Food shopping can be quite a chore. There are not many of us who enjoy giving up part of our day off work to spend it pushing a shopping trolly around a busy supermarket, that’s why online shopping is so popular these days – have someone else do your food shop and deliver it to your door.
I worked as a groceries delivery driver for Sainsbury’s for many years, and what surprised me the most was the number of people who hated the job of packing their shopping away into their fridge, freezer, and cupboards.
I would think to myself; they’ve just had their shopping picked, packed, and delivered straight to their kitchen without even moving from the sofa, and now they’re huffing and puffing because they’ve got to put it away. Some people are never happy, but I regress.
I can see why so many people throw their food into the fridge without giving much thought. It’s a chore, they want it out of the way so they can get on with other important stuff, I get it. But what if I told you that the way you pack your fridge can affect the freshness of your food. That’s right, there’s a right and wrong way to store food in your fridge, and in this guide, you’re going to learn how to pack your fridge properly, to optimise freshness.
Refrigerators and Temperature Distribution
Before you start packing those fresh foods away, it is important to know how the temperatures are distributed inside the refrigerator. This allows you to optimize the use of the refrigerator to keep certain foods like cold meats, fruits and vegetables, fresher for longer.
- Top: on average, temperatures of 6 – 8 ° C are reached here
- Middle: on average, temperatures of 5 – 7 ° C are reached here
- Bottom (separated from the drawer by glass): on average, temperatures of 4 – 5 ° C are reached here
- Drawers in the lower area: on average, temperatures of 4 – 5 ° C are reached here
Of course, these temperatures are rough estimates, as fridges have adjustable thermostats which are set to different temperatures.
But the point here is to understand that hot air rises and cold air falls, so when you open the fridge door, the fridge loses its even cooling, as cold air falls out and warmer air gets it. Since the fridge door is being opened and closed regularly throughout the day, the fridge is rarely an even temperature from top to bottom.
As you can see, sections of the refrigerator have a different climate zone, which makes it even clearer why an optimized distribution of shopping is important. The refrigerator door, on the other hand, has no direct temperature but is based on the respective part of the interior that the door closes.
Because of this, the door is suitable for other food than the interior of the refrigerator, which makes it just as important when packing. The air that gets warmer in the upper areas of the refrigerator is responsible for this classification.
Some premium refrigerators offer an advantage of a fan system that cools dynamically. This means that the temperature does not change inside the refrigerator as much and for this, you have more wiggle room to place foods in any zone.
Where to Store Each Food Type
Make sure to inquire whether your device is one of the devices described above or rather one that is equipped with a fan system. This can save you additional work. The different climatic zones define exactly which food should be kept in which part of the refrigerator so that it can be kept as fresh as possible.
Of course, you do not have to completely empty the refrigerator beforehand, you can do that in the meantime. Arrange the device according to the following instructions:
- Door: the door of the refrigerator is suitable for several foods as it is also divided into different areas. In addition, the individual shapes of the compartments in the door are used here, which determine the purpose. The following foods can be stored here:
- top door compartment: butter, margarine
- Middle door compartment: already opened canned food, mustard, dressings, eggs, sauces, oils. Pastes (e.g. miso)
- Lower door compartment: drinks that have already been opened, mineral water, freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, milk.
Interior Fridge Storage Zones
Upper: the upper zone of the refrigerator is ideally suited for storing all kinds of prepared or pickled foods that have a long shelf life and are in themselves a finished meal. This includes:
- also sauces
- Hard cheese
- Pickled foods such as olives, peppers, cucumbers or sauerkraut in the glass
- Leftovers that you want to keep, such as half a lasagna (well-packed, of course)
If you want butter that is spreadable, you should also put butter in this compartment for a few hours, but never for the entire time.
Middle: the middle zone is the perfect storage location for all kinds of dairy products except hard cheese. You should also store the milk here, regardless of whether it is goat, cow or sheep milk.
Lower: the lower zone is separated from the lower drawers by a glass plate and this is where it is coolest in the entire refrigerator. When putting away food, you should therefore make sure to keep particularly fresh, animal-based foods here, as they spoil quickly and, if stored improperly, could develop salmonella. The following foods are stored here:
- Fresh meat (poultry, beef, lamb, cold meats, etc)
- Fresh fish
- Fresh sausage
In this subject, you have to pay particular attention to hygiene so as not to give pathogens the chance of transmission. Pack the food particularly well so that liquids do not leak that could drip onto other food, such as the vegetables and fruits in the drawers below.
Lower: these drawers are an effective storage place for vegetables and fruits. For this reason, this compartment is also known as the vegetable compartment, as only plant-based foods should be stored here due to the higher temperatures. Above all, these include:
- Brussels sprouts
It is important to separate fruit, vegetables and lettuce from one another within the vegetable compartment, otherwise they will take on each other’s aroma. You don’t necessarily want strawberries that taste like broccoli or asparagus that has a fresh raspberry flavor. Of course, this does not apply to fruit and vegetables that are packaged and cannot transfer flavors due to the packaging.
Again, pay attention to hygiene and above all to moisture. If the food becomes moist too quickly, you will start to mold and this will spread quickly if you do nothing about it.
Foods Not To Pack into a Fridge
Not all food benefits from the cooling capacity of the refrigerator and should therefore never be stored in it. Either the device has no beneficial effect on the goods, they lose their aroma or they even go bad more quickly. These foods include:
- Honey: naturally keeps for years, starts to crystallize in the refrigerator, does not need refrigeration
- Bananas: brown spots form faster when refrigerated
- Bread: it dries faster as soon as it is chilled
- Citrus and tropical fruits: generally do not tolerate cold and become bad faster as a result
- Avocados: should never be refrigerated, otherwise they will not ripen properly
- Onions and garlic: go bad faster and mold growth is encouraged, especially when stored together
- Potatoes: when stored refrigerated, potatoes become sweeter and floury
- Tomatoes: lose a large part of their aroma when stored in the refrigerator for a long time
- Olive oil: becomes hard, inedible and is difficult to use
- Coffee: loses its aroma, taste and nose extremely quickly
- Basil: the Mediterranean herb wilts and dies even faster
- Vegetables with a high water content: eggplants, peppers, zucchini, sugar peas, cucumbers
In order to be able to use the function of the refrigerator even more effectively, you should follow the following tips:
- As soon as you have loaded the refrigerator as described above, you should also pay attention to which foods you use most often. These are then placed in front of the door in close proximity to the door, enabling quick access without losing freshness.
- The more often you clean the refrigerator a year, the fresher and more digestible your food will be. Fruit and vegetables in particular can absorb unpleasant odors, which can be prevented by cleaning the device.
- Food should always be covered so that it does not lose moisture or aroma and preserve its freshness. Use either individual containers or cling film for this.
- It is important that you always let warm food and drinks cool down before putting them in the refrigerator. These could “sweat” and release too much moisture inside the device, which has a negative effect on other foods.
- You should always place freshly purchased goods behind those that have already been stored. In this way you do not accidentally confuse the old with the new food and consume it systematically. So you don’t have to spend extra money because, for example, one of your yoghurt pots suddenly went bad.