8 Food Storage Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Save yourself some cash and heartache, and stop tossing your food out because of improper storage.

No one likes throwing out the food that they've bought with their hard-earned paycheck. Thus, getting into the right food storage habits is crucial to preventing wasted ingredients (and money). Where, when, and how you store your food will determine how long it stays fresh and ready-to-eat. Next time you're putting away groceries or wrapping up leftovers, let's make sure that you're packing up and storing your food in a way that will keep it as safe and fresh as possible. There are a slew of common errors folks make when it comes to food storage that can contribute to a shortened shelf life and ultimately, food in the garbage. Here's what you want to avoid:

inside refrigerator

You're Not Covering Your Food

While it may seem like no big deal to throw a plate of exposed food in the fridge, it can actually lead to some cross-contamination consequences. Storing food (particularly leftovers) in a container with an airtight lid is the best route to making leftovers last longer. At the very least, wrap your cooked items with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep it enclosed.

You're Using the Wrong Containers

An airtight seal is ideal when it comes to leftover containers because it keeps food fresh longer. Going one step further, glass containers are especially ideal because they're microwavable- and dishwasher-safe, and they're free of BPA (while many plastic containers are not).

You're Covering Food Before It Has Cooled Down

A common mistake when it comes to packing away leftovers is sealing up the container while the food is still hot or warm. You always want to let the food cool off (this is the one exception where stashing food uncovered in the fridge is acceptable) before covering it. The "danger zone" of food temperatures is 41°F–135°F, so in order to avoid trapping excess heat in the container (keeping your food in the danger zone for a prolonged period) and creating unwanted bacteria, let the food cool completely first.

You're Unnecessarily Refrigerating Items

It's very common for certain produce items, and other ingredients, to end up in the fridge when they don't actually need to be refrigerated. Citrus, tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, potatoes, and melons (assuming all of which have not been cut into) should be left on the counter because the cold air in the refrigerator can cause detrimental effects to their taste and texture. Same goes for your bread; if you're not going to use it anytime soon, pop that loaf into your freezer, but never in the fridge. (Contrary to popular belief, refrigerating your bread dries it out faster than leaving it at room temperature.)

Other foods like stone fruit and avocados should be left to ripen on the counter, then transferred to the fridge once they're ripe and ready for use. When it comes to packaged goods, always check the label to confirm whether something needs to be refrigerated after being opened.

You're Not Refrigerating Nuts and Seeds

Unlike the food items mentioned above, there are some common dry goods that actually fare best in your fridge. Nuts and seeds stay fresher and last much longer when stored in the fridge (or the freezer). Nobody wants a rancid nut, so toss them into a Mason jar and slide them into your fridge.

You're Freezing for Too Long

A common misunderstanding with freezing food is that once it's in the freezer, it will be fine to eat for an indefinite amount of time. The truth is, items can develop freezer burn only after six months in the freezer, so make sure to put a date on food when you add it to your freezer storage. No need for some fancy label maker; you can easily do this by slapping a piece of masking tape on the container, and writing the day's date on it with a Sharpie. By dating your food, you know how long a container of soup has been hanging out in the freezer, and you can make it a point to thaw and eat food before it's been in there for six months or so. As you add more things into your freezer, pull the older items to the front so that you remember to eat them.

You're Not Using Fifo

A common tactic that restaurants use for their food is "FIFO," which stands for "first in, first out." Whenever you get home from a trip to the grocery store, you should arrange your food so that the older food you need to eat is the most accessible and the new food is arranged behind the older food. This way, you remember to use up what you had in the first place before tearing into a new package.

You're Not Storing Food in Dry Places

You may notice that some foods are best stored in a "cool, dry place." Well, what spot in your kitchen isn't dry? The cupboards above and around your stove can actually be quite moist and humid if you boil water or simmer any liquids. Because of this, it's a good idea to store spices, cereals, grains, and pasta as far as you can from these cupboards. The humid air can be absorbed into these foods and create mold, which, we all know… is the enemy.


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