The average UK family household throws away £700 worth of food every year, according to Love Food Hate Waste. That’s bad news for your bank balance — and the environment. In an ideal world, you’d get your grocery shopping and meal portions just right. But in reality, out-of-date foods and leftovers are always going to be a problem. That’s where proper food storage comes in.
This guide is packed full of food storage tips that will help you:
Our tips will ultimately help you reduce food waste, while saving money and time. Check them out below, and don’t hesitate to contact the Plastic Box Shop team if you need more advice or have questions about our kitchen storage range.
As the name suggests, best-before dates indicate when the food quality will begin to noticeably deteriorate. Although the food is probably safe to eat, its taste and texture won’t be up to scratch.
Food past its use-by date has most likely gone off and should not be eaten. You’re at a much higher risk of food poisoning when eating food past its use-by date.
Best-before and use-by dates are dependent upon you storing your food properly, and keeping it in the original packaging. Once you have opened the packaging, food is more prone to spoiling, so you should make sure to wrap and/or box it as appropriate.
Where possible, you should refer to food packaging for storage advice. If this is not available, use our quick-reference guide to determine the best place to store different ingredients.
Always retain the original packaging if possible, as this has been specially designed to protect your food. Once packaging is opened, food is more prone to spoiling, and best-before/use-by dates may be compromised. As a general rule, you should transfer opened foods to airtight containers like these to help protect them from bacteria and seal in freshness.
Apples: Store in a fruit bowl, then refrigerate once crisp. They release a gas that can make other foods spoil more quickly, so store alone.
Avocadoes: Ripen at room temperature, then refrigerate. You can speed up the ripening process by putting them in a brown paper bag with a banana. Wrap in cling film once cut.
Bananas: Store in a fruit bowl, then refrigerate once ripe. Skins will blacken more quickly in the fridge, but the fruit itself will keep for longer.
Bell peppers: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Berries: Refrigerate, preferably in the salad drawer. Once opened, transfer to an uncovered vented container such as a plastic basket.
Biscuits: Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, transfer to an airtight container.
Bread: Will dry out in the fridge. Store in a cool, dark place or freeze. Re-tie the bag once opened.
Broccoli: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Butternut squash: Store alone in a cool, dry, dark place. Refrigerate once cut — wrap in foil or store in an airtight container.
Cabbage: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Cakes: Store in a cool, dark place. Transfer to an airtight cake box once opened. Refrigerate those containing cream cheese or cream. Unfrosted cakes can be frozen.
Carrot: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Cauliflower: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Celery: Keep refrigerated. Wrap in foil once opened.
Cereal: Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, transfer to a plastic cereal container to maintain freshness.
Cheese: Refrigerate. Keep strong-smelling varieties in an airtight container. Once the original packaging is opened, wrap in baking paper then store in an airtight container.
Citrus fruits: Store oranges, lemons, limes and other citrus fruits in a cool, dark place. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate once cut.
Cooked meat, fish and poultry: Refrigerate or freeze. Once opened, rewrap the packaging with cling film or transfer to an airtight container.
Cucumbers: Refrigerate. Keep wrapped in cling film and a tea towel, as they prefer slightly higher temperatures.
Eggs, shelled: Refrigerate in the egg carton, but avoid the door where temperatures can fluctuate. Do not freeze.
Garlic: Store alone in a cool, dry, dark place. #
Ginger: Refrigerate unwrapped. Once cut, store in a plastic bag with a paper towel and move to the salad drawer.
Grapes: Refrigerate, preferably in the salad drawer. Once opened, transfer to an uncovered vented container such as a plastic basket.
Green beans: Refrigerate, preferably in a salad drawer. Once opened, store in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel.
Herbs: Fresh herbs absorb other smells easily, and can lose their flavour in the fridge. Trim the stems and store in an airtight, water-filled jar at room temperature.
Honey: Can crystalize in the fridge — store at room temperature.
Leftovers: See the section below. Lettuce Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Mayonnaise: Refrigerate. Do not freeze.
Melons: Store at room temperature. Once cut, wrap in cling film or store in an airtight box and refrigerate.
Milk, cream and yoghurt: Refrigerate, ideally at the back of the top shelf where the temperature is more consistent.
Mushrooms: Refrigerate. Once open, re-wrap the packaging with cling film or transfer to a paper bag.
Nuts: Store in a cupboard. Once open, transfer to an airtight container.
Oil: Will lose its flavour in the fridge. Store in a dark place at room temperature.
Onions: Store alone in a cool, dry, dark place. Once cut, wrap in cling film or store in an airtight container.
Parsnips: Keep refrigerated. Store in a plastic food bag once opened.
Pasta, fresh or cooked: Fresh or cooked pasta can be refrigerated or frozen in an airtight plastic bag or box.
Pasta, uncooked: Uncooked pasta should be stored in a cool, dry place. Transfer to an airtight plastic box once opened.
Pies containing eggs: Loosely cover and store in the refrigerator, or freeze.
Potatoes: Store alone in a cool, dry, dark place. Keep original packaging, or transfer to a preservation bag.
Raw meat, fish and poultry: Refrigerate on the bottom shelf or freeze. Once removed from the original packaging, transfer to an airtight container.
Salad leaves: Refrigerate, preferably in a salad drawer. Once opened, store in an airtight container with dry paper towels.
Tomatoes: Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Once cut, wrap in cling film and refrigerate — return to room temperature before serving.
There are plenty of ways to expand the lifespan of ingredients nearing their use-by date, so there’s no need to let food go to waste.
The most obvious example is cooking. Once cooked, ingredients that are stored properly (see our advice on storing leftovers below) can be refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen long-term.
Another simple option is freezing. As long as you have a four-star freezer compartment operating at -18°C or lower, you can freeze most perishable foods— check the packaging for the freezer-safe symbol, or do your research online. At this temperature, foods can be safely frozen indefinitely, but the quality is likely to significantly deteriorate after a few months. You then simply defrost your food in the fridge and consume within 24 hours.
Remember: Food that has been defrosted should never be refrozen.
There are plenty of other preservation techniques that help expand the lifespan of ingredients, including pickling, dehydrating, canning, curing and fermenting.
Disclaimer: This guide is based on food safety and hygiene best practice, but you should always exercise caution when working with food that might have gone off. Never consume food that looks or smells unusual, and throw away anything you are not sure about. Always follow the food producer’s cooking and storage instructions where available.
If you’ve cooked too much food, don’t just scrape leftovers into the bin. Is there enough for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner? Or could they form part of a future meal?
You can refrigerate leftovers for two days or freeze them long-term, so it’s wasteful to bin anything other than scraps.
Whichever option you choose, remember that hot food must be chilled to room temperature or lower first. Putting hot food straight into the fridge or freezer can increase the appliance’s internal temperature and make its contents too warm.
In order to minimise bacterial growth, you should aim to cool hot food within 90 minutes. Here are five ways to speed up the cooling process:
Once cooled, it’s important to wrap and/or box your leftovers. This will minimise exposure to harmful bacteria — and help protect the quality of your food. Whatever you use, make sure it is fridge/freezer-safe (as appropriate).
To reduce the washing-up load, you can simply wrap the dish the food was cooked in. This is especially convenient if you can reheat in the same container. Make sure to wrap with cling film ready for the microwave, or foil ready for the oven.
If you’ll be reheating the leftovers but the original cooking dish isn’t suitable for storage, decanting into another cooking container is the most convenient option. Food that will be microwaved can be stored and then reheated in one of our microwave-safe plastic food boxes, or transferred into a microwave-friendly dish and covered with cling film. Food that will be reheated in the oven should be stored in an oven-friendly container and covered with foil. Food that will be reheated on the hob can be transferred to a pan and covered with cling film.
Remember: You should always reheat food until it is piping hot all the way through. This may take longer than usual if the cooking container has been in the refrigerator or freezer.
If the options above are not suitable, or you will be consuming the leftovers cold, you should use one of our airtight food containers. Alternatively, wrap in cling film or foil — just remember that foil can affect the taste of acidic foods such as tomatoes.
When refrigerating leftovers, ensure that they are stored above raw foods, to reduce the risk of contamination. Consume within 48 hours — label the container with the use-by date accordingly.
If you wish to freeze your leftovers, they must be stored in a four-star freezer or freezer compartment operating at -18°C or lower. They will remain safe at this temperature, although quality will deteriorate over time. Defrost thoroughly in the fridge, and consume within 24 hours.
Many people — especially busy parents — have taken to preparing meals and snacks a week in advance. This can help you save time and hassle throughout the week, save money by bulk-buying ingredients, and give you more control over your family’s diet.
We have plenty of snack boxes that are the perfect size for raw fruit and veg portions, so they can help everyone get their 5-a-day. An airtight seal helps ensure apple slices, carrot sticks or whatever snack you prefer will stay tasty and fresh for the days ahead. They’re also great for treats, with their small size helping you control portions for adults and kids alike.
You’ll also find a selection of plastic lunch boxes, which are perfect for sandwiches and snacks. And because most are microwave-safe, they’re suitable for hot meals too.
If you’d like to get all of your meal preparation out of the way at once, you might be interested in batch cooking. This involves cooking large batches of your favourite meals, and refrigerating or freezing extra portions for another day. Make sure to check out our advice on storing leftovers for tips.
When choosing from our range of food storage boxes, there are a number of things to consider:
We hope that our food storage guide will help you reduce food waste in your home — and reduce your shopping bill. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with the Plastic Box Shop team.