How to Store Food in Your Fridge (Some Surprises!)

Did you know that every food has an ideal spot in your fridge for storage? Organization expert Melissa Coghlan shows us some important rules of thumb for keeping food fresh.

See anything wrong with this photograph? If your answer is no, you should keep reading to learn proper food storage tips. Photo Credit: ISTOCK

The Upper Shelves

The upper shelves of the fridge have the most consistent temperatures and the lower shelves are the coldest.

  • Place foods such as hummus, olives and deli meat that don't need to be cooked/ or are for reheating near the top of the fridge.
  • Berries will last longer here (they ripen and rot much quicker if kept in the drawers because they are too moist and lower shelves are colder and can damage your fragile berries).
  • Herbs are also great for the upper shelves, wash & then store the same way you would a bouquet of flowers- in a glass jar with a little water or in a container with a little bit of paper towel.

The Lower Shelves

Dairy eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, sour cream all go on the lower shelves NOT the fridge door.

  • Do not store eggs on the door in those nifty little egg holders many fridges have. Eggs need to be kept in a spot with consistent cool temperature
  • Milk should be stored at the back of the bottom shelf where the fridge is coldest. Another thing to note, not only is organic milk antibiotic-and hormone-free, it's also processed differently to last longer
  • The butter compartment on the door of your fridge is not the best place to store it. Opening and closing the door of the refrigerator can cause the average temperature to rise. The best place to store your butter is toward the back of your fridge where the temperature is more consistently cold. Some say top shelf, others say lower. I say just keep it at the back wrapped in its original foil and you will be fine.

Tip: If you insist on having room temperature butter in your home, slice a portion off and store in a butter dish or butter crock in the cupboard least susceptible to heat and fill up as needed.

The Fridge Doors

Mayo, ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo, bottled water, soda, juice all do best in the fridge doors.

  • Why? The doors are the warmest area of the fridge and should be reserved for foods that are most resistant to spoiling.
  • Keep condiments, most juices (not fresh), and other foods that can stand up to temperature fluctuations here.

Specific Foods:


You’ve been storing your flour in your cupboards all along, but it keeps best in the fridge.

Why? Flour can be stored in an airtight container in your fridge (top shelves are best but lower are fine if size counts) or in your freezer. The wheat germ in whole-wheat flour can go rancid pretty quickly. Once opened, store your whole wheat flour in the refrigerator or freezer for long-term use.

Tip: whole wheat flour has the tendency to pick up unwelcome flavors, so store it in a plastic bag or air-tight container and avoid storing it next to anything with a strong odour.

Fun Fact:  Apparently using frozen ingredients for baking makes for a flakier pastry crust!


Tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge!

Why? The flavor of a tomato is a result of an interaction between sugars, acids, and multiple volatile compounds. Volatiles are responsible for making a tomato taste like a tomato, and while there are several hundred of them in this fruit, only 15-20 actually impact our perception of its flavor.

If you've ever stored your tomatoes in the fridge, you may have noticed a change in both their taste and texture. This isn't a coincidence but rather is a direct result of the cold temperatures on the tomato's volatiles (and texture). Researchers in France have revealed that storing a tomato at room temperature (68 degrees F) allows it to not only maintain its existing volatiles but also to produces more of them.


Separate bananas and store them individually scattered on a fridge shelf.

Why? When bananas stay in a bunch the ethylene gas produced falls onto the group. If you separate them there will be less gas produced and your bananas will ripen slower.

Most other vegetables can go in crisper drawers.

Tip: Do not wash fruit before storing because it will spoil faster


Store nuts in the fridge OR freezer (not in the cupboard!)

Why? Nuts are a great healthy snack option. Buy them in bulk and store them in your fridge (or freezer, if you want them to last even longer). The oils in nuts go rancid when exposed to heat, so unless you'll be eating them up within a month or so, they'll need to stay cool. The freezer is a great option: since nuts have very little water content, they never freeze rock solid and will last indefinitely stored there.


Store bread in the freezer for up to 3 months. Never store in the fridge as it dries out.


Leftovers should be stored on upper shelves and most last up to four days. Store in clear, labeled containers.

More tips around fridges and freezers

As a rule of thumb your fridge should maintain a temperature of 40 degrees and your freezer should best at zero.

A lot of people over-crowd their refrigerator. Cold air needs to be able to flow through the shelves and drawers, otherwise you will get pockets of heat and warmth in places which cause the food to spoil.

The freezer is a different story. Every time you open your freezer, cold air escapes and warm air flows in. The majority of the energy our freezer uses goes towards cooling down the air that comes in when you open the freezer door. When your freezer is full, there is less room for warmer air to take up, and the items that are in there help to cool down any air that does sneak in. So keeping it full means less energy used.


How to Store Food in Your Fridge (Some Surprises!)
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