Smart storage (and freezing!) can extend the life of your food

Trying to make the most of your groceries? These tips to keep your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer organized can help.

In the refrigerator

  • Create an “eat first” area in your fridge where you’re most likely to see leftovers.
  • Store leftovers in clear containers so you can see what they are.
  • Disinfect your fridge regularly. Invisible mold spores can speed food spoilage.
  • Store fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro in a glass of water (like cut flowers).
  • Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge (or in an open container if you like them drier).
  • Keep oils that you use infrequently (like sesame or walnut) in the fridge.
  • Most “best by” dates refer to a food’s quality, not safety. If it smells and looks fine, no need to toss it. Exceptions: refrigerated foods like deli meats, smoked fish, and prepared foods, where Listeria is a concern.

In the pantry and on the counter

  • Onions can make potatoes sprout. Keep them apart.
  • Bananas and apples can make other fruits ripen. Separate them.
  • Store basil in a glass of water (like cut flowers), cover loosely with a plastic bag, and keep on the counter. Change the water daily.
  • Store oils that you use often (like olive or peanut) in a cool, dark place.
  • Go to for more tips.

In the freezer

  • First, make space. Remove ice packs that you may not need for awhile. Then, put foods that you've already opened or have been in the freezer the longest into an "eat first" area (like you did in the fridge).
  • Remove as much air as possible from plastic bags and containers before freezing food. Vacuum seal if you can or wrap foods tightly.
  • Before you put food in the freezer, label and date the containers.
  • The freezer is ideal for storing nuts, bread, butter, meat, fish, poultry, and blocks of hard cheese.
  • You can freeze milk. Just shake the thawed milk if the fat has separated.
  • Freeze (cooled-down) chicken or vegetable stock in ice cube trays. Put the frozen cubes in an airtight container or a zip-top bag.
  • Blanch vegetables before freezing to preserve their flavor.
  • Peel ripe bananas before freezing. Toss frozen chunks in a smoothie, or immerse the plastic bag in water to thaw to use in cooking or baking.
  • Freeze berries on a tray so they don’t stick together. Then transfer them to an airtight container or bag.
  • Chop peaches, melon, mangoes, pineapple, and other fruit before freezing.
  • Freeze lightly beaten eggs in an airtight container. Thaw in the fridge and use for scrambled eggs or cooking.
  • Pack ice-cube trays half full with fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil, then top with olive oil. Transfer the frozen cubes to an airtight container or bag.

Photo: hedgehog94/