Smart food storage to prevent food waste

Brisbane's subtropical climate means that our food is easily spoiled by heat, humidity, sunlight and pests.

By knowing how to store your food correctly, you can make it stay fresher for longer and feel confident about food safety. By throwing out less good food, you'll also save money, reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment.

Food storage tips

Best before and use by dates

The dates on groceries let you know how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate in quality or becomes unsafe to eat.

The 'use by' date is used for food that needs to be eaten by a certain date due to safety concerns. This is different to the 'best before' date which provides a guide on how long you can expect food to retain its 'quality' attributes including colour, taste and texture.

Learn more about the guidelines used for food dates on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website

Foods that have passed their best before dates are often safe to eat, though freshness and quality may be affected. These impacts can be minimised through good storage habits.

Storage hints for food common in Brisbane households

We've compiled a table of our favourite tips for maintaining freshness for food common in Brisbane households.

FoodStorage tips and hints
AvocadosStore avocados at room temperature or near ripe bananas to help them ripen quicker. To keep cut avocados fresh for longer, sprinkle them with lemon or lime juice and put them in an airtight container.
BananasStore bananas at room temperature (not in a cupboard) so they do not ripen too quickly. Once ripe, they can be stored in the fridge, but their skin will turn black. Choose bananas at different stages of ripeness, so they do not all ripen at once. Freeze bananas that are overripe and use them for smoothies or baking.
BerriesBerries are prone to mould and bacteria. Wash them in a mixture of vinegar and water (1:8 parts) to kill any spores and bacteria. After drying berries, line a container with paper towel to absorb any future moisture build-up from the stored berries.
BreadStoring bread in the fridge will make it turn stale faster due to the lower temperatures and humidity. To keep bread fresh for longer, keep it in its original plastic wrapping and push out any excess air each time the packet is opened. If you don't eat bread often, freeze it. It can last in the freezer for more than three months.
BroccoliStore broccoli in an airtight container or sealed bag with some water. You can also store broccoli in your fridge crisper on high humidity. You can store broccoli in the freezer by cutting it up and blanching it before placing it in a sealed container.
CeleryWrap whole celery tightly in aluminium foil in your fridge in high humidity. Cut celery can be stored half-submerged in water in a jar or container.
CheeseStore hard cheeses in an airtight container or bag, or apply some butter to the exposed end if there's no other option. Store soft cheeses in waxy, greaseproof baking paper or parchment.
EggsStore eggs in their original cartons is possible. If you do put eggs into your fridge egg tray, write the 'use by' date on the last egg. To check the freshness of an egg, place it in a tall glass of water. Eggs that float to the top should not be eaten.
Grains, cereals and pastaAlways store grains, cereal and dry pasta in airtight containers in the pantry. Once cooked, freeze rice and pasta in pre-planned portions in plastic wrap or containers. If you keep rice or pasta in the fridge, eat it within three days.
HerbsAvoid browning and freezer burn of your herbs by freezing them in olive oil or melted unsalted butter. You can also wrap leafy herbs, like parsley, coriander and basil, in a damp tea towel in your fridge crisper on high humidity.

Store lettuce in an airtight bag in your fridge crisper on high humidity. Lettuce will decay quicker if stored with apples, apricots, bananas, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that prefer low humidity and emit large amounts of ethylene.

MilkStore milk in the fridge as soon as you get home. Milk can be frozen and thawed for later use. Vegan alternatives (e.g. oat milk and nut milk) last longer than fresh milk, and can be stored in the pantry before being opened.
MushroomsStore mushrooms unwashed in a paper bag in the fridge. Plastic bags or airtight containers will cause mushrooms to degrade quicker. Mushrooms have the ability to absorb other flavours so store them away from pungent foods. If you plan to use mushrooms for cooking, they can be frozen first.
OnionsKeep onions in the pantry away from sunlight and moisture. Tying onions in stockings will help them stay fresh for up to six months. Store onions away from potatoes and apples.
TomatoesKeep tomatoes at room temperature, away from sunlight, for three to five days to ripen and then put them in the fridge.

Get the best out of your fridge and freezer

Store your perishable food and most cooked foods in your fridge or freezer.

Check the door seals on your fridge and freezer and replace if they are not sealing correctly. 

Check the temperature in your fridge is steady – between three and four degrees Celsius. You can buy fridge thermometers at supermarkets and specialist kitchen stores.

Safe fridge storage

Avoid overcrowding in your fridge. Air must be able to circulate around food for the fridge to keep it cool.

Store fresh produce, raw meat and cooked foods separately and avoid cross-contamination.

Avoid leaving food out of your fridge for more than two hours. 

Find out more about fridge and freezer food safety on the Food Safety Information Council website.

Use your crisper wisely

The crisper drawer in your fridge works best when you control it manually. Check if your crisper has a humidity control function. If so, adjust the level to suit the type of food you are storing.

If your fridge has two crisper drawers, keep one for foods that prefer high humidity and one for foods that prefer low humidity.

Foods behave differently depending on whether they produce ethylene gas or are affected by it. As a general rule, foods that 'rot' should be stored in a low humidity setting, while foods that 'wilt' should be stored in high humidity.

FoodHumidity control setting
BananaRipe - low
Unripe - high
Beans (green)High
Brussel sproutHigh
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