Storing your food properly and under the best condition possible will extend its life to its maximum potential. Some foods can be stored at room temperature and some must be refrigerated. Freezing can be used to extend the life of many products. To get the most out of the storage areas, certain conditions must be maintained.
Shelf Storage – Shelf storage should be in a cool, dry area. Many food items should also be kept out of direct light. The temperature should be keep at 70° F or below.
Refrigerator Storage – The refrigerator should be kept at a temperature between 33° F to 40° F. Check the temperature frequently with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
Freezer Storage – The freezer should be kept at a temperature of 0° F or below. Check the temperature frequently with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
Organize Your Storage Area
Organizing your storage areas will give you more room and easier access to the stored food. Having food organized in the refrigerator and freezer will also help save energy by allowing quicker access to the food you are retrieving. The more time that the refrigerator or freezer is open, the more the temperature will drop. This causes the appliance to have to run more to get the temperature back down to what it needs to be, so quick access is important for energy saving. Shown below are some organizing suggestions.
- Use shallow organizer shelving in tall, deep shelves to add layers for stacking small or shorter items.
- Use wire or plastic baskets to hold odd shaped or bulky items.
- Store opened items, such as pasta, rice and cereals, in clear plastic or glass containers with tight fitting lids to keep them fresh and easily visible. Clear self-sealing bags can also be used.
- If you have a pantry with empty walls, add more shelving or stackable bins.
- When organizing items, place like items together to make it easier to remember where items are store. Store baking ingredients together, canned goods in one area, and dry ingredients in another.
- When adding items to storage, be sure to place newest products in back of what is already on the shelf so that older items get used first.
- Keep like items together so you know where to look for them. Have sauces in one area, keep meats in the meat drawer if you have that option available, keep vegetables in the vegetable crispers, and store beverages in the same location.
- Store leftovers in clear containers or bags so you can see what you are searching for without having to open several containers to find it.
- Keep all items as orderly as possible. This will allow more storage space and easier access to the food being stored.
- Remove and discard food that is spoiled or has been stored past the recommended storage time.
- In a refrigerator freezer, keep food stacked as neat as possible by placing the largest flat packages on the bottom. Place other flat packages on top of them with the smallest being at the top. Fit odd size food items in where they best fit. Refrigerator freezers are small and can easily become disorganized, which makes it hard to find the stored item you are searching for.
- Be sure all packages are well marked.
- In large freezer units, organize food into groups of like items. Divide meat into types, such as all beef in one section and pork in another or keep steaks and chops separate from roasts. Food groups can be divided according to your own personal preference.
- Use the freezer baskets to organize smaller items.
- Plastic bags can also be used to organize smaller items. Like items, such as packages of frozen vegetables or individual packages of ground meat, can be put in a bag and placed on top of other items. When they need to be retrieved, the bag can be pulled out and the item accessed. The bag can also be easily removed to allow access to the items below it.
- When adding food to the freezer that is the same as something already stored there, be sure to place it in the same area and under or behind what is already there. This will ensure that the oldest food is used first.