Uncluttering your refrigerator’s crisper

crisperWe joke in our home that the refrigerator’s crisper drawer should really be called the molding drawer. It seems to be the place where fruits and vegetables go to rot. We put things in, forget about them, and then find them weeks later covered in a green goo. Also, when you put fruits and vegetables in the drawer, all of the healthiest items in the refrigerator are instantly out of sight. Only the pizza leftovers and soda pop are right at eye-level.

A number of months ago, I started to wonder about my refrigerator and if the crisper drawer should even be used at all. I then went on a quest to learn about the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator and the best ways to store them. The information I found was enlightening:

Apples: According to the Purdue Horticulture Dept., apples are best stored in plastic bags with air holes in a 30-32?F refrigerator. They recommend putting them on shelves instead of the crisper drawer to permit proper circulation and humidity. Do not freeze.

Bananas: From Chiquita Banana, “To slow the ripening process once bananas reach your preferred ripeness, put them in the refrigerator. Even though our original jingle warned consumers not to refrigerate bananas, it’s really OK. The skin may turn dark, but the fruit will be just right for several days.” (It doesn’t say anything about them having to be stored in the crisper drawer.)

Corn: Being from a family of corn growers, I know this one without having to reference anything. In husk, use it the day you buy it. If you’re not going to use it that same day, remove the husk, vacuum seal it, and store it in the freezer.

Bell peppers: According to the Texas Produce Association, bell peppers can handle short-term storage for seven days or less at 45-50 degrees with 85-95 percent humidity. If you store a pepper below 42 degrees it will suffer from chill injury. (Which means that I need to use peppers the day I buy them. My refrigerator sits below 42 degrees.) Additionally, don’t store next to apples because of a chemical reaction.

Tomatoes: According to the Penn State Agriculture Dept., tomatoes should be stored in an aerated basket on your counter, out of direct sunlight. Putting them in the refrigerator will cause them to lose their aroma and flavor.

Potatoes: According to the Delicious Organic website, “Because their starch turns to sugar in the refrigerator, they should be kept in a dark, dry, cool area like a cellar or a brown bag. However, out of sight, out of mind, and our south Florida temperatures cause them to sprout too quickly and we don’t have cellars so what to do? Store them in the refrigerator but let them come to room temperature for a day (take them out in the morning) so that their sugar can return to starch.”

Herbs and lettuce: According to the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, “Lettuce should be rinsed under cold running water, drained, packaged in plastic bags, and refrigerated.” The refrigerator should be at least 40?F or lower, and you should eat the greens within a week. Do not freeze.

Onions: According to the Foodservice Guide, “Store your onions in a cool, dry ventilated place–not in the refrigerator. Lack of air movement reduces storage life. Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days.” Do not freeze.

After looking at all of the research, I couldn’t find a single reason to keep my crisper. So, my refrigerator is now crisper-drawer free. I’ve pulled out the drawers and have deep shelves where they used to be. Rotten food is the epitome of clutter, so hopefully I’m starting out the year on the right foot with my refrigerator’s organization.

Additionally, if you want to read more about uncluttering your refrigerator, check out Serious Eats’ post on How to unclutter your winter fridge.

87 Comments for “Uncluttering your refrigerator’s crisper”

  1. posted by Luke on

    Lettuce can be kept green and crisp for 2-3 weeks using this method. Use an insulated ice bucket with a plastic interior. Place damp(not wet) paper towel on the bottom of bucket, and, place whole head of lettuce root down in the bucket. Store in refrigerator between uses. It may sound a little crazy–But it works.

  2. posted by Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker on

    Martha –
    In reference to your question about potatoes I have some advice which I gave to the viewers of my show (Produce Picker Podcast).

    Make sure when choosing potatoes that the skin of the potato is not sprouting, wrinkled, or soft. Whether you’re choosing a brown (russet, baking), white, or yellow (yukon) potato check to make sure that the skin does not appear to be green.
    When potatoes are exposed to light, as they are in grocery stores and farmers markets, they begin to build up toxins. This process will manifest itself on the potato as a greening of the skin. It may appear that the green color is coming from under the native color (i.e. brown, yellow, white) of the potato. A potato that is sprouting, wrinkled, soft and appears to have a green coloring under its skin is bad. Eating too many green potatoes can actually be toxic to your system. So next time you’re choosing potatoes make sure to take a good look at its skin coloring and avoid the green.

    fun fact: Bagged potatoes often come in a colored bag that is most often brown. These bags are designed to help reduce the potato’s exposure to light thus reducing the chances that the potato will become toxic (green). Those farmers are always thinking;)

    Make sure to store your potatoes in a cool, dry and dark environment. Avoid putting them in the refrigerator (many people do this) as it will only make the potato have an uncharacteristic sweet flavor and can result in them turning a dark color once cooked. Potatoes that are stored properly at around 50 degrees can last up to a couple of months!

    And just to answer a couple other comments on here, Angela you are right that putting an already ripe avocado in the fridge will slow down the ripening process. Just make sure to wait until the avocado is ripe before storing it in the fridge or else the inside will turn black.

    Also Will I like your simple advice about storing produce. I work in a produce department and if we keep it cold it should be stored that way at home and vice versa. I love keeping it simple and rules of thumb like that are golden. Great comments everyone!

    More tips available at http://producepickerpodcas.blip.tv

    Thanks!

  3. posted by Karla on

    my boyfriend and I started calling our crisper “the rotter”… because that all our fruits and veggies ever do in it.

  4. posted by jessica on

    thank yo for this valuable information.
    yes, that crisper can be science lab sometimes.
    I am good about it, use my produce so they do get rotated.

  5. posted by Trace on

    If you want to ripen bananas, just place in a paper bag with one ripe red apple. The gas that is emitted from the apple ripens other fruits. All the more reason to separate apples from other fruits, like fruit baskets.
    I always place a liner of paper towel in my crisper bottoms. I store yogurt, cheese and water bottles in them. Forget fruits and veggies.

  6. posted by alicia a. on

    i hated the way potatoes tasted straight from the fridge so i started storing them in a basket. now they sprout incessantly. i never suspected it was the south florida weather! now i know to keep them in the fridge and simply take then out a day early….. “potato defrost” lol THANK YOU!

  7. posted by Fred on

    wish my wife would read this stuff. She won’t believe anything I tell her about wasteful buying.

  8. posted by Linda on

    I’ve called my refrigerator’s crisper, ‘the rotter’ for decades. New or old, refrigerators seem to have a special space just for evil. I’ve resorted to other means of storing veggies and fruits for years and only wish I had the money (in the form of spoiled produce), that went out to the compost heap every week

  9. posted by Jill on

    I use mine for my children – that’s where their individual sized drinks go and the other one has their snacks in it – cheese, pudding, bags of celery whatever they choose for snack at school is put there for easy grab into the backpack as we go out the door for school!

  10. posted by Scott on

    What about grapes and cherries? I keep mine in the crisper in a plastic bag but, let them reach room temperature before I eat them.

  11. posted by Ellen on

    corn…a tip from the produce man at my grocery store…..if you buy fresh corn on the cob and can’t use it right away, here’s his tip. Remove the husk and silk and put in a ziploc bag but don’t close it….the corn will stay fresh for a week, it stays fresh. Also I wrap celery in aluminum foil and it keep longer.

  12. posted by Tonia on

    I have found the best way to keep mushrooms in my fridge for up to 2 months, is after washing them i wrap them in a damp papertowel then place them in a plastic sealed dish. Works great and neve fails.

  13. posted by Vanessa on

    Our crisper drawer is used as the snack drawer a.k.a. Saturday morning drawer. Easy for the kids to get into and they stick to what is in there. String cheese, individual puddings, yogurt, baby carrots in snack size baggies, etc. This keeps them from bugging mom and dad on Saturday morning or evening snack times. I even keep a baggie filled with plastic spoons so they stay out of the utinsil drawer. The kids love being able to have their choice of a snack and sometimes its great for a reward. “Clean your room and you can have a snack from the snack drawer”. We also have one in the pantry for dry goods such as chips, cereal, etc.

  14. posted by Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker on

    I want to reiterate a tip given out by canadiangirl in an early comment above.

    Canadiangirl wrote: “If you loosely wrap each banana individually in a paper towel, it will not go black in the fridge. It might sound wasteful, but nothing happens to the paper towels, so you can re-use them after you eat your bananas. I guess if you don’t mind black bananas, it doesn’t matter, but some folks do, so this really does work.”

    I knew that if you want to slow down the ripening process of a banana to put it in the fridge. In fact I have done this more than once. The nice thing is that if you buy too many bananas and you have a few left that you will not eat before they get too ripe you can buy yourself a couple extra days in order to eat them while they are still at your desired ripeness. The only downside is that they do indeed turn black and it’s not the most appealing site.

    I saw this tip about the paper towel and gave it a try over the last couple of days. What do you know it really works! And I must say a cold banana is actually a nice treat. It reminds me of frozen chocolate dipped bananas on a stick, yummy!

    I just wanted to say thanks for the tip and confirm through a test of my own that this works. Sure the banana is fine if it turns black in the fridge but for some reason it’s a lot more appealing when it still looks like a perfectly ripe banana. Give it a try today, it will save you money too!

    See more tips at The Produce Picker Podcast

  15. posted by Art on

    I find that bell peppers last longer if you cut the tops off (as if to make stuffed peppers) and remove the seeds which slows the ripening progess and store them in the fridge in airtight plastic containers.If you’re financally deprived like me that would be old butter tubs so have the magic markers handy to label and date them.Clear storage bags work well also just don’t freeze them.

  16. posted by Allison on

    I store bottled waters and drinks in my bottom drawer. The fridge in my apartment is quite old, and only has one big drawer that likes to fall out — so I tend to avoid using it often.

  17. posted by Noah on

    I find the crisper is best for severed heads. YMMV.

  18. posted by SavingDiva on

    Thanks! This info helped me out tremendously!

  19. posted by Ishi Means Rock on

    Oh, why oh why, must my beloved crispers be so maligned and detested by so many? I would never consider separating my crispers from the appliance from which they came, their natural habitat. I can attest to the fact that every vegetable I put into my two crisper drawers stay very crisp for many months with almost no deterioration or loss of crispness. Same goes for the crispers’ kissin’ cousin, the meat drawer. Cuts of meat placed in it don’t go bad for a year.

    I credit my crispers for keeping a potentially horrible clutter miraculously organized. These drawers have dramatically improved the accessibility of their contents and have made finding that little bag with those last few scraps of vegetable matter a breeze. Things no longer fall out onto the floor when I open the door, instead, I am able to calmly move and examine the assortment of healthy foodstuffs without fuss. Once my choice is made, it is a simple matter to return the rest of the items to the appliance in which these drawers quite normally live. I couldn’t imagine having to go without these drawers.

    I know you don’t believe me. I’m not insisting that you do. You too can test, prove and confirm this same unbelievable story on your own. However, I must warn you before you proceed. You absolutely must never forget, that like everything else with a life of its own, proper habitat and storage of crispers is essential, otherwise they become spoiled and rotten, rebellious against their keepers. They do best in a much cooler habitat than the one in which they were raised. In the freezer compartment above the fridge. So there.

    :-)

  20. posted by carol on

    My Grandmother stuffs all the produce anywhere it fits in the refrigerator even though we have a brand new one. She just leaves them in the plastic bags from the grocery store. i can’t see easily through the bags so stuff gets rotten. i would much more prefer the produce loose in the crispers, like cukes, zuccini,carrots , but i don’t know if she’s right or me.please help.

  21. posted by Rob on

    To further clarify on the potato issue, green skin is fine. Ideally you want to peel away the green skin, but even if the toxin is present (which green skin does not necessarily indicate), it’s at such small amounts your tuber remains safe to eat.

    If, on the other hand, the FLESH of the potato is green-tinged, discard that sucker and don’t look back.

  22. posted by jess on

    Is your celery looking a bit limp?
    Cut the celery stalks in half. Fill a bowl with water and place the celery in the water. Let sit for a while.
    Your celery should be nice and firm.

  23. posted by maxie on

    I have the perfect solution to prevent produce from going bad in the fridge: Eat it!

    Rather than tips on how to store produce, why not how to buy only what you’ll eat. And why aren’t you using what you buy? Seriously, you shouldn’t be trying to store it for more than a few days and definitely not more than a week.

  24. posted by Jenny Lens on

    I purchased a fridge about a decade ago, wherein the crisper drawers are above the freezer, about my waist, a perfect height to see all the contents in my crisper drawer. Being above the freezer means they are larger than usual drawers for a typical fridge.

    I use clear plastic bags from the farmer’s market (one vendor has them). I put the newer greens under the older ones. I put the sturdier veggies (root veggies too) on the left side, which seems to get colder. I gather greens like radish tops, carrot tops, etc which people discard at the farmer’s market, but I juice them. I put them into bags on shelves cos I can’t fit everything into the crisper drawers.

    My greens last about a week, but going into the second week, some things like romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, dill, parsley, etc start to show black mold. I inspect and remove at first signs of browning.

    I NEVER EVER WASH BEFORE USING. Water makes produce go bad faster than anything! I won’t buy little green onions from any store because the greens are already wilting and limp while on the shelf. How are you going to dry lettuce? That’s just a sales ploy. I’ve talked to people in produce dept at big stores, Whole Foods, my smaller SM Co-Op. They all water veggies just to make them look good. I respond that I buy my produce at the farmer’s market, where they’ve been outside, without refrigeration for hours, and they last longer than ANY store bought veggies. It’s the number one reason I buy at farmer’s markets.

    One produce manager at the West LA Whole Foods told me a customer objected to mud in her spinach, and that’s why they wash them. I replied spinach grows in mud. Have you tried to buy a bunch of spinach that’s not half wilted on the shelves? So some lazy, stupid, rich, arrogant Whole Foods customer won’t wash her spinach and we all suffer with wilted greens? I told him, as I have told others, that water destroys, washes off vitamins and minerals (which are water soluble), and makes the produce go bad very quickly. I’ve even held up spinach and onions to prove my point.

    The STORES DO NOT CARE about quality of food. The faster the produce goes bad, the faster you and I will be back to buy more.

    When I have to buy from the SM Co-Op, I have to spread out ALL my produce in several colanders for hours to dry before I put into fridge. Otherwise they will rot very quickly.

    I agree about bananas: putting into fridge doesn’t taste as good. Eat fresh when the skin starts to get a deep golden and little brown spots like freckles. Most people eat unripe bananas and throw them out when they are just perfectly ripe. I buy so many that I peel, cut into little rounds, and freeze for smoothies or “ice cream.” But there’s nothing like fresh bananas. The drag is they take so long to ripen and go bad quickly.

    Apples, like ALL fruit, should not be refrigerated other than to extend shelf life. I try to buy only what I can eat in a week, put the majority in the fridge, no plastic bag, with a couple on my kitchen table (I buy small apples). Eating fruit at room temp makes fruit taste better, juices flow, plus better and easier digestion (closer to body temp, which is ideal for raw foodies and all digestions).

    The point is: eat your veggies and fruit within the week you purchased them. Faster if from stores, cos the produce is not as fresh (unless your rock-hard fruit need to sit out and soften).

    MOST of these surveys / guides were financed by food producers, who would love food to rot more quickly so we buy more. Doesn’t matter if a college produced the report, the food manufacturers underwrote/paid for it more than likely. Experience is the best teacher!

    IF you are forgetting about them, you might want to work on notes on the fridge to remind you. I use whiteboards with magnets which I picked up at Staples. I list the produce I bought and list what I need to buy. After awhile, it becomes a habit.

    When I throw out veggies, that’s a result of buying cooked foods and not taking care of myself. It starts with our mind, forcing ourselves to new habits, new ways of storing and using fresh produce.

  25. posted by Stern on

    The temp at the bottom of my frig is the coolest place, and all fruits are kept there.

    Bananas? Just put in frig as soon as bought. Take one out each night to “thaw” it OR put it in the Microwave for 10-15 seconds – Voila – room temp banana.

  26. posted by Get Rid of Refrigerator Clutter | Heart at Home on

    [...] Unclutter Your Refrigerator’s Crisper [...]

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    [...] Unclutter the crisper<br/> [...]

  28. posted by Link Lovage « Love Plant Life Blog on

    [...] Uncluttering Your Refrigerator’s Crisper tells you how to best store your fruit and [...]

  29. posted by April on

    I have enjoyed reading all of your comments. Always open to learning new ideas! Just an FYI, my friends and I have paid attention and found that organic bananas left on the counter rippen nicely and last longer (don’t go black nearly as fast). I am in Arizona and found that Safeway has them for $.89/lb every day, which is just a few cents more than for ones that are not organic.

  30. posted by Greenify your Fridge (That Doesn't Mean Mold), advice, tips, green, economical, refrgerator, fridge, freezer, storing | At Your Palate on

    [...] most refrigerator models, some have found it better to do without them. For example, on the website Unclutterer, the author recommends getting rid of it altogether since “out of sight, out of mind” [...]

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  32. posted by mike on

    Great info. I put tomatoes, onions, apples, lettuce, corn on cob etc always went to crisper. What is the crisper for then????

  33. posted by nadira on

    I use one of my two crispers to hold bread stuffs – tortillas, hamburger buns, and bread that is waiting to go to the bread drawer.
    I’m going to start using the other for bags of apples (which nicely come in plastic bags with holes.)

    Rubbermaid has a new line called Produce savers, that have a ‘spacer’ (for want of a better word) on the bottom, and small holes in the top. These allow for ventilation, so I don’t get those mushy slimy leaves on the bottom that are nearly impossible to separate from the good. They work very nicely :)
    I can’t just eat whatever I bring home, and not store, because I live alone, and can’t afford a bigger refrigerator, and can’t afford small packages.

    Also, I put my potatoes in brown bags, and keep them in the coldest parts of my apartment – On the floor by the front door-where I get very litle heat.

    I enjoyed all the posts

    Nadira

  34. posted by Limp Lettuce | Home Ec 101 on

    [...] is a handy post on the proper storage of produce (and the uselessness of the crisper [...]

  35. posted by adora on

    Actually, crisper is great for chocolates if you live in warm climate. It should be around 8-10C. Also great for fresh fish and seafood.

    If you want to store bananas in the fridge without browning the skin, you can try wrapping them individually in foam wrappers. You know, those foam sheets that comes with purchase of a TV or monitor. It really works!

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