How long can you store fresh fruits and vegetables? And what is the best way to store them? This free, printable chart shows you when to store fresh fruits and vegetables on the counter top and when they need to go in the fridge so you can reduce food waste.
Print out a copy and keep it handy where you unpack your groceries. Also see, How to know if dried herbs and spices are fresh and, if you’re interested in longer term storage, this guide to cold storage can get you started.
How to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
The Road to Food Waste is Paved With Good Intentions
Many of us buy more fresh produce than we can use, stuff it in the fridge in plastic bags (a sure-fire way to accelerate rot), and end up tossing out masses of gross, slimy gunk weeks or months later.
Eating healthy, fresh food without waste requires realistic planning.
It’s one thing to load up the shopping cart with a beautiful array of items, but—reality check—are you really going to eat them? Are the quantities realistic? Have you got specific menus planned out? And do you have time to prepare them?
Planning meals, buying realistic portions, and proper storage (see below) can save you hundreds of dollars per year.
It also helps to organize fruits and veg in your home so you eat them reverse order of freshness, first using up those are about to go south.
Without these steps, we’re paying a lot of money for compost!
Should This Be Refrigerated?
If you’re like me, you remember the best storage practices for fruits and vegetables you consume on a regular basis, but completely forget what’s best for those you use only occasionally.
For starters, it’s important to know which fruits will ripen after picking and those that will not. It’s easy to forget and leave an orange out for weeks only to realize it’s rotting, not ripening!
This Fridge or Counter? cheat sheet is the one I use to quickly look things up when I’m putting away groceries so I know the best place to store each type of fruit and vegetable.
Food storage practices vary greatly (depending on where you live, family traditions, and local food safety advice). Please use this guide as a general guideline only and always do what you know is best.
And, if you have a preferred method or technique, jot it down on the sheet!
Not in the Fridge
Best to Never Refrigerate
- Lemons and limes
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squashes (acorn, butternut, delicate, spaghetti)
See How to Harvest and Store Winter Squash
Not all fruits can ripen once they are picked! This shows which ones ripen after picking and those that do not.
While many fruits can be refrigerated, cool temperatures slow or stall the ripening process as well as altering the taste and texture.
You’ll see on the cheat sheet that I often recommend ripening the fruit first on a counter top (in a paper bag, if possible).
Fruits are best eaten fresh and ripe, of course, but, once ripe, you can also keep them for a few days longer in the fridge.
Many berries are prone to mold and do best if stored on a single layer, not piled deeply in a container.
Always remove any damaged, diseased, or moldy items before storing.
Cool versus Cold
- Fridge temperatures generally range from 32-40° F (0-4 degrees Celsius) and are considered cold storage.
- Ideal cool storage temperatures (in cold cellars and pantries) can vary from 32°F to 50°F (0-10 degrees Celsius). Optimum temperatures depend on the food being stored.
How long can fruits and vegetables last in the fridge?
It varies a lot depending on the condition, type, age, and your storage environment. I’ve provided general estimates on the cheat sheet.
Long term cool storage (not in a fridge) requires thoughtful planning and care. This is a good cold storage starter guide.
I hope this helps you cut down on food waste.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛