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Food & Drink

Which foods should go in the fridge?

'Fridge or cupboard' debates have torn households apart for generations, so from ketchup to chocolate, we've put together the definitive guide to where you should be storing your food.

confused man in front of fridge and cupboard

Credit: Andrey_Popov (left), RogerMechan (right), Cookie Studio (foreground) – Shutterstock

Some foods have an obvious home. For instance, we all know that cereal goes in the cupboard, and meat goes in the fridge.

But where should you keep eggs – do they go in the fridge or the cupboard? What about bread? And, dare we even ask, where are you meant to store tomato ketchup?

To help you become a culinary master – and resolve some housemate conflicts – we've listed all of the most controversial 'fridge or cupboard' foods (and, of course, when we say 'cupboard', there's nothing to stop you using the kitchen counter or a fruit bowl instead). It's time to settle some arguments.

Knowing which foods go in the fridge, and which go in the cupboard, is just step one on the road to keeping your food fresh for longer.

17 foods that should and shouldn't go in the fridge

Here are some common foods that should go in the fridge, as well as some others that should go in the cupboard:

  1. Tomato ketchup

    heinz tomato sauce bottles

    Credit: GlennV– Shutterstock

    Should you keep tomato ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    For as long as tomato ketchup has existed, families have argued over whether or not the sacred sauce should be kept in the fridge or the cupboard. In fact, it's possibly the original source (pardon the pun) of the 'fridge or cupboard' conflict.

    Fortunately, as with all ketchup-based problems, the good people at Heinz have the answer.

    According to them, while tomato ketchup's natural acidity means it's safe to keep in the cupboard, you should store it in the fridge as soon as you've opened the bottle if you want to "maintain the best product quality".

    And the same goes for mayonnaise, too – cupboard before opening, fridge afterwards.

  2. Eggs

    carton of eggs

    Credit: siambizkit– Shutterstock

    Should you keep eggs in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    In the supermarket, eggs are kept on the shelf. But in your fridge, there's almost certainly an egg tray. So, where are you meant to store your eggs?!

    Well, if we're going off the advice of Egg Info, the official voice of the British egg industry (as good a source as any, if you ask us), you should be keeping your eggs in the fridge.

    They recommend that you store your eggs at a constant temperature below 20°C, and that as room temperature can vary drastically throughout the year (and sometimes even in a single day), the best place in a domestic kitchen is the fridge.

    Interestingly, they also suggest that to avoid any sudden temperature changes that may damage the eggs, you should also take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Every day's a school day.

  3. Bread

    loaf of sliced bread

    Credit: Enlightened Media – Shutterstock

    Should you keep bread in the fridge or the cupboard? – Cupboard

    Think the fridge will always extend the life of your food? Think again.

    We won't go into the science of it all, but experts agree: bread goes off faster in the fridge, so you're best to leave it in the cupboard in an airtight bag (i.e. the bag it comes in, with the little tag firmly sealed).

    That said, there is a way to keep it alive for even longer. Bread can be frozen for months on end and each slice will only take an hour (if that) to defrost, so your freezer is the perfect place to store bread if you don't think you can devour an entire seeded loaf (objectively the best variety) in a week.

  4. Avocados

    sliced avocado

    Should you keep avocados in the fridge or the cupboard? – It depends

    When they're not spread on your toast, smashed up in one of our homemade beauty treatments, or just generally keeping young people everywhere from climbing onto the housing ladder, where should your avocados be stored? The answer, it seems, is a little complicated – it all depends on how ripe your avocado is.

    Firstly, to test the ripeness of your avocado, give it a gentle squeeze. If it's slightly squishy and has a dark green/black bumpy skin, it's ripe. Anything else, and it's probably not ripe.

    Now for the storage. Ripe avocados should be stored in the fridge for two to three days to keep them fresh. If your avocado isn't quite ripe, leave it out on the counter for a few days, checking it each day to see how it's progressing. As soon as it's ripened, put your avocado in the fridge!

    And if you're looking for a way to keep your avocado fresh once you've cut it open, we've got you sorted.

  5. Bananas

    pile of bananas

    Should you keep bananas in the fridge or the cupboard? – Cupboard

    We all know that frozen bananas make for a great snack (ok, we didn't all know that, but now you do), but when they're not ice-cold, should they be kept chilled instead? In a word: no.

    As seems to be the case with most tropical fruits, bananas don't fare too well in the cold. The enzymes that help them to ripen are stifled in the fridge, so it's best to keep them at room temperature if at all possible.

    This is especially true if they're green (which we've found is usually the case if you get bananas in an online shopping order) as this means they haven't ripened yet.

    And remember, a brown banana is not a bad banana. They've still got plenty of uses even after they've had their heyday!

  6. Chocolate

    chocolate with turquoise background

    Credit: Agave Studio – Shutterstock

    Should you keep chocolate in the fridge or the cupboard? – It's up to you

    Nothing, and we mean nothing, has ever divided the Save the Student office quite like the debate around where to store chocolate.

    On the one hand, we have the scholars – the progressive thinkers, unchained by societal conventions. They believe certain chocolates should be kept in the fridge as it gives them an added snap, enhancing the already euphoric chocolate experience.

    On the other side of the debate, we have the purists – the devotees, unwilling to change their ways even when faced with the sad reality of soft, semi-melted chocolate.

    Cadbury claims that chocolate shouldn't be stored at a temperature below 21°C, but there are also studies to suggest that as long as it's kept in an airtight container, chocolate actually lasts longer in the fridge without any loss of quality or taste.

    So, in an unprecedented move, we'll leave it down to you to decide where to store your chocolate.

  7. Tomatoes

    branch of tomatoes

    Should you keep tomatoes in the fridge or the cupboard? – It depends

    As a salad vegetable (yes we know it's actually a fruit...), you'd expect tomatoes to go in the fridge. But it seems as though this may not be the best plan after all.

    Like most fresh fruit and veg, tomatoes that you buy in the supermarket usually aren't ripe yet. This ensures that they last for as long as possible in the shop and your kitchen. And, for tomatoes to ripen properly, they need to be stored at room temperature – in other words, not in your fridge.

    Unripened tomatoes are far less flavoursome than their ripened red counterparts, so for the sake of your tastebuds, keep them in the cupboard or on the countertop. The only exception should be if they're already ripened and you want them to stay that way for a couple of days.

    And, of course, the best way to guarantee you get delicious, ripe tomatoes is to grow them yourself!

  8. Potatoes

    pile of potatoes

    Credit: Titus Group – Shutterstock

    Should you keep potatoes in the fridge or the cupboard? – Cupboard

    Ah, potatoes. That most versatile of vegetable, capable of being repurposed for just about any meal, healthy or otherwise. But where should you be storing your 'taters?

    This one is pretty simple: keep your potatoes in the cupboard. According to the Northern Irish government, putting potatoes in the fridge can eventually lead to an increased level of a chemical called acrylamide.

    Acrylamide causes cancer in animals and may be harmful to humans' health too, and while it's seemingly not possible to completely eradicate the chemical from your cooked potatoes, keeping them in the cupboard should go some way to limiting it.

    It's worth noting that there is no official conclusion as to whether or not acrylamide actually does cause cancer in humans, but the general consensus among the scientific community seems to be that if you can reduce your intake of the chemical, do it.

    So, given that your potatoes will taste just as good and still last a fair amount of time, you may as well keep them in the cupboard.

  9. Butter

    block of sliced butter

    Credit: Sea Wave – Shutterstock

    Should you keep butter in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    Now, there's no denying that the softer butter is, the easier it is to spread. But is that enough reason to keep it out of the fridge? Apparently not, according to Dairy UK.

    The voice of the UK dairy industry has been quoted as saying that butter should be kept in the fridge and nowhere else, as otherwise it'll go off within a few days.

    While it may still be safe to eat (note: there's a chance it won't be safe!), it's unlikely to taste as good as in-date butter. So, either keep your block in the fridge or take a slice off and only warm up as much as you need each day or two.

  10. Onions

    onions growing in soil

    Credit: Inga Gedrovicha – Shutterstock

    Should you keep onions in the fridge or the cupboard? – Cupboard

    Is there a more underrated food than onions? Seriously, think about just how many dishes contain onions – it's almost harder to think of a recipe that doesn't use them. Our student meal plan uses 15 of them (12 brown, three red) for a month's worth of food, and we could easily have included more.

    Anyway, enough eulogising of onions. If you want to keep this staple ingredient fresher for longer, keep it in the cupboard. Storing onions in the fridge can cause them to become soft and soggy a lot quicker than they otherwise would, and that's just a waste of a good onion.

    And if you want your onions to last even longer, we've got some great tips here.

  11. Garlic

    garlic bulbs

    Credit: Davedeka – Shutterstock

    Should you keep garlic in the fridge or in the cupboard? – Cupboard

    Like onions, garlic is a lynchpin of so, so many of your favourite dishes – especially a good bowl of pasta. And, again like onions, garlic is best kept in the cupboard, not the fridge.

    Stored at room temperature in a dry (and, preferably, dark) environment, garlic should last for a few months. But keep it in the fridge and it could go mouldy or start sprouting within just a few weeks.

  12. Apples

    pile of apples

    Should you keep apples in the fridge or in the cupboard? – Fridge

    There are few things in life greater than the first bite into a crunchy apple. So, if you want to keep your Granny Smith, your Pink Lady or, indeed, your Golden Delicious in tip-top condition, your best course of action is to keep them in the fridge.

    Apples hold their moisture best when kept in a cold, dark environment, and you're most likely to keep them fresher for longer if you leave them in the plastic bag they came in (as long as it has a couple of holes in it).

  13. Peppers

    red and green peppers

    Credit: Thanakornbb – Shutterstock

    Should you keep peppers in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    Whether it's a Thai green curry (one of our dinner party recipes) or a set of enchiladas, peppers are a guaranteed way to add colour and flavour to your dish.

    To ensure these colourful comrades don't lose any of their magic, keep your peppers in the fridge. If they came in a plastic bag, don't discard it – this will help regulate the moisture levels of your peppers, which in turn keeps them fresh for as long as possible.

    And, as with so many fruits and vegetables, you should keep your peppers in the salad drawer at the bottom of your fridge because – fun fact – this also helps to maintain the correct moisture level for your greens.

  14. Lemons

    pile of lemons

    Credit: Radu Bercan – Shutterstock

    Should you keep lemons in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    When life gives you lemons, do whatever you can to keep them ripe for as long as possible – which, according to the experts, is to keep them in the fridge.

    While lemons will still be perfectly edible if you keep them in the cupboard, they'll only stay that way for about a week or so. Stick them in the fridge, however, and your lemons could last for up to a month.

    A month should be more than enough time to use your lemons in whatever recipe you'd been planning for, but if you're up against the clock, it's worth knowing that you can use lemon juice to keep avocados fresh, too.

  15. Cake

    victoria sponge cake

    Credit: larry mcguirk - Shutterstock

    Should you keep cake in the fridge or the cupboard? – It depends

    When it comes to cake, there's no greater authority on the subject than The Hummingbird Bakery. Honestly, if you haven't tried their cakes, get involved.

    According to Hummingbird, whether or not your cake should go in the fridge entirely depends on what kind it is. If your baked beauty contains any type of cream, custard, cream cheese or fresh fruit, you really should be refrigerating it. This way, it'll last for a few days (assuming you don't devour it on day one).

    On the other hand, cakes with sugarpaste, fondant or food colouring should be kept in the cupboard, as the fridge could cause the colours to bleed.

    And if you're blessed with the willpower of a saint, and don't think you'll finish your treats within a few days, remember that cake can even be frozen without losing much of what makes it so great.

  16. Jam


    Credit: Sofia Iartseva – Shutterstock

    Should you keep jam in the fridge or the cupboard? – Cupboard

    You may instinctively feel that jam, as with ketchup and mayonnaise, should be kept in the fridge once it's been opened. It certainly feels right, but unfortunately, it's wrong – jam should be kept in the cupboard, not the fridge.

    The natural acidity of jam means that, as long as you plan to consume the whole jar within a few months, you should be more than ok to keep it in the cupboard. Save the space in the fridge for something that needs it!

  17. Oranges

    slices of orange

    Credit: Alex Staroseltsev – Shutterstock

    Should you keep oranges in the fridge or the cupboard? – Fridge

    Speaking of things that need space in the fridge – oranges.

    Unlike most other fruits, oranges are usually perfectly ripe when you buy them. While this is great news if you're looking to chow down on some citrus ASAP, it's not so good for the shelf life of your oranges.

    Although oranges are a well-known source of vitamin C, once ripened, the level of this essential compound starts to decrease. Popping your oranges in the fridge will slow this process, and in turn keep them fresher, juicier and healthier for longer.

What better way to stock your fridge (or your cupboard, for that matter) than with all of the free food you can get with our tricks?