This is a question I asked myself the other day. For the majority of the human existence on this planet we lived without refrigeration. Our great grandparents did it – how? In the United States we have some of the largest refridgerators and freezers in the world – why?
I found out that often what is stored in your fridge comes down to cultural or even family habits.
I have been in households that store both peanut butter and honey in the refrigerator – something I would never do. Just because you refrigerate something does not mean it is unsafe to not refrigerate it. For this reason, Europeans, who eat mostly fresh foods and like to drink beverages like milk and beer at room temperature, typically have much smaller refrigerators than those in the United States.
Condiments like ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce, which lots of us are in the habit of storing in the fridge, typically don’t need to be refrigerated. Opened jams, jellies, pickles, and olives do not require refrigeration over the short-term. And while fruits, vegetables, cheese and butter may stay edible for weeks in the refrigerator, if you plan to eat them within a week, they can do just fine on the counter in a cool, dry place. And NEVER refrigerate a tomato – it ruins the taste.
For example, depending on the temperature, unrefrigerated chicken eggs age roughly a week’s worth of refrigerated time in a day. Since eggs usually last six to eight weeks in a refrigerator, that gives you about a week to eat a fresh egg. A good check for egg freshness is to see if it floats – if it does, the egg should be discarded.
The best place to store cheese is in a cool (45 – 55°F) larder or cellar. Hard cheeses (parmesan, romano, cheddar) may be stored at room temperature for significant periods of time if they are kept moist. Some recommend to wrap the cheese in a vinegar-soaked cloth to prevent mold formation and retain moisture.
When buying fresh foods, it’s important to know how long perishables last so you don’t waste them. As a rule of thumb, grapes and bananas last a week, pears, lettuce, cucumbers and peppers can last two weeks and apples, cabbage, radishes, oranges and celery can last a month.
Still not sure how long that food item will last? Stilltastey.com lets you know, and gives great tips on food storage.
By refrigerating less you may be able to reduce the size of your fridge, saving you money on the purchase, and money in the long run by reducing your energy bills. Try it!