with your fridge lets odors seep through the thousands of tiny pores that cover the shell. Eggs also stay fresh longer on the shelf than your refrigerator door, where the temperature dips and rises.
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Resist the urge to wash the dusty carton of berries when you get home from the farmers market. Instead, rinse them quickly under the faucet just before use, or enjoy them right away. Store the rest in the fridge in a container lined with paper towels to absorb moisture. If you wash them first, the dampness will spoil the fruit more quickly.
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Fun fact: An insect called the confused flour beetle may be lurking in your pantry. Along with moths and weevils, this bug loves to infest your flour, cereal, and pasta. To keep your grains pest-free, toss the packaging and move them to airtight containers. They can stay in your cabinet or freezer.
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Air, light, and temperature are three big culprits behind food spoilage. Rancid oil may look fine, but it smells and tastes terrible. It may be convenient to keep olive, canola, and other cooking oils next to the stove. But they last longer when they’re far from heat and light.
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If you’ve ever washed a mushroom, you know this fungus acts like a sponge. That’s why it turns slimy in your fridge. Whether you buy them loose or packed and wrapped, transfer the mushrooms to a brown paper bag to keep away moisture. Refrigeration is key. At room temperature, mushrooms lose color and flavor quicker.
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Ever feel like the tender stalks dry out halfway between the grocer and your kitchen? Treat them like you would a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim the ends and stand the spears in a glass with just enough water to cover the bottom. Wrap the tips in a moist towel or cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2-3 days.
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As green coffee beans darken during roasting, they release an oil called caffeol. It’s what gives coffee its familiar taste and smell. But exposure to air, moisture, heat, and light weakens all those earthy flavors. Pick a food-safe canister you can’t see through and keep your beans in a cool, dark cabinet. Experts disagree whether it’s a good idea to freeze or refrigerate coffee. But they do agree that any container must be airtight.
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Baked loaves taste best if you keep them somewhere cool and eat them within a week. Anything longer than a few days tends to suck out the moisture and lead to stale bread. Keep it in its original bag and store in the fridge. Bread -- sliced or whole -- also freezes well. Just make sure to wrap it airtight.
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These summer crops are tricky. Tomatoes taste best when you leave them on the counter. Yet they also turn moldy sooner at room temperature. They last longer in the fridge but become mealy and flavorless. Limit their stay in the refrigerator to a day or two. Tuck tomatoes in a crisper drawer in a paper or plastic bag with a few slits to keep it from drying out. Better yet, just savor the juicy orbs soon after you get them home.
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You might think that bulk bag of walnuts or cashews might keep forever. But oil in nuts goes rancid if they stay too warm for too long. If your pantry is cool and dry, they should be fine in an airtight container for 3 months. You also can leave shelled or unshelled nuts in the refrigerator for 6 months or in the freezer for a year.
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Spinach, lettuce, watercress, and similar veggies often come in plastic clamshells. Or you might bring them home in plastic produce bags. Don’t stash them straight away in your fridge drawer. First, wrap the leaves in a paper towel to keep them from getting damp and slimy.
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Processed meats like pepperoni, salami, and lunchmeat aren’t the healthiest choices. But one upside is that all the salt, sugar, nitrates, and other preservatives help lock in the taste for a week or longer. Refrigerate in their original packaging or in an airtight container to keep them from drying out. As for beef or chicken sold in trays, double wrap with foil any portions you won’t eat right away. Write the date on top and stick it in the freezer. You can ditch the tray or not.
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It seems you can never use up dill, basil, or parsley quickly enough before they shrivel or lose their delicate flavor. The best way to store them for a few hours is in the fridge wrapped in a perforated plastic bag that lets the herbs breathe. To keep them for days, trim the stems, arrange them in a glass or small vase, cover loosely with a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Swap out the water every day. Herbs like thyme and rosemary also dry well.
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Milk is pasteurized with heat to give it a long shelf life. But if you don’t keep it at 40 degrees or below, bacteria can grow back. Other foods to always refrigerate include seafood, cheese, produce you’ve already sliced, baby formula, and opened maple syrup.
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Onions, garlic, honey, pumpkin, and other varieties of squash like it cool but not cold. Store them somewhere dark and away from heat. The same goes for all kinds of potatoes. Cool temperatures can raise their sugar levels. That in turn may allow more of a possible cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide to form when you fry, bake, or roast the potatoes.
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IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, FAND, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Egg Farmers of Canada: “Egg Storage, Freshness & Food Safety.”
University of Illinois Extension: “Asparagus.”
Mushrooms Canada: “Mushroom Storage: Keep them in a brown paper bag.”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Where to store foods in the kitchen.”
University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: “Tomatoes: Safe methods to store, preserve and enjoy.”