"I’ve been storing tomatoes wrong my whole life" - five foods to never store in the fridge

Five foods to never store in the fridge, and four you can

A woman looking in an open fridge filled with food and drinks in a home kitchen
(Image credit: Getty images)

Food experts burst my bubble recently when I found out I’d been storing tomatoes the wrong way, ruining their flavour. And there are lots of other items you could be storing incorrectly limiting their shelf life - costing you money. 

In the battle against rising food prices, making food last longer, keeping its nutritional value and cutting food waste, we have to think twice before storing food away to get the best value out of it.  Does it also beg the question is frozen or fresh food is better?

Here, we reveal the popular food items you might put in the wrong place, and how you should store them to improve quality and shelf-life.

Foods that shouldn’t be stored in the fridge

Your staples like milk, butter and cheese need to go in the fridge, but the same doesn’t go for everything else. 

Tomatoes. I’ve always stored tomatoes in the fridge, but apparently, I’ve been storing them wrong this whole time. 

Tomatoes are a classic example of something that shouldn’t be stored in the fridge as they can lose flavour. Julia Skinner, author of Our Fermented Lives and Founder of Root Kitchens said: “Tomatoes are notorious for this. I encourage people to buy in smaller batches (just get the tomatoes you'll use in the next handful of days!) and keep them out, so their full flavour can be enjoyed.”

According to The Neff Kitchen, putting tomatoes in the fridge also halts the ripening process but if they are about to go off you can put them in the fridge so they last longer, at the expense of their taste and texture. 

Condiments - for example ketchup and vinegar. An Asda poll of around 2,600 people showed 54% said ketchup belonged in the cupboard whereas 46% said in the fridge. 

Some condiments state ‘keep refrigerated’ at the back of the bottle, but they might not need to be, for example, Heinz Ketchup advises the bottle should be refrigerated after opening and consumed within eight weeks. 

Julia adds: “I find people often put condiments in the fridge that they don't need to: vinegar, for example, or fish sauce (ketchup can usually stay out, too). These have enough salt or acid in them to stay out. I store these out of direct sunlight at room temperature, away from temperature fluctuations - for example, don't put them on a shelf right above a heat vent.

Onions and garlic. Livestrong.com says putting garlic in the fridge will allow it to sprout quicker, which isn’t harmful but it is an indication that the garlic has passed its peak quality. And when it comes to onions, they will go off quicker in the fridge as they will absorb moisture quickly. 

The National Onion Association recommends storing onions in a cool, dry place where it is well-ventilated. If onions and garlic are appropriately stored, you can get about 30 days out of them.

Eggs. Eggs are another common food many households put in the fridge, but this can affect the quality of the eggs once taken out of the fridge. Food writer Fliss Freeborn said: “The shells are porous, and in the fridge, they take on other flavours very easily; beware if you're storing them next to chopped onions!”

Bananas. Fliss adds: “I would also advise against storing bananas in the fridge as the cold means they go black far quicker than at room temperature due to some enzymes being activated at colder temperatures.” 

Foods you can store in the fridge to save money

It’s a no-brainer to put foods with a shorter shelf life in the fridge, so they last longer and save you pennies in the long run. Here are some ‘acceptable’ foods you can put in the fridge. 

Bread. A lot of households will already be doing this as pockets are squeezed. Bread is a good one to put in the fridge as it’s not always that a loaf gets eaten by the best-before date. This works well for sandwiches and toasties. But if you put your bread in the freezer, it will last a lot longer but will also reduce its quality. Bread from the freezer would make good toast or toasties, but not sandwiches. 

Fruit. If push comes to shove and you have a lot of fruit left in your fruit basket that is going off, shoving them in the fridge will buy you time. It will come at the expense of taste like Julia said, but it helps when trying to reduce food waste and save money. 

Avocados. The same goes with avocados - they are best left out, to begin with, so they ripen, but they go off pretty quickly after they have. You can see by their colour or if they have gone soft that they are ripe and if you’re not planning to eat them within the next 48 hours, put them in the fridge. Avocados are also a pricey item on the shopping list, so you don’t want your money or food to go down the drain. 

Eggs. The debate over whether eggs should go in the fridge or not is mixed. If you’re trying to save money and buy a 12-pack of eggs and there are only two of you in the house, putting them in the fridge will help them last longer. According to Healthline, they can last anywhere between three to five weeks. 

If you are trying to reduce food waste, Julia has some alternatives tips to putting food in the fridge: “One favourite tip of mine is to keep a reusable silicone zippered bag in the freezer: Toss in stems and ends (e.g. onion ends and peels, carrot tops), as well as bones. 

When it's full, pour it into a crock pot, add water to cover along with a splash of vinegar (the vinegar helps break down the collagen in your stock and gives it a nice texture). Cook on low for 6-8 hours, then strain and salt to taste. You've just made a delicious homemade stock for pennies, using waste you otherwise would have thrown away!”

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Vaishali Varu
Staff Writer

Vaishali graduated in journalism from Leeds University. She has gained experience writing local stories around Leeds and Leicester, which includes writing for a university publication and Leicester Mercury. 

She has also done some marketing and copywriting for businesses.

When she is not writing about personal finance, Vaishali likes to travel and she's a foodie.