Smarter: What Foods Don’t Need to Go in the Fridge?

Woman looking inside a refrigerator at home Photo: Getty Images

This week I’m doing your fridge a huge favor by letting you know that there are things you don’t need to stuff inside, such as bread and potatoes. Also in this issue: Is a Walmart+ membership worth it, and does your dog have the right bed?

THE BIG STORY:

‘Confessions of a Fridge Hoarder’

There are two types of people in this world: Those who like to put things in the freezer and those who stick them in the fridge.

I am firmly of the latter camp. My use of the freezer is minimal to a fault, almost monastic, whereas my fridge is usually stuffed to the gills given the amount of food I store inside. 

Is it good to have a fridge this crowded? Most likely not. It makes it difficult for the cold air to circulate, so some sections of your fridge might end up warmer than others. And as it happens, there are many foods that you don’t need to refrigerate in the first place.

Which are they? I’m so glad you asked. Here are the items CR’s food experts say can be stored in places other than the fridge.

Get Smarter

Bread: 
I didn’t know this before, but it turns out you probably shouldn’t refrigerate bread because it can go stale faster than if you stored it in a breadbox, a kitchen cabinet, or someplace dark and cool.

If you don’t think you’ll use up your loaf in four or five days, freeze some and it will keep up to three months. You can take a slice or two out of the freezer when you need it and let it thaw at room temperature or pop it straight into the toaster. 

Butter:
Butter is surprisingly hardy, and if you want to have soft butter available anytime, keep it covered on the counter. But be sure to use it within two days.

Potatoes:
If you refrigerate your potatoes, they may develop a sweet taste because the starch turns into sugar at lower temperatures, says Trisha Calvo, CR’s health and food deputy editor who has been covering food, nutrition, and food safety for over 25 years.

So instead of putting them in a fridge, store your potatoes in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. 

Tomatoes:
Your tomatoes can lose their flavor and aroma—and become dull and mealy—in a fridge. But the question of whether you should refrigerate them depends on the state of their ripeness, says Amy Keating, a registered dietitian and CR food tester. 

If your tomatoes are underripe, leave them at room temperature. Once they’re at their peak, ripe condition, however, it’s okay to store them in the fridge for a few days to slow down the ripening process. They may taste better if you let them come back up to room temperature before eating.

Onions and garlic:
Onions and garlic don’t need to be in the fridge, Amy says. For onions, keep them in cool, ventilated areas away from the sun and they can stay good for up to four weeks. Garlic can be stored in cool, dry places for over five months if kept whole and unpeeled.

Coffee beans:
If you refrigerate your coffee beans, they might absorb the odors and moisture of the fridge. No thank you to that. That’s just nasty.

Keep a week’s supply in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark. You can also put them in freezerproof packages for up to a month.

What foods do you usually not refrigerate? Let me know. And if your fridge is giving you trouble and you don’t know whether to fix it or replace it, here’s a tool we designed based on costs and depreciation rates that will help you make the right choice. 


DOUBLING DOWN

With the proper techniques, many foods can last longer than you think. Here are a few examples: 

🍌 Bananas: Don’t be afraid of putting your bananas in a fridge to slow their ripening rate. While the peels may darken, that actually doesn’t affect the fruit inside.

🥬 Lettuce: If your lettuce is wilted, you can crisp it back up by soaking it in a bowl of ice water for 5 to 20 minutes.

🍓 Strawberries: Remove the stems and refrigerate the strawberries in a container lined with paper towels. It’s a personal favorite food-storage trick of Trisha’s because it cuts down on the chance of the strawberries growing moldy.

To minimize food waste and save money on groceries, read more of our tips on how you can stretch their shelf life.


QUIZ

What helps ease constipation?
A. Artichokes
B. Chia seeds
C. Water
D. All of the above


THE BOTTOM LINE

Should you get a Walmart+ membership? Let’s break it down.

How much it costs: $12.95 a month or $98 a year.

What it offers: Key benefits include free shipping and same-day delivery on some orders, gas discounts, access to early deals, and . . . six free months of Spotify Premium membership for some reason.? 

Is it worth it? If you live near a Walmart store and regularly order delivery or purchase gas from the store weekly, then yes.


THE GOOD STUFF

Does your dog have the right bed?

@consumerreports Your dog deserves the best 🥰. That’s why it may be good to consider investing in a dog bed made with egg crate foam, or an elevated one made with plastic piping. #petsoftiktok #dogbed #dogs ♬ original sound - Consumer Reports

THE SHORT ANSWER

Can you change your phone number and still keep your old one? Oh yes.


QUIZ ANSWER

The answer is D, all of the above. Artichokes and chia seeds are high in insoluble fiber, which can help keep things moving through your digestive system. And when you up your fiber, you should also drink more water because without enough fluid, extra fiber can actually be more constipating.



Smarter Owl Icon

"Would you rather eat an unripe avocado or an overripe banana?"


Headshot of CR Author Pang-Chieh (BJ) Ho

Pang-Chieh Ho

I'm a newsletter writer who likes looking into the different ways we can live smarter. The topics I cover typically explore unanswered questions we have about the products we use every day and bridge the gaps between what owners' manuals advise and what we actually do. In my spare time, I like to take photos, critique movies out loud while I watch (at home!), and take care of my ever-increasing plant "children."