How to Fix Common Food Storage Mistakes

Youíve got a fridge and a freezer in your house, but do you know how to use them properly? There are some tricks to packaging food so that it lasts longer and inhibits bacterial growth.

No oversized containers:†When you store food in a container thatís too big, it can lead to faster spoilage and freezer burn. There should be minimal headspace between food and the top of the container (although a bit more is necessary if youíre freezing in wide-mouth glass jars and must allow for expansion).

Donít refrigerate hot foods:†You might think your high-tech fridge can handle the task of chilling hot leftovers, but itís not a good idea. The hot air can increase the temperature of neighboring foods and increase the rate of bacterial growth. Instead, let food cool at least somewhat outside the fridge before transferring it.

Change store packaging:†If you purchase meat, donít leave it in the store packaging. There could be perforations in the plastic wrap or loose flaps that you cannot see that would allow in unwanted air or moisture. If itís wrapped in butcher paper, thatís not enough protection for long-term freezer storage. Place in a container or wrap tightly with freezer paper and aluminum foil.

For pantry items, the same rule applies. You want to avoid the 3 Mís Ė mice, mealworms, and mustiness Ė so transfer dry goods such as beans, pasta, flour, and grains from store packaging into glass jars.

Label freezer foods:†Put a description and date on whatever goes into the freezer so you can keep track of it. All it takes is some masking tape and a marker. Otherwise, itís too easy to forget whatís there. As you use freezer items, move older ones to the front for easy access.

Donít keep potatoes and onions together:†If youíve been storing these in the same place (like I have), then itís time to change. Apparently both require cool, dark, dry space, but they release moisture and gases that speed up spoilage. Onions need more air circulation than potatoes and are best stored in the fridge. Potatoes should never be refrigerated, but stored in a basket or bag in the pantry.

Store herbs properly:†Fresh herbs can be kept in a jar of water on the counter if temperature is moderate. Alternatively, wrap in a damp cloth and place in a sealed bag in fridge.

Keep half-used onions separate from other foods:†Onion halves will impart their strong smell to neighboring foods if stored loose in the fridge. Wrap or cover in a bowl to prevent having oniony-tasting pears, apples, and broccoli.

Donít leave lettuce in plastic:†It will go slimy if left too long. A better method is to wash, spin dry, and place in an airtight container or bowl with a clean tea towel or cloth napkin on the bottom to absorb moisture. You’ll be more inclined to eat salad, too, if it’s already prepped.

Written by Katherine Martinko. This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Sarah Meyer/Flickr


Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago

Thank you.

Sarah H
Sarah Hillabout a year ago


Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Deborah Servey
Deborah Serveyabout a year ago

Constantly have to nag my roommate to store stuff properly, like even just with lids!!!

Janet B
Janet Babout a year ago


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvinabout a year ago

Never knew this about lettuce

Fi T.
Past Member about a year ago

Never waste our resources

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Julie W.
Julie Wabout a year ago

Son Y: "@Julie W: That sounds interesting, but how does that work? Won't that make it become moist and more likely to spoil when you bring them back to room temp?

Keep the food in its original package, place in the freezer for 48 hours. Bring back to room temperature BEFORE opening and placing in jars. No problem with moisture or food spoilage.

Jeff S.
Jeff Sabout a year ago