Fridge or pantry? The definitive guide to food storage

Do you keep your Vegemite in the fridge or in the pantry? What about your tomato sauce? Or your bread?

It’s an age-old debate that has divided households through the years. But while you may think you know where those staples should live, Lydia Buchtmann from the Food Safety Information Council says we all need a modern-day refresher course on the best place to store our everyday foods.

“A lot of the things we used to keep in the pantry like sauces and jams now have a lot less salt and sugar in them,” she says of recent pushes by manufacturers to adhere to make their products more health-conscious. “It’s healthier, but the salt and sugars were natural preservatives so now these things won’t last as long unrefrigerated.”

With the recent outbreak of listeria-related deaths in Australia, food safety is definitely something worth worrying about, says Lydia. Here, she shares her fool-proof guide to where to keep your groceries to not only stay safe but make sure they taste their best.

Eggs: Fridge

People get a bit confused with eggs because sometimes you can buy them from the supermarket and they’re not in the chilled section but you do need to store them in the fridge. Keep them in the carton though, don’t move them out. There are a couple of reasons: First, it's so the eggs don’t pick up any smells or tastes from other foods in the fridge but you'll also have the use-by date on the packaging. And if there’s a recall you’ll know where your eggs have come from.

Don't be tempted to keep your eggs outside the carton

Butter: Fridge

Butter is quite high fat but it will go rancid if you leave it out of so the best advice is to refrigerate it. If you need to soften it, get it out a little while before you’re going to use it.

Bread: Pantry or freezer

Refrigerating bread actually makes it stale. So leave it out in the breadbin in whatever packaging you bought it in. Obviously, if it’s sliced and in plastic, you have the option to freeze your bread. But make sure to use it by its best-before date and never eat any bread with mould.

Fruit: Bench

All fruit, and that includes tomatoes, are actually best out in the fruit bowl. Obviously, when they are ripe you can pop them in the fridge to help keep them a little bit longer. The secret with fruit is not to wash it just before you eat it because if you wash it before you put it in the fruit bowl or even the fridge it could get mouldy.

Vegemite: Pantry

The great Australian staple! Vegemite is okay out of the fridge but as with all productsn, check the use-by date on the jar.

Jams and preserves: Fridge

Jams are very variable because they are lower sugar – it depends on how much sugar is in there. But normally jams have to be refrigerated once they’re opened.

Chocolate: Pantry, mostly

A lot of people in hot climates do store chocolate in the fridge to keep it from melting but it can pick up what’s called a bloom – where a little bit of the sugar or fat breaks down. However, that’s a quality issue, not a food safety issue.

Sauces and ketchup: Fridge

In the past tomato sauce, BBQ sauce and the like were fine in the pantry but now they are a lot healthier most will need to be refrigerated, check the label if you are unsure. The same goes for soy sauce and fish sauce and hot sauces like Tabasco and Sriracha.

A push for healthier products means we need to keep our sauces in the fridge

Mayonnaise: Fridge

Mayonnaise should always be in the fridge. Always. And also, keep in mind when you are making your own homemade mayo it will have raw egg in it which is a very risky food – the rates of salmonella are really increasing in Australia. Be extra careful and try and use it all up on the same day or at least within 24 hours. 

Pickles, chutneys and mustards: Pantry, then fridge

In this day and age, they should be fridge bound once they are opened. While vinegar is a natural preservative in pickles they still need to be stored in the fridge. And the same goes for salad dressings and pasta sauces.

Honey: Pantry

From a quality point of view, it will go into that granulated sugary sort of thing if you put it in the fridge. So honey is okay out of the fridge as long as you check what it says on the label.

Peanut butter: Pantry

Once again see what it says when it’s on the label because some products now have reduced salt, but usually, they are okay out of the fridge. And of course, they will spread better that way.'

Nuts: Fridge

To stop them becoming rancid you may need to store jars of nuts in the fridge. It will help keep them fresh, longer.

Potatoes and onions: Pantry, mostly.

Most packaging will tell you to leave potatoes in a cool, dark place so they don’t sprout. But if you live in a tropical climate then the veggie tray in your fridge is probably the best place. The same goes for onions. They should be in the pantry unless you are in a very hot climate.


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