20 Foods You’re Spoiling By Putting In the Refrigerator

Updated: May 21, 2024

It may be second nature to stash just about anything in the fridge, but this produce actually stays fresher at room temperature.

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Whole melon on a wooden background.

Whole melons

The fridge can cut the number of antioxidants in half. A USDA study found that watermelons at room temperature develop nearly double the levels of compounds like beta-carotene (which promotes healthy skin and eyesight) than do refrigerated melons. Cool air stunts the antioxidant growth that occurs after harvest. Chill sliced melons to prevent bacterial growth. Check out these other foods you’ve been storing wrong.

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If this tropical plant is stored below 40 degrees F, it turns black quickly. Keep on the counter in a shady place, and mimic placing flowers in a vase: Fill a glass with water and submerge the stems. Place a zip-top plastic bag over the plant to allow it to breathe and stay moist. Here are 40 ways to use up fresh basil.

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Cold temperatures convert potato starch into sugar. This results in a gritty texture and a slightly sweet flavor. They do best at 45° F (most refrigerators are set from 35° F to 38° F). Store potatoes in a paper bag in the cool pantry to make them last longer. Sunlight causes chlorophyll to accumulate, turning potatoes green and sometimes bitter.

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onion and onion slices on wooden cutting board.; Shutterstock ID 614533241
NUM LPPHOTO/Shutterstock


These vegetables need air circulation to stay fresh. Store whole onions in a hole-punched paper bag in the pantry. Don’t keep near potatoes; onions emit gas and moisture that can cause potatoes to spoil quickly. Find out which foods you shouldn’t store in the pantry.

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Beautiful red ripe heirloom tomatoes grown in a greenhouse.


Cool air alters chemical pathways in tomatoes, slowing those that contribute to fresh flavor and accelerating others that dull flavor. Store whole tomatoes on the counter for a better taste.

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Cup of coffee, bag and scoop on old rusty background
Shutterstock / Ilja Generalov


The moisture in your fridge causes the beans to deteriorate, meaning you aren’t getting the fresh, bold flavor you want from your morning brew. Plus, the temperature fluctuates every time you open the door to your fridge, creating condensation, which in turn creates even more moisture. Stash your coffee beans in an airtight container in the pantry instead. By the way, here are 10 unexpected ingredients that will completely upgrade your cup of joe.

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Garlic cloves fare best in temperatures between 60 and 65° F. Put your bulbs in a ventilated container to allow moisture in and stash it in a cool place.

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hot sauce
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Hot sauce

The vinegar and preservatives in store-bought hot sauce keep it from going bad in the pantry. In the fridge, the spicy peppers might lose some of their heat. By the way, this is the best hot sauce you can buy, according to our Test Kitchen experts.

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Honey dripping from a wooden honey dipper in a jar on wooden grey rustic background
Eugenia Lucasenco/Shutterstock


This sticky, sweet stuff should not go in the fridge. Honey is known to seize up and crystalize in cold temperatures, so room temperature is ideal for this sweetener.

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Sliced white bread; Shutterstock ID 352819853
Gamzova Olga/Shuttertock

Sliced bread

Although keeping bread in the fridge keeps mold at bay, it also dries out the loaf. Instead, store extra bread in the freezer and bring to room temperature when you are ready to eat them. If you go through bread a lot, it’s best to keep it out on the counter. These are the 13 items in your kitchen you need to throw out already.

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Mix of nuts in plate . pecan , hazelnut , pistachios , cashew and peanuts


Foran optimal nutty flavor, it’s best to store nuts in an airtight container in the pantry or cupboard. Storing nuts in the fridge exposes the shelled variety to absorbable fridge odors. Plus, the cool environment diminishes the nutty flavor.

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Fresh avocados in paper bag on wooden background;
Africa Studio/Shutterstock


The creamy green fruit is best kept at room temperature if it’s hard, or if it’s ripe and you plan on using it right away. That said, finicky avocados that quickly go from underripe to overripe can go in the fridge to last longer.

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Stone fruits

Peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots are all best kept at room temperature so they can ripen to perfection. This is how long you can keep foods past their expiration date.

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Olive oil with fresh herbs on wooden background.
DUSAN ZIDAR/Shutterstock

Olive oil

This cooking oil should go in a cool, dark place. Keeping it in the fridge can create a harder, more butter-like consistency.

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Heap of fresh sliced Cucumbers on an old wooden table


Cucumbers should come out of the fridge. The common mistake of keeping them in the fridge leads to watery and pitted cukes.

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Colorful green , red and yellow peppers paprika background

Bell peppers

Mushy peppers are never tasty, so don’t put them in the fridge. Low temperatures cause the peppers to lose their crunch.

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Microwave pickles
Taste of Home


It’s not a big dill (pun intended!) to keep your pickles out of the fridge. Since they’re already preserved in brine, they can remain in your pantry until you are ready to eat them. Here are 25 brilliant kitchen shortcuts you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Dark chocolate
Justyna Kaminska/Shutterstock


Keep chocolate at room temperature somewhere dark and dry for maximum flavor; this avoids a grain consistency from the fridge.

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Sliced eggplants with salt in the metal plate on the wooden table top view
Karpenkov Denis/Shutterstock


If you’re eating eggplant a few days after purchase, it’s OK to keep it out on the counter. Storing it in the fridge could dull the flavor. Take note though that eggplant does have a short shelf life outside of the fridge, so be sure to eat it right away.

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Big whole striped watermelon on blue background
Alexey Borodin/Shutterstock

Whole watermelon

You don’t need to make room for a huge, uncut watermelon in your fridge. The fruit is actually best stored at room temperature. Keep it on the counter until it’s time to cut it up. After you slice it, wrap it up and place it in the fridge. Next, check out these space-saving kitchen storage ideas.

Sources: Sheryl Barringer, professor and chair of the department of food science and technology at Ohio State University; medicalnewstoday.com; Cooking Light; lifehack.com; theyummylife.com; eatingwell.com; ohionline.osu.edu; cals.uidaho.edu; rodalesorganiclife.com; foodnetwork.com

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest