A guide to storing food in the fridge

Home economist Mairlyn Smith shares her tips on how to store food in the fridge.

You can make sure your food is safe to eat and also make it last longer by storing it properly in the fridge. Home economist Mairlyn Smith shares her tips here.

Basic storage tips


  • Keep temperature at 4°C (40°F) or colder
  • -18°C (0°F) or colder in the freezer
  • Don’t overcrowd your fridge. You want optimum air circulation.
  • Store leftovers in see-through containers so you can see them.
  • Never refrigerate anything in a can. It gives food an off flavour.
  • After grocery shopping, rotate older food forward.

Shelf by shelf

Shelves in the door: This is the least cold part of your fridge and the best place to store water, juice and condiments.

Crispers: Fruit and veggies should go in separate drawers. Ethylene from fruits can quickly deteriorate veggies.

Bottom shelves: Store eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and fish on a tray or rimmed plate or in a separate container that is regularly washed.

Middle shelves: Store herbs like rosemary, thyme, leftovers and drinks. Berries are very fragile and should be covered loosely with plastic or a plastic bag for a maximum of two days.

Leftovers: Store within two hours of eating in a smaller container so they cool faster. Don’t worry about totally cooling them down before putting them in the fridge. Warm air will trigger a fan in modern fridges so the food cools faster.

Top of fridge: Don’t store any food on top of the fridge or in the cupboard above the fridge, especially alcohol.

Specific foods

Dairy: Like cottage cheese, yogurt or sour cream. If you’re going to put them on the table, remove what you need to a separate bowl. If you don’t use it all, don’t dump it back into the original carton. Cover the bowl and store in the fridge as is.

Cheese: Store in the package it comes in. Then once opened, continue to store in the package and lightly wrap in foil or parchment paper.

Butter: This belongs in the fridge, not on a cute butter container, unless you go through a ton of it. Unsalted butter left out will spoil faster.

Bread: Bread should not be stored in the fridge as the cooler temperature makes it go stale.

Fruits: Ripen fruits like pears, peaches, apricots, plums, mangoes and avocados on the counter and then store in the fridge. You can also store these fruits in the fridge to delay ripening.

Herbs: If you’re going to use leafy herbs within a couple of days, store them in a vase on the counter. You can also wrap them in tea towel in a plastic bag in the crisper. The exception is basil, which is very fragile. I always store it in a vase on the counter.

Food that shouldn’t be stored in a fridge: 


  • Bread
  • Potatoes, unless they’re new baby potatoes
  • Onions
  • Squash, unless it has been cut
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Watermelon and cantaloupe, until ripe. Once ripe, cut up and store in the fridge.

How long does food keep in the fridge? Click here to find out.