How to keep your food fresh

Using Your Refrigerator

by Leanne Ely


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Food Storage Tips

Keeping Produce Fresh

You probably have a refrigerator in your home. But, if you're like many people, you don't put a lot of thought into the what-goes-where process when you get your groceries home from the market.

There is a reason why your fridge has all of those drawers and shelves. Certain areas of your fridge have different temperature and humidity controls, and that's why different types of food are intended to be stored in specific places.

Who wants to send their produce into the dark recesses of the refrigerator to die? Nobody! So let's learn more, shall we?

Temperature, ethylene and humidity . . . oh my!

You know how sometimes you'll find a floppy zucchini at the bottom of your fridge? Or a bunch of carrots that have gone limp after a day or two? That's because you let them become dehydrated.

To keep your produce fresh longer, you need a certain amount of water vapor in the air or a good level of relative humidity, depending on the type of vegetable or fruit.

A good way to remember which produce requires more humidity is to think of which wilt the fastest. Foods that require the highest levels of relative humidity are your celery, grapes, zucchini, cucumber, beans, leafy greens, asparagus, avocado, pears and berries. Things like citrus, tomatoes, melon and sweet potato can handle medium level humidity, while dried garlic, squash, onions and pumpkins are more suited for lower levels of relative humidity and they don't really even need to be stored in the refrigerator.

You know that crisper drawer at the bottom of the fridge? That's where the most humidity is generally found. If there's a little sliding tab on the front of the drawers for adjusting the humidity levels, use it! That feature closes the vent and keeps dry air from getting to your produce so it can stay nice and hydrated down there. Keep the relative humidity set at 90 or 100%, the setting where most of that produce will be happiest.

Speaking of that crisper drawer, some types of produce don't play nicely with others and should be stored separately.

As vegetables and fruits are harvested, they will most often continue to ripen. When this happens, the food produces ethylene gas. This gas can negatively affect other fruits and veggies. It can cause green vegetables to yellow, potatoes to sprout, carrots to turn bitter, and asparagus to toughen. Common ethylene producers include apples, pears, plums, peaches and cantaloupes. Keep veggies in one drawer and fruits in the other and you should be fine.

Storing meat and eggs

Your fridge probably has a meat keeper drawer. That is the coldest part of your fridge, so use it for your meat (which is likely the most perishable item in there anyway). You can keep fish in there, too, as long as you don't forget about it. Fresh fish really should be eaten the day you bring it home, so you shouldn't have to worry about keeping it fresh for more than a couple of hours.

Fridges used to come with little egg holders on the door; some still do! But, you should never store your eggs there. Why not? You should never store anything highly perishable or items that are sensitive to temperature changes in the door of the fridge. That's because each time the door of the fridge is opened, a blast of warm air hits that area. Eggs need to stay deep inside the fridge where they'll enjoy a nice, even cold temperature. On that note, however, you should always bring eggs up to room temperature before you cook them. This will help prevent your yolks from breaking and it will help them cook more evenly in general.

Condiments

Use the door of the fridge to store those condiments you may use on a regular or semi-regular basis. And there you have it!

Anything else to add to these fridge usage tips? Let us know on our Facebook page!


Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register—to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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