8 Food Storage Mistakes That Are Blowing Your Grocery Budget

Containers of leftover food stacked on kitchen counrter.
Amy Newton-McConnel / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Not storing your food correctly is a quick way to make all your groceries go to waste, not to mention the foodborne illnesses you can get by consuming food that has gone bad.

The average monthly grocery bill for a family is $387. Wasting this much money simply because of food storage mistakes is not worth it. Here’s what not to do to make your groceries last longer. 

Your Refrigerator and Pantry Are at the Wrong Temperatures

If your groceries are expiring super quickly, the culprit might be temperature. Your fridge should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. For pantry storage, make sure temperatures stay between 50 and 75 degrees. If you can, make your pantry away from your stove or fridge so temperatures don’t fluctuate. If you use a closet as a pantry, make sure there are no pipes in the closet that could change the temperature of the food. High temperatures will cause food to lose nutrients and spoil.

You’re Washing Your Food Too Early

When you get home from the grocery store, your first move might be to wash your fruits and vegetables before putting them in the fridge. Unfortunately, storing the food while it has any sort of moisture can attract bacteria and make them go bad.

Wash your vegetables right before you’re going to prepare them. For fruits, you’ll actually want to go the extra mile when it comes to washing. Berries can get moldy very quickly. A trick to avoid that is to wash them in a mix of three parts water, one part vinegar, then dry them completely and store them. This will help them last longer. 

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You’re Not Covering Your Food in the Fridge

After dinner, you’re tired and it’s all you can do to just clean the dishes. You might skip right over covering leftovers with plastic or foil; but, when you do that, you’re shortening the lifespan of that extra food.

When food isn’t covered, it can lose moisture, making it tasteless and dry. It also might start to pick up the other scents in the fridge, making it stink too much to eat again. Make sure you cover your food when you put it in the fridge. If you want to be extra safe, stick it in an airtight container. 

You’re Keeping Leftovers Too Long and Forgetting About Them

Now that your leftovers are covered in your fridge, you can’t forget to eat them. If you let them sit for days, you can’t eat them anymore and you’ve wasted the money you spent to make them. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving, and eat them within three to four days. 

You Put Meat on the Top Shelf

You might put your meat on the top shelf when you know you’re going to cook it soon or to keep it away from other food, but that can actually be a very costly mistake. The juices from the meat can leak out of the packaging and drip down onto your other food, contaminating it with blood and fluid in the process. Your best bet is to store uncooked meat, fish and poultry at the bottom of your fridge. 

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You’re Keeping Leafy Greens in the Plastic Bags from the Store

If you store lettuce and other greens in a plastic bag, it will get wet and slimy because air can’t circulate. This leads to your greens rotting a lot faster than if you put them in perforated plastic bags. Another option is to wash the greens and dry them out as much as possible in a salad spinner. After that, you can layer them with paper towels and keep them in a large bowl in the fridge.

You Put Foods Together That Shouldn’t Be

Did you know you can’t just throw your onions, apples and potatoes together? Because apples give off ethylene gas, when onions or potatoes are stored near them, they may start to sprout. For proper storage, you should keep your apples in the crisper of your fridge and your potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place. Uncut onions don’t actually need to be refrigerated, so you can keep them out until it’s time to prepare them. 

You’re Keeping Your Dry Goods in the Original Packaging

Dry ingredients such as flour and sugar are very attractive to mice and mealworms. To keep these little guys from getting into them and wasting your hard-earned dollars, move these goods into mason jars with tight lids. 

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