Forget snooping in the medicine cabinet (where you shouldn’t actually ever keep medicine anyway because the humidity in a bathroom is bad for storage conditions), if you want to get to know someone, check out what they store in their fridge. One of the hardest things about moving in with another person, be it a friend or a significant other, is figuring out when to protest or give in on their strange food storage habits. Does he put peanut butter in the fridge while she prefers it in the pantry? Uh oh. That could spell trouble. Many of our food storage habits are learned from our parents, so when they are challenged, we tend to get defensive about our choices.
Some foods are fine whether you leave them in the fridge or put them in the pantry, but others are just not meant to be out of their preferred environment. I have a friend, who shall remain nameless (and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read my blog anyway), who claims that ketchup MUST be stored in the fridge. For her, there is no wiggle room. “It says refrigerate after opening on the bottle” she insists. I’ve never been a fan of cold ketchup on hot food, so I’m firmly in the storing ketchup in the pantry camp. Pointing out to her that diners across the country have ketchup on tables are aren’t likely to be putting every bottle in the fridge overnight has done little to persuade her that it’s safe to leave ketchup in a cool, dark, pantry cupboard. I’m as unlikely to change her mind as she is to change mine. The US FDA does agree with me – so long as it’s consumed within a month and is in a squeeze bottle instead of a jar you’re sticking implements into, but they also say for longer shelf life, keep it in the fridge. Peanut butter is another area of contention. Not the really good organic stuff – things with no preservatives need to be refrigerated, but the guilty pleasure peanut butter – the one loaded with sugar and fat and salt and all the not so good for you stuff. That stuff, I’m told by people who know this kind of info, doesn’t need to go in the fridge. Of course, All of this is assuming you consume it in a relatively timely fashion. I don’t want to think about 2 year old peanut butter sitting in a cupboard somewhere. Use that stuff in mousetraps. My friend and I continue to be friends because we have stopped looking in each other’s fridges (although I admit that the temptation to move the ketchup out of her fridge when I’m at her place is hard to resist), but there have been some seriously heated arguments on the issue of fridge space and what *needs* to be refrigerated vs what doesn’t.
I was curious as to what foods need to be refrigerated for food safety reasons and which ones just say “refrigerate after opening” but don’t really mean it, so I went looking around the internet, to figure out which foods are taking up space in my fridge that don’t need to be there. This is my list so far:
- Non Organic Peanut Butter (as long as you eat it within a couple of months, you’re fine)
- Ketchup (the high vinegar and salt content make it unlikely to spoil as long as it’s not sitting there for months on end)
- Mustard (vinegar acts as a preservative so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated if it is used in a timely manner)
- Coffee (Putting coffee in the fridge is actually really bad for it -the US coffee association explains why here)
- Soy sauce (the high sodium content keeps it from going bad)
- Green Beans ( learned this the hard way – they can suffer cold damage and lose flavour in the fridge – cool dry spot is best)
- Tomatoes – they go mealy if you put them in the fridge (if you’ve cut one, it does need to go in the fridge)
- Pineapples, Kiwis, Mangoes (as a rule of thumb, if it grows in the tropics, it probably does best without refrigeration until it’s cut)
- Basil (I learned this the hard way too – it cringes and gets black spots when put in the fridge)
- Honey (putting it in the fridge won’t damage it but it will speed up the crystallization process, and it doesn’t need to be cold)
- Bread (store it either in a breadbox or, if you won’t use it all, freeze it. Putting it in the fridge makes it go hard)
- Potatoes (refrigeration converts the starch in potatoes to sugar which makes them taste weird)
- Uncut melons (this one is huge for me since melons are such space hogs – once you slice it though, you need to keep it in the fridge)
- Onions (these need a cool, dark place but shouldn’t be put in the fridge since they’ll go soft, but keep them away from potatoes too or they’ll go bad quickly)
- Bananas (though Anne of Food Retro says that keeping them in the fridge during fruit fly season is a good idea and that the outside will turn black but the inside will be fine)
I’m going to leave eggs off the list, though if they’re farm-fresh, ask the farmer how they store their eggs. Eggs bought in North American grocery stores should be refrigerated. I’m also wary of saying too much about butter – I have a butter bell dish from France and keep a small amount of butter (made from pasteurized milk) in it for easy spreading. I only keep enough for a couple of days out and store the rest in the fridge. I know some people who swear that all butter must be kept in the fridge at all times and others who put a whole pound of butter in a dish on the counter. I’m quite happily in the middle on this issue. I keep some out for convenience (because I hate spreading cold butter on bread and tearing it apart) in my Butter Bell but only as much as will be used in the near future.
Oh, and don’t store batteries in the fridge. I had a friend who swore that batteries needed to be stored in the fridge or they’d lose their charge. This isn’t true. Batteries don’t like being exposed to cold or hot temperatures as both extremes can damage their performance. Keep them in a drawer and note the expiration date on the package – the batteries should be fully charged until at least that date.
So, what about you? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been told to keep in the refrigerator or have seen in a friend or loved one’s fridge?