Storing food in a fridge is a bit more complex than just neatly lining up perishables.
A fridge has many shelves and compartments, each with different temperatures and meant for specific purposes. Unlike a freezer in which you can happily stuff to capacity, a fridge should not be overstuffed. It needs cool air to circulate to keep your food fresher for longer.
The general rule is to store food according to temperature the food has to be cooked to. Ready to eat at the top and foods that need to be cooked at the highest temperature (like chicken/meat) at the bottom. This ensures any cross contamination won’t be problematic. Any contaminated foods have to be cooked at a higher temperature than what spilled on it.
Dial Down Temperature
The optimal temperature for a fridge is 5°C. A cold temperature helps prevent bacteria and food getting spoiled. To keep the inside temperature consistently cold, doors should be shut properly. To see if you need to reseal your fridge, stick a R10 note in the door. If it stays put you’re good, if it falls it’s time for a new door seal.
It’s not inside it’s on top
To keep the inside cool, the fridge’s condenser coil pumps warm air out. This causes the top and outside of the fridge to get warm. Food like wine and produce should never be stored on the top of your fridge as the heat will cause it to spoil. Rather use the top to store paper towels, recipe books or zip locks ie. non-food items.
The Upper Shelves have the most consistent temperature. This is where you want to store leftovers and ready to eat food like wraps, dips, milk, cheese and yogurts.
Store milk, soft cheese and yogurt in the containers it comes in.
Once you open hard cheese store in wax paper, foil or loose plastic.
When storing leftovers, store in a clear container so you can easily identify them and use within 4 days.
Avoid putting open canned tins in the fridge; it can lead to the contents tasting metallic. Rather empty the leftovers into a container.
The lower shelves
The lower shelves are the coldest area. This is where you should be storing uncooked foods like eggs, meats and fish. This not only keeps them at a colder temperature, it also prevents them from leaking onto ready to eat food and contaminating it.
Keep meat, poultry and fish stored in the original packaging or place in a tray to avoid any big spills into the fridge.
Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated, especially if you use them fast. However, during the summer months it’s best to store them in the fridge to keep them from spoiling.
Crisper drawers are meant to maintain a moist environment best for storing fresh produce.
Don’t store all produce together in one bin. Place like with like. Fruits like apples, nectarines , plums and pears produce a gas, ethylene that can cause other produce to ripen faster which can lead to limp and vrot fruit.
Store berries at the top of the fridge and eat within 3 days of buying so they don’t get squished or go bad.
If you’re washing produce before storing, make sure everything is completely dry before storing. Moisture can lead to them going rotten before you have a chance to eat them. Preferably wash and prepare just before you eat. If you’re prewashing greens, store in a ziplock or plastic bag lined with a piece of paper towel to soak up extra moisture.
The doors are the warmest area, so don’t store your milk and cheese there. Use it to store condiments, water or juices.
Things you don’t need to refrigerate
Eggs – South Africans generally keep eggs at room temperature. However during summer it’s best to store in the fridge to help them stay fresher for longer
Tomatoes – tomatoes ripen best at room temperature. They can end up tasteless and mealy in the fridge.
Potatoes and Onions – store in a dark and cool place.
Kale and Herbs – if you’re using them within a few days you can keep them in a vase or small glass jar on the countertop (with some water to cover the stems).
Nut butter and Flours – some will specifically state to store in the fridge, others not. If it takes you a while to use them up and your kitchen is warm, store nut butters, almond meal and even regular flour in the fridge or freezer (flours) to keep them fresher.
Most fruit like avocados, peaches, apples and bananas are fine left on the counter. Once ripened you can refrigerate to prolong their freshness.
Non-food items you can store in the fridge
Eyeliner – keeping eyeliner in the fridge will keep the tip harder making it easier for you to create the perfect cat eye. It also makes it easier to sharpen.
Natural/ organic beauty products – especially those with no preservatives.
Flowers – if you want flowers to last longer, do like a florist and pop them (in a vase) into the fridge.
Nail Polish – it makes it last longer, but also thickens it so only store colours you don’t use often.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.