5 Tips for Making Food Last

Friday, March 20, 2020
Tips from University Hospitals Registered Dietitian Stephanie Hopkins, MS, RDN, LD.
1. Ensure your refrigerator and freezer are at the right temperature.

Refrigerators should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezers should be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information on safe temperatures and cooking, please review FDA guidelines.
2. Organize your refrigerator and freezer by “first in, first out” otherwise known as “FIFO.”

Start by keeping the same kinds of foods together. For example, if you have a few different yogurt containers in your fridge, gather them together on the same shelf. Look at the expiration dates on your food products. Arrange older food, or quickly approaching expiration dates in the front of the fridge. 

If you have leftovers, store in an airtight container and mark the date. Most leftovers last 4 days in the refrigerator. Leftovers should also follow FIFO practices. For more information on leftover food safety, please review USDA guidelines.

3. Store foods in the right location.

Make sure to keep meat on the lowest shelf to avoid cross contamination with other food products. If you do not have space on the lowest shelf for fresh meat, place in a container with a lip to catch any liquid that may be at risk of spilling or leaking.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, not all produce has to be stored in the fridge.

Keep tomatoes, bananas, kiwi, avocados, grapefruit, oranges, eggplant, garlic, lemons, limes, and pineapple on the countertop. Bananas and tomatoes emit ethylene gas which can quicken ripening of other fruits. Store bananas and tomatoes away from other fresh produce.

Keep squash, onions, and potatoes in a cool dry place. Store onions and potatoes away from each other to prevent spoilage.

Keep other produce such as cantaloupe, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, lettuce, berries, brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, grapes, green beans, plums, leeks, kale, and zucchini in the refrigerator. Store berries unwashed in a single layer. Wash all produce as you use it.

If you have ripening bananas, avocados, or berries that you are worried will go bad, these can all be frozen. Wash, peel, and cut as desired and store in a freezer bag to add to smoothies or as ingredients for baked goods later.
4. Extend the life of fresh produce

Spread fresh berries in a single layer on a dish in the refrigerator

Wrap the tops of bananas in plastic wrap to reduce production of ethylene gas

Place a paper towel to soak up extra moisture in bags or containers of fresh, leafy greens

Store mushrooms in a paper bag and also keep a paper towel in the bag to absorb extra moisture

Trim the stems of green onions, fresh herbs, and asparagus and keep upright in a container of water in the refrigerator – like flowers

Wash produce only just before you use it!
5. Get cooking!

If you have produce on the verge of spoilage, roast any vegetables to add to meals. Or, make a pot of soup that you can then freeze for leftovers. If you have fruit about to go bad, think about cooking into oatmeal or blending into smoothies.

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