How to Stock and Store Fresh, Refrigerated, and Frozen Items

Keep these refrigerator and freezer staples in constant supply to prevent last-minute trips to the grocery store. Take note of the storage tips so you are always stocking the freshest foods possible.

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Refrigerator Essentials

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Freezer & Refrigerator Temperatures

To keep your food from deteriorating in your refrigerator freezing compartment, the temperature should be set at 0 degrees F or below. If you open the door frequently, this might be hard to maintain. Use an appliance thermometer to keep the freezer temperature in check. You can keep an eye on your refrigerator temperature with the same handy gadget. To keep food from spoiling, the temperature in the refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees F or below.

Foods Not to Freeze

Freezing preserves foods for long periods of time because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that lead to food spoilage and food-borne illness. You can freeze almost any food, but these lose flavor, texture, and quality when frozen:

  • Battered and fried foods
  • Cooked egg whites and yolks, plus icings made with egg whites
  • Cottage and ricotta cheeses
  • Custard and cream pies and desserts with cream fillings
  • Soups and stews made with potatoes, which can darken and become mushy
  • Stews thickened with cornstarch or flour
  • Sour cream, mayonnaise, and salad dressings
  • Stuffed chops and chicken breasts
  • Whole eggs in the shell, raw or cooked

Safe Freezing

Follow these freezing guidelines so your food is ready to enjoy just when you need it.

  • Make sure food is properly labeled with contents, quantity, and date. You might also want to note any special information about its use.
  • To keep bacteria from growing, cool foods quickly before freezing, then divide into small portions in shallow containers. Arrange containers in a single layer in the freezer to allow cold air to circulate around packages until frozen. Stack after completely frozen. Look for containers that are designed specifically for freezer use.
  • When using freezer bags, lay them flat. Add packages to the freezer in batches to make sure the food freezes as quickly as possible. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, leave space between them so air can circulate around. Stack them after they are frozen solid.
  • Use freezer-to-oven or freezer-to-microwave dishes and cover with plastic freezer wrap or heavy-duty foil.
  • Buy self-sealing storage bags and plastic wrap intended for freezer use.
  • Regular foil just won't do for the freezer. Opt for heavy-duty foil instead. Foods that contain acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, shouldn't be stored in foil. Instead, wrap the food in plastic wrap first and cover with foil to freeze. Remove plastic before heating.
Food Item                        Recommended Storage
Butter 3 months
Carrots 2 weeks
Celery 2 weeks
Cheese 2 to 3 weeks
(American, cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss)  
Eggs 4 to 5 weeks
Lemons Several weeks
Limes Several weeks
Mayonnaise 2 months after opening
Milk Check expiration date
Oranges Several weeks
Salad greens 2 to 5 days
Refrigerator: Nice to Have  
Capers 1 year after opening
Prepared horseradish
Check expiration date
Salad dressing 3 months after opening
Tortillas Check expiration date
Freezer: Nice to Have  
Frozen fruit 1 year
(blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)  
Frozen vegetables 1 year
(broccoli, corn, green beans, spinach)  
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