Guide: How to Store and Organize a Vegan Fridge
By this point, we all have a good understanding of the importance of buying ethically and the impact of our food choices. But have you ever considered that the way you store your food can impact the planet too? Organizing and storing your food efficiently will help it last longer which will reduce your overall food waste.
I recently transitioned to a vegetarian diet and have found it necessary to effectively organize my fresh groceries in order to make them last as long as possible and ensure nothing goes to waste. This has been a learning process and has taken time to figure out.
This article is a guide for how to avoid food waste by storing and organizing your fridge. Although it talks mostly about vegan foods, I am sure everybody can use some of the suggestions for fruits and veggies.
Every household’s food habits are different and in one way or another and it is important to come up with a system that actually works for you. If you are able to prioritize some time for the inevitable trial and error process with this organization, it will be well worth your while.
I have followed SisLetter on youtube for some time now, which is a channel that shares lots of lovely (and satisfying) tips on food storage and home cleaning. While a lot of their tips have helped me learn how to better organize my fridge, I am not the biggest fan of the amount of paper towel and plastic they use. So I thought I would put together my own collection of tips that are low to no waste friendly.
In this post I covered the basics, as well as some specific foods that might need a bit of extra attention. I’ve included some affiliate links and products from my shop to give you examples. of what to use to keep your food fresh. Consider using what you have first and foremost.
How to store fresh herbs
Think about soft fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill) as fresh cut flowers or plants. They need their water to stay hydrated and fresh for the longest amount of time.
Fill a jar or a glass with water and add the herbs to it. Then put it in the fridge either on the middle rack or on the fridge door. You will need to keep an eye on the water and change it every 2-3 days. By regularly changing the water, your fresh herbs can last up to 4 weeks.
Firm, or hard fresh herbs such as chives, thyme, rosemary can be stored wrapped in a damp towel and can last up to 2 weeks. Consider using cheesecloth or a thin reusable cotton rag rather than wasting paper towel. Alternatively, you can dry them out on a newspaper and grind them up to use them dry.
If either types of herbs start to lose their freshness, you can chop them up, add oil or water and freeze them in an ice tray. The frozen herbs with oil are great for soups and stews for extra flavour, and the water ones are great for smoothies, cocktails, or water enhancers. You can get creative and mix in some citrus for extra flavour.
How to store fruits
What to keep out of the fridge
Fresh whole fruits can sit at room temperature for at least a full day without deteriorating in quality; there are even fruits that don't need refrigeration at all. Apples, apricots, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, mangoes, melons, peaches, pears, plums, and nectarines should not be kept in the fridge before they ripen. Keeping these fruits in the refrigerator will result in the loss of flavor and texture. Once they reach their peak ripeness, they can move to the fridge for a few days to slow down the process.
keep your apples SEPARATE
As apples ripen, they release ethylene, which speeds up the decay process by accelerating its speed. When you are trying to ripen another fruit like an avocado quickly, it is known that placing it in a brown paper bag with an apple will speed things up. To ensure that fruits remain fresh for some time, they need to be kept away from the apples.
freeze what you can right away
A lot of people have the tendency to keep fruit around in their fridge for a few days after shopping, even if it might be there intention to end up freezing it for later. The sooner you freeze it, the fresher it will be and it will prevent you from wasting fruit that has gone bad. This is great for fruit that will be used in smoothies or overnight oats, or fruits that you plan to cook with.
Fruits contain a lot of water which makes this process quick and easy. There are a number of different ways to freeze fruit. You can freeze them whole, in small pieces, blended together, or pack them in a jar with syrup. I use reusable silicone storage bags that work great in the freezer.
This basic method works well for any fruit:
Gently wash the fruit with water and drain.
Skin, slice or cube fruit into the desired size
Spread fruit on a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. This helps to keep the fruit from sticking together once frozen, so it can be easily segmented into portions.
When the fruit is 80% to 100% frozen, take the fruit from the tray and place into labelled freezer bags or freezer safe containers.
It can be difficult to wash berries since they dislike getting wet and have delicate skin. In my experience, the best way is to rinse them in a strainer, then spread them out on clean microfiber cloth to dry before putting them in the fridge. A breathable storage container is best for them. If you have any leftover plastic clamshell containers a lot of grocery store berries come in, these are actually well suited for storage. I would recommend cleaning out the container between uses.
While this is also on the ‘no fridge’ list — it really depends on how quickly you would like to enjoy these. Citrus will continue to ripen after being picked and can quickly reach its fresh point within a couple of days. While it may remove a bit of the flavour, the easiest way to help them stay fresh the longest is to keep them in a fridge in a mesh breathable produce bag.
If grapes get too wet, they will start to mold, even though they thrive in humid conditions. Give a quick rinse before placing them in your fridge for the first time. Only give them a good wash with amount of fruit that you plan to consume right away and leave the rest untouched so the fruit stays fresher for a longer period of time. Storing them in their breathable containers in the crisper drawer is best.
How to store vegetables
What to keep out of the fridge
Similarly to fruits, there are a good number of vegetables to keep out of the fridge. Onions, shallots, garlic, hard squash (winter, acorn, spaghetti, and butternut), potatoes, and rutabagas can be left at room temperature. Keep onions and potatoes separate to avoid sprouting and rotate them in your pantry every couple of days to avoid any moisture buildup.
use your crisper drawers
There is a good reason why criber drawers exist. Many of them now have the ability to adjust the humidity by opening (less humidity) or closing (more humidity) small air vents on the drawers. The low humidity setting is ideal for some fruits, but if you want to keep your veggies fresh, you should use the high humidity setting (i.e. close the vents). As vegans, the bulk of many of our diets are vegetables so you might need to prioritize drawer use. I suggest you opt using it for ones that are the ripest.
Stalked veggies like asparagus and green onions stay freshest in water. Remove any rubber bands or paper slips from the packaging and place upright in a glass or jar half filled with water. No need to cut the ends off, the only thing to remember is to not crown the jar. To ensure freshness and a crisp texture, cover the top of the stocks with a reusable silicone bag, beeswax wrap, or a produce bag.
The best way to keep lettuce fresh for as long as possible is to keep it humid in the fridge. The air circulation of lettuce is as important as the moist environment it is in. Storing your lettuce in a bag isn't necessarily bad for it, it just won't last as long as it would if it has good air circulation. Keeping lettuce crisp and fresh is as simple as washing it, spinning it dry, and then storing it in a perforated container (like a colander) in the refrigerator.
In the refrigerator, mushrooms should be stored in a paper bag or produce bag rather than a plastic or silicone container. Due to mushrooms' high water content, the water evaporates as they dry, leaving them slimy. As a result, the water becomes trapped in the plastic bag, turning the mushrooms slimy. Let them breathe to keep them fresh. Be sure to wash thoroughly before use.
Ways to preserve fruits and vegetables
Fermenting fruits and vegetables not only helps them last a long time, but it is also really good for you. The healthy bacteria that develops overtime can improve your gut health. You can ferment basically anything as is or combine recipes to make sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and even homemade yogurt. I am so happy to be connected with Montreal’s Mortier Pilon shop that has the coolest gadget for home fermentation. The 2L jar is big enough for big batches without taking up too much space in the fridge. For smaller batches, you can use mason jars or any other sealable container. Fermented foods can stay in the fridge anywhere from 4-14 months depending on the recipe.
Canning fruits and veg is another great way to help keep them edible for longer. The process takes some time but you can do it in large batches and store them in the fridge for a long time. This is perfect if you buy produce in bulk or pick your fruit directly from a farm (berry picking, apple picking, etc). I recommend storing jarred contents such as canned condiments in the outside door, as it is the warmest or closest to room temperature position in the fridge. To learn more about canning basics I found this great step-by-step for beginners here on The Yummy Life Blog.
How to store tofu
Tofu should be kept in its original packaging until it's time to use it. In addition to preventing contamination, tofu is also prevented from losing flavor and texture from prolonged exposure to environmental factors. Once it is opened and exposed to air, the contents will stay fresh in the fridge for up to five days.
Tofu is susceptible to bacterial growth once met with air exposure and causes the tofu to rot. If you've got open or leftover tofu, you will need to store it in airtight containers to avoid this. Fill up said container with enough fresh water to completely submerge the tofu. The tofu can sometimes be harmed by contaminants in tap water, so use filtered water to ensure the best results. Water should be emptied and refilled every other day to keep the tofu fresh. While this might seem like a waste of water, I find it actually encourages me to eat it sooner. You can replace the water with a sauce if you plan on eating within two days to marinate in advance.
If you aren’t planning on eating all of the tofu within the five days, consider cutting it into portions or cubes and laying it out on a clean microfiber cloth to dry out a bit. Once the surface moisture is nearly gone, place in a silicone bag or freezer safe container to freeze.
How to store leftovers
First of all, your fridge must have a system that allocates space for leftovers or foods that need to be eaten ASAP. For instance, I use the top shelf in my fridge for leftover foods or things that need to be eaten the next day. I also always have a set of beeswax wraps and my handy silicone bags to wrap, cover, or fill leftovers.
Here are some of my most commonly found leftovers and how I store them:
Use a sealed container for the noodle pasta. Do not ever combine the sauce with the pasta because the noodles will get soggy. Reheat the pasta in hot boiling water or in the microwave. When using a microwave, add a bowl of water in the middle of the plate to help the noodles rehydrate.
Use a sealed container, and if you are using meat, store it on the top shelf of your fridge. I would recommend batch cooking soup and freezing it some for later days when you don't feel like cooking.
You will need a wide container and beeswax for storing your pizza as individual slices. If you are ordering small pizzas, the changes are the box fits in your fridge just as it is. When storing it in its box, add a few toothpicks to absorb the moisture. To reheat pizza, use your broil option on the oven or if you have an air fryer, use that.
What are your top food storage tips? Share them in the comments below!
Hey, Claudia here
I am a senior graphic designer, a dog mom, an advocate for a zero-waste lifestyle, climate change, and sustainability. My articles are based on personal experience and well researched to give you the best source of information for all things zero-waste.