Grocery Savings Secrets: 12 Foods That Last Longer (And Taste Better) Outside of the Fridge

SAVING & SPENDING - HOME & AUTO
Refrigerating these common foods might cause them to spoil sooner — or to lose their taste faster.
Updated April 11, 2024
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woman holding brown grocery bag with vegetables and fruits

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Common wisdom holds that if you want fruits, grains, and vegetables to last as long as possible, you should store them in the fridge. But is that good advice?

It might seem counterintuitive, but some foods really do last longer when you keep them on the counter instead of cooling them in the fridge.

To save money on groceries by making foods last as long as possible, consider storing these 12 items outside the fridge.

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Tomatoes

Mara Zemgaliete/Adobe fresh red tomatoes sliced on wooden table

Your tomatoes will last longer and taste better if you keep them on the shelf rather than in the fridge. Cooling a tomato changes its texture and firmness — and not for the better.

If you have an overripe tomato, stashing it in the fridge can give you an extra day to consume it before it goes bad. But let the tomato return to room temperature just before you eat it.

Potatoes

Brent Hofacker/Adobe fresh organic whole potato scattered on table

Root vegetables such as potatoes last longer in cool, dark spaces. However, fridge-level cool is too cold for starchy potatoes, which tend to turn sickly sweet in the fridge.

Instead of keeping them in the fridge or on the countertop — where they could be exposed to sunlight and higher temperatures — keep your potatoes in a cool, dark spot in your pantry.

Onions

sea wave/Adobe organic onion in a basket

Keep your onion out of the fridge until you’ve sliced and diced it. Like potatoes, onions last longer away from direct sunlight and in a dry, cool spot.

Remember, the gasses onions produce as they ripen will cause your potatoes to ripen and rot too quickly. So you’ll need to store both items well away from each other.

Once you peel and slice an onion, store the leftovers in the fridge — preferably in an airtight container that keeps the onion’s smell sealed away.

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Bread

Pineapple studio/Adobe fresh baked bread scattered over wooden table with wheat

Bread and potatoes are both starchy, which is why neither food lasts long in the fridge. Cold temperatures break down starch, turning your bread stale.

To keep your bread fresh, seal it in an airtight bag or wrap it. Then store it in a cool, dry place like the pantry or a breadbox.

If your bread starts turning stale, throw it in the freezer instead of the fridge. That way, you can thaw it slice by slice as needed.

Butter

exclusive-design/Adobe butter slices over wooden cutting board

Butter won’t go bad in the fridge, but it will be firmer and harder to spread. If you prefer to have spreadable butter on hand, keep it in a covered butter dish in the kitchen. Salted butter lasts even longer than unsalted.

Just make sure to set your butter away from the oven, stove, toaster, and window. Heat can turn butter rancid, which means it tastes truly awful.

Fresh basil

nolonely/Adobe fresh green basil placed at table in bowl

Most fresh herbs do just fine in the fridge, especially when you wrap them in moist paper towels, place the paper towels in an airtight bag, and put the bag in your humidity-controlled vegetable drawer.

Basil can outlast the fridge’s chill if you wrap the leaves, but it’s easier (and tastier) to simply put the fresh-cut basil in a small cup of water on your counter. For best results, cover the basil leaves with a plastic bag.

Garlic

bit24/Adobe whole garlic with garlic cloves on table

Unpeeled heads of garlic can last months if stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry. Just make sure not to wrap the garlic in plastic or stick it in a bag.

Once you’ve peeled and sliced a clove of garlic, it will last longer if you do just the opposite: Wrap the clove or put it in an airtight container, then store it in the fridge for a few days to a week.

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Bananas

hanna_photo/Adobe dozen of yellow bananas scattered over brown background

Bananas seem to stay green for a long period of time, then turn brown and mushy practically overnight.

Unfortunately, putting your bananas in the fridge won’t stop this process. The peels will turn dark quickly. Even worse, the banana’s flavor will turn sour and unpleasant.

If your bunch is hovering on the edge of overripening, you can try storing them in the fridge — but don’t wait more than a day to consume them after that.

Cantaloupe

nolonely/Adobe sweet orange melon garnished with mint leaves in wooden tray

Cantaloupe — and any other melons, such as watermelon and honeydew — need to stay on the counter until you slice them. They’ll taste better and may even stay more antioxidant-rich if you do so.

Once you slice the melon, wrap the uneaten portion in plastic or store the chunks in an airtight container. Then, refrigerate and consume within a few days.

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Peaches

Gresei/Adobe fresh peaches placed in white tray at outdoor wooden table

Unless they’re perfectly ripe when you buy them, don’t immediately put peaches — and most other stone fruit, such as plums — in the fridge. Instead, leave them on the counter to ripen, preferably with each fruit spaced a bit away from the others.

To speed up the ripening process, place your peaches or plums in a paper bag or set them in the sun. Once they hit peak ripeness, refrigerate them right away and eat them ASAP.

Eggplant

Svetlana Kolpakova/Adobe dew drops glisten on fresh eggplants.

Like tomatoes, eggplants are easily damaged and spoiled by cold temperatures.

While you want to keep eggplant somewhere cool to make it last, that place ought to be your pantry rather than the fridge.

Acorn squash

DiAnna/Adobe acorn squash on cutting board

Along with other hard-shelled squash, acorn squash should be kept on the counter until ready to cook.

It won’t spoil when left out, so there’s no point in wasting your fridge space on bulky, awkwardly shaped squash. Squash with relatively thin shells, like summer squash, are happiest in the fridge, however.

Bottom line

Drobot Dean/Adobe happy woman at home standing in kitchen preparing salad while using laptop

Knowing the best ways to store food can improve your home cooking by leaps and bounds.

Best of all, it can boost your bank account by saving you from spending additional money on food you already bought and had to toss. And that means you’ll have even more money to spend on your favorite foods.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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