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11 Foods You’re Probably Storing Wrong

Not all food can survive in plastic containers! Use this guide to proper storage to keep everything in your kitchen crisp and fresh.

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Ripe red apples on wooden backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Apples

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but not if it rots before you can enjoy it. Apples can be stored at room temperature, but if you want greater longevity, store your apples in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper drawer. Leaving an apple out at room temperature will cause it to ripen after a few days, but popping it into the fridge will keep it crisp for weeks.

Put those apples to work in one of these delicious recipes.

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flour in wooden bowl on kitchen table; Shutterstock ID 127973471Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Flour

Flour will stay fresh and usable if it’s placed in an airtight metal, glass or plastic container, rather than leaving it in the paper bag packaging from the store. The grain takes a longer time to go bad compared to most foods, but the process will still move faster if it isn’t protected. Whole grain flours are particularly sensitive. You might want to consider storing whole grain flour in the refrigerator or freezer to further slow down the oxidation process.

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Fresh juicy citrus fruits in a basket on a wooden backgroundZb89V/Shutterstock

Fruit

Many people store fruit in the refrigerator—and with apples and some sensitive fruits like raspberries, that may be a good plan, but other fruit needs to ripen on the counter before going in the fridge with other foods. Fruit also should not be stored with vegetables because they can cause each other to deteriorate faster because of the different gases they emit. Separation here is key. Here are more foods you should never store in the refrigerator.

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potatoesoptimarc/Shutterstock

Potatoes

Potatoes need to be kept in a dry, cool and dark place in order to stay fresh. They do not do well in the refrigerator, though, as temperatures that are too cold (below 50 degrees) will cause the starch in the potato to convert to sugar. That conversion will make the potatoes taste overly sweet, and will discolor them too.

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Homemade pickled sliced red onion.Barbro Bergfeldt/Shutterstock

Onions

Like potatoes, onions can be a little sensitive. They need to be stored in dry, dark, cool places, but they also need reasonable air circulation to stay fresh. On top of this, they should not be stored near potatoes, even though both foods need to be stored in similar conditions. Onions and potatoes bring out moisture and gasses in each other, causing them both to ripen faster. Refrigeration is a good choice to keep onions fresh. (Bonus: You’ll also tear less when you chop them!)

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fresh meat in marketS_E/Shutterstock

Fresh meat

If you’ve purchased fresh meat from the store, feel free to keep it in its store wrapping and follow instructions as given. Re-wrapping and storing meat actually increases the risk of exposing it to bacteria along the way, so it’s best to trust the packaging on this one. If your meat didn’t come with a tray under it, though, put a plate underneath the package to catch any excess moisture. Find out how long leftovers really last in the fridge.

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Hydroponic butterhead lettuce growing in a greenhouseKenishirotie/Shutterstock

Lettuce

When lettuce goes bad, it gets slimy, which is wasteful, not to mention gross. To avoid this, do not put your lettuce in a plastic bag. Lettuce needs to be in a perforated bag, or washed and stored in a bowl in the refrigerator or in a paper bag (only once it’s completely dry). Even though you see supermarkets spraying their lettuces, the moisture actually ages them faster.

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Piece of aged Comte or Gruyere de Comte, AOC French cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk in the Franche-Comte region of eastern France with traditional methods of production close up.barmalini/Shutterstock

Cheese

Hard cheeses, like parmigiano and aged cheddar, need special storage—and it’s not airtight containers. Make sure your hard cheeses are stored in the original wrapping until you use them,  preferably in the cheese drawer of your fridge. They’ll last six months, according to a report by Extension Food Safety Specialists at Oregon State University. (They’ll last up to eight months in the freezer but might get more crumbly.) Once you’ve broken them out, re-wrap the cheese in foil, wax paper or loose plastic before putting them back in the refrigerator. Here’s how to protect your food from freezer burn.

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Dried pastaPaulo Vilela/Shutterstock

Uncooked pasta

Despite popular belief, uncooked pasta should not be stored in its original container if you want it to last longer. Repackage uncooked pasta in an airtight glass container to extend its life and avoid the mustiness and moisture problems that sometimes occur over time with original cardboard packaging.

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wicker basket of cherry tomatoesdibettadifino/Shutterstock

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another sensitive food that can be tricky to store. They should be left on a countertop, but away from light, moisture and heat. They should not be stored in the refrigerator, or their cellular structure will start to collapse, which is what causes that mushy, mealy texture—and the flavor will be lost too. Tomatoes will ripen at room temperature and are good for two to three days once ripe. Do refrigerate them within two hours after they’ve been sliced or chopped, advises the Oregon State University report. Check out these foods you should never keep in your pantry.

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Garlic Fontina BreadTaste of Home

Bread

Bread can be stored in the pantry, but it lasts much longer when it’s stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Fresh bread can get moldy quickly, so utilizing the cold storage areas of your house can help extend its shelf life substantially, though it may get stale faster, according to the Oregon State University report. (Pop it in the oven or toaster to restore crispness). Bread is fine to use in a toaster oven directly from a freezer without any risk of sogginess. Storing bread for longer also helps you get more resistant starch in your diet, which is the “good carb” you need to eat more. Next, don’t miss these other storage tips to make your food last longer.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest