Questioning the Norm: Storing Fruits and Veggies

In France, they peel apples. When I worked as an au pair, the kids would ask me to peel them. I'd sit there wondering why anyone would ever peel an apple. One morning, I grabbed an apple out of the fridge, took a bite, and the mother said, “Oh, don't you peel it first?” They don't store butter in the fridge, nor eggs, nor milk, before it's opened, as UHT (ultra-heat treatment, which kills spores) milk is the norm. And did I mention they peel apples? We have so many assumptions on the right way to do things, especially with food, based on our society, and of course, our parents. Often, we don't even know they're there.

I heard a story from a couple about how when they first moved in together, their first argument was over condiments. They needed ketchup for the faux chicken nuggets they were eating and the man grabbed a small bowl, poured the ketchup in, and placed it on the table with a spoon to be scooped out. The woman, seeing that the ketchup bottle was not on the table yet, did what her parents always did and placed the bottle on the table. The man was appalled. What, do we live in a zoo? The bottle right on the table?! Realizing it was just cultural conditioning, and it's not like chicken nuggets are haute cuisine in need of proper presentation, he got a good chuckle out of his knee-jerk reaction.

My former roommate and I used to argue about what goes in the fridge and what doesn't. Bread? Potatoes? Butter? I love when our quirks and habits come to light and we question the things we've always done because that's just how you do them. I love it even more when the questioning of those habits saves me money. I've been doing this a lot recently with my fridge and food storage.

The art and science of storing produce
When I saw the website Save Food From the Fridge, I got inspired. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 99.9% of American households have a refrigerator. I follow suit, and in the past, apples, eggplants, peppers, and just about every other fruit and vegetable went in the fridge. It's how my family did it, so it's how I did it. Still, even with the fridge (or perhaps, because of the fridge) once every couple of weeks, some of it would spoil and be thrown away. Planning my food purchases better could surely help, but I was curious about ways to extend the self life of produce.

Save Food From the Fridge uses food biology and creative design to keep produce fresher for longer and saves electricity in the process. For example, studies show that there is a symbiotic relationship between apples and potatoes that can be exploited to keep both from spoiling. Apples emit ethylene gas which, for most fruits and vegetables, speeds up the process of ripening. If you ever have stored apples and bananas together, you know this fact all too well. But when apples are combined with potatoes, it slows down the ripening process. The website shows a wood box where potatoes are kept in their ideal condition, in the dark, while apples rest on holes above able to emit their ethylene to the potatoes.

I used to store produce like eggplants, cucumbers, and peppers in my fridge, even though it often left them slightly withered. Save Food From the Fridge suggests a simple rack with a water tray underneath so that the produce can have a constant source of humidity and hydration. That source of hydration keeps them fresher for longer than just keeping them cold, after all, they all are summer crops.

Life without a refrigerator?
My friend Knox runs a small art gallery and lives without a refrigerator. He lives alone in Chicago and has two grocery stores within walking distance, one of them is open 24 hours. He says that his refrigerator always ended up being a storage place for expired condiments and wilting greens. He doesn't cook much, tends to eat a lot on the run, and describes himself as a forager, eating small amounts of food throughout the day — an apple and a handful of almonds, for example, in lieu of a big meal. For his lifestyle, fridge-free living works. When he travels for a month at a time, his electricity bill almost zeroes out.

For many people, even those who recycle, limit their lawn watering, bike to work, or take other steps to reduce their carbon footprint, unplugging the refrigerator would not only be inconvenient and more costly, but it also could use more energy. Not being able to store leftovers would be an issue, as would more frequent trips to the grocery store, which could mean more gas miles, and perhaps buying smaller quantities, which could lead to more packaging, more plastic, and higher costs. And what about milk drinkers?

Clearly few of us could (or would want to) unplug the refrigerator. But there are ways to reduce the energy cost of having a fridge. Check ‘em out:

  • Clean the door gaskets and compressor coils once a year. (Make sure you unplug the fridge first.)
  • Don't open the door more often than you need, which reduces how often the compressor runs. If you're in the market for a new refrigerator and are shopping for a high-end model, consider one that beeps when the door is ajar.
  • Try not to place the refrigerator directly next to the oven or in direct sunlight. If you keep the external temperature lower, the fridge doesn't have to work as hard.

Even though I live alone and have grocery stores within walking distance, I'm keeping my refrigerator plugged in. My goal is to question the things I've accepted as the one right way, not to make drastic changes that feel forced or inappropriate. For example, I've started keeping some things out of the fridge. I like what Save Food From the Fridge calls The Verticality of Root Vegetables (keeping carrots upright, for example), which seems to make them last longer. Having my food on display also makes me want to eat it — it's not lost at the bottom of a produce bin in the fridge.

The refrigerator and food storage are two examples of how we do things a certain way just because that's how we learned to do them. But as with most aspects of personal finance, it's important to question and to do what works for you, not just accept learned habits. This week, questioning my fridge use has saved me money on food waste and energy consumption.

What are some ways you've questioned the norm and saved money?

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SF_UK
SF_UK
8 years ago

“(It’s treated with a chemical called UHT, which keeps it shelf-stable.)” Um, no. UHT stands for “ultra high temperature”. Basically, the milk is heated to a high enough temperature that all the bugs die. Effectively, it’s sterilised. That keeps it shelf stable until you break the seal and let in things from the air. But it does taste different. I used to keep UHT in for milk emergencies (when the milk has run out / gone off), but I don’t like it much. Since I find powdered milk similar, and I have that in anyway for the breadmaker, I stick… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

Oh, you beat me to it. I thought it was a joke at first, then I realized it was involuntary humor.

UHT pasteurization is for milk that does not need refrigeration while closed, yes. See: Parmalat.

Karawynn
Karawynn
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Perhaps he conflated it with BHT?

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I *wish* I could see Parmalat. We haven’t had it in stores around here since about 2001. Keeping a box on the shelf for times we ran out of milk cut my grocery trips about in half.

I do keep powder milk on hand for times we run out of milk and I’m cooking with it, but it’s not the same quality at all.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

I only buy UHT milk but then, I’m not a huge, uhm, milk connoisseur. I drink it with coffee or use it for baking.

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

UHT milk is gross! It ruins everything it touches. I lived in Brazil for a while and learned of the evils of UHT. Eventually I found that they do sell unhomogenized milk, once you open in you have to drink it within a day or else the fat separates out.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

You can just shake the milk before you drink it or scoop the cream off the top for all sorts of things. It’s super hard to scrape that cream off the top of the glass bottles with the pour-spouts though. I tend to pour my milk into a pitcher, let it settle overnight, scrape off the cream and pour the now-2%-milk back into the sealable bottle.

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

All you have to do is shake unhomogonized milk……or else skim the fat of the top leaving you with skim milk…….did this for years in germany, where you can regularly get homogonized milk in the cooler section now.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

UHT milk is pretty gross. We keep a couple single serve containers of it around to pack in the day bag when running around with the kid, but after having to drink it myself because otherwise it would expire – I’m thinking I’ll just pack extra freezer paks and real milk.

CNM
CNM
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

Fresh eggs have a natural anti-bacterial protection that prevents them from spoiling quickly. However, the protection is destroyed when they are refrigerated. So, I would not leave your American store-bought eggs out of the fridge.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago
Reply to  CNM

Well, in our stores eggs are not refrigerated, so I guess they are ok out of the fridge at home.

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  CNM

What makes an egg safe is the microbial covering over the shell which is an effective seal against bacteria etc. We USAers didn’t refrigerate our eggs routinely until after the 1950s (thanks Kenmore). All those “glass hen” covered dishes your grandmother had, and now clutter “antique” shops, were for keeping eggs on the counter/table. As long as an egg has not been washed, the seal is intact and is good for months at a time without refrigeration. However, if an egg has been washed at any point through production/packing, the membrane is compromised and vulnerable to infiltration and must be… Read more »

Josh @ Live Well Simply
Josh @ Live Well Simply
8 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

My question would be, what is the food value of UHT milk? Anything that is nuked at those temps can’t be good for you. 🙂

Karawynn
Karawynn
8 years ago

Oh, I love those food storage designs. Beautiful!

Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen) is my favorite resource for checking assumptions like what should be refrigerated and what shouldn’t. I’ve found that my family got almost everything wrong.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

Anyway the “norm”– I don’t know if this is the norm or not but I read here that people who want to save money cook one day and freeze for the week. If you’re eating within the week, I see no reason to *freeze* and later defrost in a microwave or something. It’s a waste of energy and time and flavor. When I make a stew of some kind, or beans, or a roast, I let the stuff sit happily in the fridge for days without freezing. I’ve never had food poisoning or eaten rancid. Some dishes, like chili, actually… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I do a bit of both. As a singleton, I thrive on leftovers but I do freeze things when I won’t eat them up in a couple of days. For instance, I’ll leave a couple of servings of soup in the fridge and freeze the rest after a day (so the flavours can meld.) But the stir fry that will do me for four meals? I don’t see the point in freezing that.

For me, not having a fridge and freezer would be a huge waste of food and money.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Three is my magic number for fridge versus freezer. If I made it Sunday evening, I will keep it through Wednesday evening without freezing. If I know for sure I won’t get to it by then, it goes in the freezer.

My problem is that I think of the freezer like a bank account. I like to put things into it and I don’t like to take things out of it!

Stacy
Stacy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I do the same thing! I have six meals frozen in the freezer now, soups and casseroles and such, but I don’t like to take them out. It feels good to know I have meals prepared just in case, but I always think another day might be worse than today (busy, tired) so I should keep saving them. Silly, I know. I feel the same about the food I’ve canned, too. All that work, gone 🙂

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Taht’s exactly what happened to all the food I canned. It was ‘special’ it required so much work I didn’t want to open it – and it still sits today – uneaten and basically spoiled becasue it’s been years now.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

@ Elizabeth + Jen – in “stew season” I’ll cook Sunday, eat the results through Friday, clean fridge and shop on Saturday, start again the next day. Your soup should last fine for the week, unless it’s made with seafood, then I’d give it 3 days *max*. Chicken soup actually makes a nice solid gel in the fridge, pretty unkillable 😀

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Oh yeah, chicken soup that gels is the best! My batches usually make about 10 servings, which is more than I want to eat in a week. I love having a stash in the freezer for those nights I don’t feel like cooking.

betsy22
betsy22
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I once had a housemate who would make beef stew and leave it sitting on the stove (unrefrigerated, obviously) for a couple of days – she’d just reheat as needed. I was quite dubious, but she never got sick. She was from China – I was never sure if that was part of her culture, or just one of her personal quirks.

(we weren’t having any pest problems in the apartment at that point, otherwise I would have made her store the food in the fridge).

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

My mother told me this is how her family kept stews and soups in England before the days of refrigerator……just bring to the boil every day to kill the bacteria.

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago
Reply to  stellamarina

We did not have a fridge when I was growing up and we would put pots with left over food in a dish of cold water overnight and warm it in the morning. The food never spoiled, but we could only keep the food for two nights max. My tummy was ‘tough tested’ because I had no problem even if the food was slightly spoiled. However, now my tummy is sensitive and I do not dare go near anything I suspect is about to go bad.

LA
LA
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

My grandmother (born in 1930) told me that her rural area did not get electricity (so they did not get a refridgerator) until the late 1940s/early 1950s. She said they just left food (like leftover fried chicken, etc.) on cupboard shelves until the next day. She said they never got sick either. I’ve always wanted to do more research on that.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Yeah but they also typically didn’t think anything of getting the runs for a couple hours every few days, in those days. And because it happened so often, no one really realized it was related to low-dose food poisoning or food intolerances. It was just a fact of life. Therefore, they didn’t realize they were sick to be able to say that they even got sick. Heck, my mom didn’t realize her cold sores were oral herpes until her second year of nursing school. Everyone she knew had always gotten them, never thought it was a big deal, and therefore… Read more »

Nancy
Nancy
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

My mother-in law does this too and honestly it kind of grosses me out. She does it because that’s what they did in Mexico. They would make a big pot of beans or other food and just leave it on the stove and heat it every couple of hours. My SIL’s (who often eat at her place) are always getting stomach bugs and I think that’s why.

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

I do that, too, but only in the cool months (Oct — April). My kitchen is barely heated, so the food stays cool-ish and I don’t have space for a big pot in the fridge. I’ve never gotten sick.

sjw
sjw
8 years ago

Other people have already jumped on the UHT thing, so I won’t.

I’m considering a kitchen reno, and trying to convince my partner that it would really make a lot of sense to just get an under the counter fridge, because our current fridge is way too big for two people. Their argument is that it would hurt resale because it is so personalized a decision.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

I think it depends on the size of your place. If it’s a studio or one bedroom condo it would make sense. If it’s a three bedroom family home — well, not so much!

However, you could always rent a fridge to stage your kitchen when you decide to sell — you just need a logical place for it..

sjw
sjw
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

3 bdrm home, 1400 sq feet not counting the basement. I just really like having counter space.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

Ahhh… Would there be a way of renovating so that you could have the counter space but a potential home buyer could go back to a full sized fridge without them (or you) having to renovate again? For example, a removable counter section or butcher block top would be easier to adapt in the future than if you put in a one-piece counter top that would have to be cut or replaced. Could you test out living with a small fridge before planning the reno around it? I’m just throwing ideas out here — I won’t be offended if they… Read more »

Short arms long pockets
Short arms long pockets
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

It is possible to find under-the-counter refrigerators and under-the counter freezers. I’ve also seen separate refrigetated drawers that fit under the counter. Since the freezer compartment of a regular fridge can take up almost 50% of its volume, what about doing a side-by-side arrangement instead of an upright arrangement? That way you get the same amount of refrigeration and the counter space you want.
Yes, it’s probably not the most frugal arrangement, these appliances probably cost more than a traditional upright refrigerator/freezer but if your budget fits and counter space is a priority then you might consider this alternative.

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

Even as a single person, I would’ve walked out of a home with a fridge like that, unless I was already prepared to redo the kitchen.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

Look into apartment style fridges. They’re smaller but still have the “look” of a full refrigerator. You might have to have it on the end or something so it can be replaced with a full size fridge, but it would be a good compromise.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I can get quite a bit into my apartment-sized fridge, including into its relatively small freezer. Wouldn’t want to live without it or the small chest-style freezer that I keep in the bedroom because there’s nowhere else to put it. I don’t do much batch cooking except for soup stock, but I sure like filling that freezer with loss leaders. As others have noted, I’ll cook once and eat for four or five days and have never had a batch of chili, stew, soup or one-pot-glop go bad. Personally I believe we’re a little jumpy about food spoilage — and… Read more »

Mom
Mom
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

We had a side by side fridge/freezer and I thought the freezer portion was worthless…..and we had a deep freezer outside. We bought a fridge only, no water hook up, no freezer and suddenly I can store all the produce we eat in a week and my power bill dropped $10 a month. I’d love to just have some drawers for the fridge. Another thought—converting a deep freeze into a fridge….look it up on the web….tons more efficient and a top loading fridge keeps cool air down instead of letting it out. You could put some open shelves above it… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago

Chicken’s leave a natural coating on the egg which protects it. Large-scale egg “factories” wash the eggs before packaging. Perhaps in France the eggs are usually directly from a local farm and remain unwashed until using. They will still rot more quickly at room temperature than refrigerated, but if used within a few days, they are fine. See http://www.suburbanchicken.org/eggs.htm for more info.

BlueCollarWorkman
BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

I learned via a Mickey Mouse cartoon when I was a kid that to help conserve refridgerator energy usage, you should keep your fridge as full as possible with food. There’s a balance of course because you don’t want to fill it with more food than you’ll ever be able to eat; but the point is that the more stuff you have in there, the more cold stuff you have to keep other things cold. Your fridge should kick on less because the cold objects within help to keep eachother cold and get new items cold. As an adult, I’ve… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

I know it’s true about freezers, I’ve seen suggestions that you fill milk containers with water and keep them in there frozen to use up space. When you need the space, you just pull it out.

So, if you wanted, you could use this with the fridge too.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Freezers should be as full as possible. Refrigerators, however, should not be packed full. Airflow is necessary in a refrigerator. http://www.repairclinic.com/Refrigerator-Answers-to-Common-Questions

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

Makes sense. It’s called thermal mass. That’s why old building with thick walls, etc are slower to warm in warm seasons, and slower to cool when temps drop. It’s why the ocean is warmest in summer/fall versus when the air temp is hottest.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

I was thinking the same thing! Keeping less stuff in your fridge is actually going to hinder it’s efficiency. That’s what I’ve always heard and yes makes sense considering thermal mass. I store veggies, especially greens with a damp paper towel (actually a napkin pilfered from takeout), to absorb and hold moisture. We change it out every few days-ish, as are using the item. Also, lots of greens can be revitalized via a cold water shock. I’ve never much worried about wrinkly peppers, as I can’t tell the difference once they are cooked anyway. I find myself wondering if an… Read more »

Kyle V.
Kyle V.
8 years ago

I don’t know if it will save you any energy, you have to cool all that extra stuff and that takes energy. Initially you will actually be heating the inside of the fridge a bit by adding a bunch of items which aren’t cold yet. Now the temperature should fluctuate less once its cooled and that could help better preserve the food but I’m unsure if you’ll come out ahead on your energy bill.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

I help keep the temp down by using my fridge to store plenty of, um, adult beverages.

Kristin
Kristin
8 years ago

My Italian grandparents stored tomatoes in the attic, buried under layers of sawdust. They stayed fresh for months!

Jeanette
Jeanette
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

I’d like to try that. Have had some luck though with buying two boxes of winter squash from a farmer’s market stand at the end of the marketing season and storing them in my cool basement. At a total cost of about $18, I got at least 24 squash. That breaks down to .75 for a whole butternut squash. I cut them in half, take out the seeds and bake them, serving them with a splash of maple syrup and a dust of pumpkin pie spice. Who needs pie!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

I agree it’s good to be informed about the best way to store food. However, all I could think when I read this article was fruit flies! The shelves on the website are cute, don’t get me wrong, but where I live fruit flies are a common pest if food gets left out. I think I’d stick to refrigerating fruits and vegetables rather than have flies landing on my food, eating it and laying eggs in it.

Sorry for grossing people out over breakfast 😉

Jacci
Jacci
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Exactly what I was thinking too! Also, I know it is not good to keep bread in the fridge, but my homemade bread does not seem to last as long on the counter. As for the milk–yuck. We are raw milk snobs at my house, but from what I have seen, appliances seem to be smaller in other parts of the world. So do shopping patterns for that matter. I assume there is nothing like a costco or sams club.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacci

I would think that’s what a bread box is for? And a butter dish for the butter.

Roxanne
Roxanne
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

True, but a bread box takes up valuable counter space. I’ve never had one, so I don’t know if it actually helps bread last longer, but I have no issues storing bread in the fridge. It may dry it out a little, but not so much that it bugs me. I’ll freeze bread if I don’t plan to use it within a week, and it defrosts just fine.

betsy22
betsy22
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

We have an ongoing battle against sugar ants, so I don’t leave bread or certain other things out. Wish that I could, but not until we win the ant war…..

cennis
cennis
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is a great way to get rid of ants. It is not as immediate as using pesticides, but if you spray a light coating around the perimeter of your house and in cabinets, they will vanish. This works for any Arthropod. Apply a fresh dusting outside after heavy rain.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  betsy22

Sugar ants are pretty easy to kill with a syrup of boric acid. Sold commercially as… Terro, I think it’s called. They drink the stuff like it’s a keg party, and then the permanent hangover of sweet death arrives. >:) Might take up to 2 weeks to completely nuke the colony, but they are gone afterwards.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth
Danielle
Danielle
8 years ago

If you rent and a fridge comes with the unit, or you bought a home and have a full size fridge and it is clearly too much storage space, consider unplugging it and getting a used mini fridge to keep your milk and condiments in!

Will
Will
8 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

That’ll help a little, but smaller fridges use about 75% of the electricity of a larger fridge, so for most people it probably isn’t worth the effort. And if you’re replacing a new energy efficient fridge with an old small one, you might be losing money!

Economically Humble
Economically Humble
8 years ago

My parents redesigned their entire kitchen to support eating fruits and veggies. (I wish I had a photo). Now, they even garden and get some exercise in whereas before they were as sedentary as most of us in the US.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

Ooh, I’d love to see a picture!

Kyle
Kyle
8 years ago

Newer Energy-Star rated refrigerators operate at a cost of around $40 per year.

Unplugging the fridge seems like a lot of inconvenience if the only reasoning is to save electricity.

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

I thought it was pretty funny when I’d be asked to go get a carton of milk from the pantry when I lived in France. 🙂

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  Marianne

I was 12 when I went to canada and my aunt made my also-american cousin and I milk and cookies… I said the milk tasted weird, and my cousin was like “yeah and it came from a BAG!” I had to see it for myself, I thought he was messing with me. Ah, UHT. Yuck, but fascinating at 12!

Esme
Esme
8 years ago
Reply to  Heather

Bag milk is not UHT milk. It’s exactly the same as American jug milk, just in a one litre bag, that gets popped into a pitcher and the corner gets opened for pouring. Bag milk cannot be stored in the cupboard indefinitely before opening like UHT milk. If the milk tasted different, it was probably a fat percentage you weren’t used to or perhaps just the particular dairy. UHT milk is primarily a European and UK thing- they tried it here in Canada and it went over like a lead balloon as well.

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago
Reply to  Heather

@Heather – Of course the milk was in a bag. How else would you store it? 😉

KS
KS
8 years ago

I’ve had to relearn a lot of food storage related issues since moving to Ireland last year – I have an under the counter fridge, an under the counter freezer (full size fridges can be bought – they are called “American refrigerators 🙂 ), no car, very little storage space, my go-to ethnic groceries harder to get, but grocery store is 3 minutes away on foot. I think I use a lot more spices and condiments than the Irish do – very little cabinet room! Eggs aren’t refrigerated at the store (but husband can’t handle that so into the fridge… Read more »

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

Note that may of apparent “cultural quirks” can’t be easily translated to another reason.

Butter may be composed differently and thus either need a refrigerator, doesn’t need or doesn’t care.

Pork in German is often eaten raw and procedures for meat inspection, processing and transport are designed accordingly.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago

Peeling an apple (if not organic) is okay to me, but keeping fruit in the fridge?? 🙂

And I immediately put butter and eggs in the fridge even in winter.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

A few things to note, one, Europeans generally don’t keep their houses as warm as we do, so counter storage poses fewer food safety risks (like the butter). They also shop more often than we do, so again, spoilage is less of a problem–and, their fridges are much smaller, so there’s an incentive to be smart about what goes in and what stays out. Yeast breads go stale in the refrigerator, and should be kept at room temperature or frozen; the humidity in the fridge is what toughens the bread out. And potatoes should not go in the fridge, the… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

It’s true that Europeans don’t keep their houses as warm as Americans do in the winter, but in the summer the reverse is true. A widespread lack of air conditioning means much warmer interiors, particularly in countries along the Mediterranean.

They just buy foods more often, and in smaller quantities.

Sonja
Sonja
8 years ago

Why would you store eggs in the fridge? I’ve never done this, I happily leave my eggs for a week or three on the counter and I’ve never once gotten sick from it. Also, I get the apple peeling, for a long time there’s been campaigns to get people to peel their fruit to ensure no chemicals are still on the fruit. Only recently it’s become more common that most of the healthy stuff in apples are actually in the peel. Obviously due to salmonella you should never eat raw egg (it’s just a bad as raw chicken), about 98%… Read more »

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Sonja

It takes a long time for eggs to go bad at room temperature, but they do degrade fairly quickly. We buy eggs by the dozen, but we don’t eat them very often, so that dozen ends up hanging around for a month or more. Keeping them in the fridge keeps them perkier much longer.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Sonja

Steak tartare (raw beef and raw egg) is one of the great joys of life, like raw oysters. Sometimes you just have to take a chance.

And raw cookie dough is irresistible.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I love steak tartare. But many people won’t even try it because it’s, you, know, raw.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Also a proper Caesar salad dressing. Yum.

Chase
Chase
8 years ago
Reply to  Sonja

I eat a raw egg every morning from the fridge & never get salmonella. It’s a very low probability to get sick that can be cut even lower by rinsing the egg off before cracking.

indio
indio
8 years ago

I keep suburban chickens and the eggs have a bloom on them when they are laid. The bloom protects the shell from air penetration which makes it go bad. In commercial egg production, all of the eggs are washed (keeps people from suing for ecoli contamination) which means the bloom is washed off. After washing they need to be refrigerated and will only last about 4 weeks but lose freshness quickly. Fresh eggs direct from the chicken’s butt can last up to 6 weeks or more unrefrigerated – not that it takes us that long to eat them. I don’t… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  indio

I’m the opposite when it comes to bread — it always goes in the fridge! The commercially-produced stuff contains a lot of added sugars and chemicals to increase shelf life. If you buy artisan breads — especially those made from ancient grains — they go bad more quickly.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  indio

Did you buy a motorized churn or do you make butter by hand? I’ve thought about making butter –the taste is incomparable–but don’t know where to
begin.

indio
indio
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I pour the heavy cream or whipping cream into the bowl of my kitchen aid mixer but you can use any mixer. It’s even possible to make butter in a jar with a marble and lots of shaking. In the mixer it takes about 15 mins and I get buttermilk (it;s the liquid that separates from the cream) as a byproduct to use in pancakes or bread. It definitely tastes better than store bought butter. Last summer I read an article about butter wrappers testing positive for fire retardants which went right into the butter so I consider homemade butter… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  indio

This might the most useful part of this post – I had never consider making my own butter before. It is expensive to buy the organic butter form the store – and we get milk delivered 2x a week from the local organic dairy. Also living in high altitude – it’s nice to have buttermilk for baked goods.

LivingOurWay
LivingOurWay
8 years ago

This is a great article. I wonder how a garden and milk supplying animals would affect the need for a fridge?

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
8 years ago

I grew up in Mister Safety’s house, so I am compelled to remind your readers that an empty (or near empty) refrigerator and freezer work harder than a full one and could cause it to burn out. Fill a couple of empty plastic milk jugs with water and keep them in the fridge, and half full ones in the freezer.

After the storm of the century last October left me without power for a week I realized there was a lot of things I didn’t need to store up on. This article will help me keep even less in there!

PFM
PFM
8 years ago

Fun article, I often argue with the Mrs about what belongs in the fridge, I like to have things (especially fruit) out in the open so we don’t “forget” about them while stored in the fridge.
As far as energy conservation, it’s better to have a full fridge but not packed, the air needs to circulate.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

This is a timely article. I am currently in the process of clearing out my food stores. Usually, I ‘stock up’ on stuff that eventually goes bad – yes, I have found canned good in my pantry that were in fact expired by more than a year. In an effort this month to get my grocery bill under control – I am trying to get through all of it before it expires. My theory is that if I *can* make dinner from what I have – I should (and pack the leftovers for lunch). And once I’m through it all… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Every January, I start trying to empty out the chest freezer and pantry, to avoid losing stuff (especially home-canned pickles – they get too vinegary fast!). It always takes us 2-3 months. We do store a lot of food, but also with a kid I’m not willing to cut out the fresh stuff (milk, greens, fruit) so we only eat about 1/3-1/2 from storage even when I’m making an effort. It’s nice to shut the chest freezer off from February to July, though, and then we’re not losing good stuff to the bottom of it. Just make sure if you… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

I’m with you – we usually start eating down our stores right after school starts. I think having a set time every year has helped us keep under control my tendency to food hoard. September has worked well as our starting point these last few years. School always adds a little craziness to the schedule, so it’s nice to only run into stores for fresh dairy and produce. If, after eating down our stores for several weeks, there’s something left that I don’t think we’ll use before it expires, I purposely include it in holiday cooking/entertaining or donate to one… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-basics-how-to-cook-bean-74529

Cooking dried beans makes a great weekend activity when you’re going to be home for a couple of hours. I just cooked a bag of garbanzo beans on Sunday. Whatever wasn’t included in meal plan for this week was divided up among 2 c. containers and popped in the freezer until I need them. Much much cheaper this way!

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

We buy butter in bulk at Costco, but the actual stick we are currently using is left on the counter in a butter dish. We’ve been doing this for years in both summer and winter and have never had bad butter. I especially like it in the summer when it is oh so easy to spread on my bread. Spreading hard butter is such a pain. The only fruit I store in the fridge uncut is an apple. They last forever and in my opinion taste better cold. As far as peeling an apple, it surprises me that the French… Read more »

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago

Btw, I’m pretty sure serving condiments in a bowl is personal preference, not a cultural fact. I usually bring to the table ketchup, mayo etc in their bottle or jar, but if I’m having a fancier dinner I take some time to put a bit in the bowls. Anyway I have nothing against bottles on the table.

You have to be careful not to generalize and take a personal (limited) experience as a cultural fact. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes not and you need more observation.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago

I think in that case the author was discussing family-culture, not necessarily ethnic-culture.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

If you look at any American etiquette book from before about 1980, you will find strict injunctions about never serving anything still in the original commercial packaging at the table. This went for all condiments and beverages, even wine.

marie
marie
8 years ago

I don’t like leaving things out on the counter because of ants and fruit flies. Once you get them you can never get rid of them. I never buy more produce than I can eat in the next 5 days anyways, and I would never leave my milk out of the fridge. Even on the farm the milk gets cooled to 4 C right away so there’s a reason!

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
8 years ago

Good article. What I like about it is actually the expansive thinking that it supports. We all have habits ingrained in us as far as what is the right way to do things, but the reality is that other ways can be just fine too. Good lesson not only for food storage, but for other practices as well.

Des
Des
8 years ago

We have lived with a mini-fridge for over a year as a family of four without issue. We realized that all we were really storing in the fridge were condiments (many that didn’t even need refrigeration), leftovers, and produce. The leftovers and produce would invariably get forgotten and rot – so really, it was just a giant box of slowly rotting food. We have never regretted the switch. Honestly, I don’t even think about it any more. We just learned to eat our leftovers the next day, and our fresh produce within a week.

Ajay
Ajay
8 years ago

Forty four in the house this morning when I got up, which is a little colder than usual ( usual =high forties, very low fifties).

Not sure why I even have a refrigerator after reading this article.

KM
KM
8 years ago

After many years, I’ve become an anti-freezer hoarder. Frozen food tastes terrible, has a poor texture, and even though frozen accumulates bacteria and mold over time. I hated feeling like I “should” eat something in the freezer just because I had put it there & it had been there a while. I threw out so many meals that I had frozen because they were too unappetizing to consider eating, or they got too old. I realized I was treating the freezer as a hoard, to excuse my real problems of over-buying and over-cooking. Why was I buying and making so… Read more »

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  KM

I have a similar problem of buying things and hoarding food, just in case. In my case, it makes sense: unpredictable disabilities will throw a monkey-wrench in the meal planning at least twice a week. Oh, Fridays are usually high-energy days, just due to our routines? Not today, Cupcake! Gotta give up on that dream of the dinner with lots of prep and pick something easy. A couple days ago it was a big fancy-meal night that go co-opted for an easy meal, and I was so grateful I had communicated to my Partner that the lone chicken quarter and… Read more »

Sleeping Mama
Sleeping Mama
8 years ago

When deciding whether to store food in the fridge or not, I imagine where the food was stored in the grocery. So if bell peppers were against the wall in the “cold” section, then I’ll store that in the fridge. Onions tend to sit in the islands without refrigeration, so I leave that out on the counter. After reading the article and people’s comments, I’m amazed at how differently we all store our food! I never knew eggs could be left out on the counter, nor butter. When I lived out of the U.S., we also peeled our apples, but… Read more »

Carolyn
Carolyn
8 years ago

Wow. I don’t see any mention in the article about Food Safety and food-related illness.

“Keep cold foods cold” is the rule in the grocery business — for good reason — and that means under 40 degrees f.

I shudder to think how dairy and deli foods will fare among your many readers who decide they don’t need to refrigerate.

And that reader’s stew on the stove for days and nights at room temp . . . please don’t do that. Food poisoning is no joke. In fact, it’s deadly. Err on the side of safety.

Take care out there.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  Carolyn

Please keep in mind that the restaurant industry food codes are in place assuming that any customer at any time could be immuno-compromised (aged, young, AIDs, transplant meds, just getting over the flu…). If you do not fall under the category of “immuno-suppressed” and are a generally-healthy individual, those rules can be bent by a fairly significant degree. Also keep in mind that in your own home, you’re pretty well aware how many days ago you pulled out that butter on the counter, but in a restaurant where there are many hands and many minds and not enough time in… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago

I’ve always pared and sliced apples before eating them. My mother and grandmother did the same. Surprising to hear that this is an “unAmerican” thing to do, when my family has been in America since the 1600s.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago

Some people peel apples because the fruit has been dipped in wax for long storage and do not think the wax is good for you. We live in the tropics…..ants, bugs and mold everywhere so everything goes in the fridge. Guests are always surprised to see that spices and opened breakfast cereal are kept in the freezer for freshness. Our local electic power provider says that that the biggest waste of power in our states homes is the outside refrigerator. It is usually the old one that is put out in the garage or on the back porch and is… Read more »

Krantcents
Krantcents
8 years ago

I used to think the only way to get things clean is to use hot water. In reality, it is the soap that cleans the clothes or dishes. I now use cold water. It happens that I save money because I am not heating the water.

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

Interesting concept, living refrigerator free. Not sure I could do it since I have an 1/8 of a cow in my freezer… Buying in bulk is another way to save money. This will last me an entire year.

I Am 1 Percent
I Am 1 Percent
8 years ago

Keep the fridge and freezer full. It will keep the contents colder for a longer period of time, so the fridge won’t have to work as hard.

Fill your freezer with plastic bags of ice.

Fill you fridge with gallon jugs of water.

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

This may be just a little off the topic, but definitely related.

I live in Oregon, which is arguable the “greenest” state there is. I just recently traveled to Louisiana for a week and was SHOCKED to find that they still use Styrofoam cups and plates and to go boxes. In Oregon most places now use paper (not even cardboard) because Styrofoam is just a notch below the anti-Christ.
Just thought I would share.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Oregon may the “greenest” state in terms of vegitation – but it is far from some bastion of environmental consiousness. In fact it’s worse than Jersey (a place I’m sure people associate with rampant distruction of the environment). Reason being – Jersey ran out room for all the trash for all the people and have implemented much more stingent and convenient recycling rules. Oregon for the most part still has A LOT of rural areas/small towns that only recycle things witrh deposits. Where I grew up in Jersey – anywhere that sells bottled beverages has a special trash can for… Read more »

Roxanne
Roxanne
8 years ago

I used to keep a bowl on the counter for fresh fruit, but we’d always end up with fruit flies. Things like apples don’t taste as good at room temperature, anyway. Now I store ALL produce in the fridge. I have a guide on how to store different types of produce, but it honestly seemed like too much work (things like putting asparagus in a cup of water or wrapping some veggies in a damp towel). Instead, I separate my produce into two crisper drawers based on a handy chart in “Cooking for Geeks” and I’ve noticed a huge difference.… Read more »

diane+p
diane+p
8 years ago

Wow, so that is why my bananas ripen so quickly. I keep the bananaa and apples together on a display plate so I remember to eat them, but I don’t like ripe bananas so I either have to give them away or throw them away. I know I could freeze them to make banana bread but then I would have tons of banana’s in the freezer, LOL.

So now I guess I will have to find another place for them to be, can the bananas live on the counter with the onions? TIA

betsy22
betsy22
8 years ago

We’re using Terro and have been for quite awhile – it helps control the population, but hasn’t completely eradicated it.

Peter
Peter
8 years ago

Two years ago I switched to a pair of chest (top loading) freezers, one of which has a box hooked onto the mains power lead that cuts the power if the freezer drops below 3 degrees (c), thus converting it into a fridge. As the door is at the top, it’s an order of magnitude more efficient than even the best front loading fridges as the cool air is heavy and it stays inside the fridge even if the door is opened repeatedly or is left open. It’d be even more efficient if I used non-cheap freezers, but either way,… Read more »

Ru
Ru
8 years ago

The best thing about having 2 parents both with microbiology degrees is the food safety aspect! “muuuuum, is this safe to eat?” has been a constant in house catchphrase my entire life (both parents got the degree, but mum was a microbiologist for 25 years). We eat a fair number of things that have gone past the best before date. I eat at a time when I’m hungry, not before. If I force in an early meal, I get hungry earlier and end up having to eat more later in the day. My friends at uni skip breakfast and then… Read more »

average guy
average guy
8 years ago

I’ve been to China many times.

Believe me, you had better peel that apple, or any fruit, because of the heavy use of pesticides and chemicals used.

Eating anything raw that is not peeled is throwing the dice on your health.

The rule in China is: don’t eat anything that is not peeled or cooked. Do you think things are better in other countries? Maybe…, maybe not.

Joe
Joe
8 years ago
Reply to  average guy

In fairness, toothpaste produced in North America doesn’t include antifreeze.

Lily (from Italy)
Lily (from Italy)
8 years ago
Reply to  average guy

Yeah, I was wondering why nobody has mentioned the pesticides on the peel…

alcie
alcie
8 years ago

What I find interesting about all the various differences in food storage habits is how they often just reflect preferences. Several folks above always refrigerate apples, and don’t like to eat room temp ones. I would never put apples in the fridge, because it makes them taste not so good. But I grew up with apples that came from trees out back, and much prefer apples that have been recently (a day or two) picked off the tree. After that they taste different. We also had winter storage apples from the trees, but I never cared for them unless they… Read more »

Kate C
Kate C
8 years ago

This is a really nice article, thanks for sharing the link! I’m going to check out the other site, because our summer CSA pounds us with produce that seems to just go bad so quickly. I see a lot of media hype about how all food needs to be kept at a “safe” temperature. And some of these stories have made us move things like open peanut butter or open oils out of the pantry and into the fridge. But, are people going too far in their fear of food-born illness? Makes me think of the organ-transport-like rules for kids… Read more »

doug_eike
doug_eike
8 years ago

One money-saving thing I do in the winter is heat only the room (usually my office) I am in at the time. I spend hours in one place, so there’s no need to heat the entire house. This habit saves me hundreds of dollars a year. Thanks for the tips!

Paula
Paula
8 years ago

My family in Japan stores food differently due to high energy costs there and the astronomical prices of some foods. Small refrigerators are the norm and food is purchased fresh daily, with the intention that it will be prepared very soon. The Japanese are more in tune with how much they will consume in a day rather than buying for a week or more. Fruit is bought in small quantities and not refrigerated. Meat, fish and seafood are usually kept cold a short time until used for dinner. Dairy foods are not consumed in the quantities that Westerners use. With… Read more »

Ru
Ru
8 years ago
Reply to  Paula

What is a “vegan source of dairy products”? Apart from a contradiction…

Ayesha
Ayesha
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

There are a few options for vegan dairy. Generally you can use soy or almond products, such as soy cheese, almond milk, etc.

For my all time favorite which I used for a year with my son who’s prone to asthmatic attacks and is allergic to nuts and soy – RICE PRODUCTS!

Did you know rice can be used to make almost anything? Yeah, I didn’t either and I still don’t actually enjoy them but there’s rice milk, rice cheese, and even rice gluten-free, dairy-free pancakes!

Leolin
Leolin
8 years ago

I will definitely be looking in more ways to keep my foods fresher longer. I hate it when I have to throw away food that I forgot about, didn’t know that I still had, or that spoiled before I used it.

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