Unless you want bacteria, slime, fermentation and rancid odors coming from your foods, choose to refrigerate or freeze them. Keep your refrigerator at 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit at most. Purchase only the produce you can store properly and use it promptly to get the most nutrition from your items. Meats that smell unusual or have developed a slimy texture may have grown bacteria and should be discarded.
Keep items that are milk products in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. Store hard cheeses and butter in the refrigerator, and remove a few hours before serving to allow the cheese flavors to develop and butter to soften.
Dairy products with a high water content, such as cheese, milk and butter, form ice crystals in the freezer and, once thawed, can have a crumbly texture, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Do not freeze cream cheese and cottage cheese.
Store raw meat in the refrigerator to prevent rotting. Cook meat within two to three days of purchasing it. Smoked or roasted deli meats can last up to a week in the refrigerator.
Meat freezes well, but can develop freezer burn if you don't wrap it in at least two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper or an airtight freezer bag, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. You can cut away a small amount of freezer burn, but discard meat when most of it is leathery brown. Examples of meats that are freezable include whole birds, fish, animal parts, ground products and sausage.
Some fresh vegetables require refrigeration, including leafy greens, carrots, peppers, green onions, parsley and cilantro. Tomatoes should be left on the counter to ripen and then placed in the refrigerator, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Potatoes, red onions and garlic should never go in the refrigerator since they require dark, dry storage areas.
Freeze any vegetables except cucumbers and radishes. When freezing fresh vegetables, with the exception of herbs and peppers, use the blanching process to stop the ripening process, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Examples of vegetables well-suited for freezing include beans, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, mushrooms and potatoes.
Berries and cherries require refrigeration to prevent spoiling and should be eaten within two to three days. Apples placed in a brown paper bag will last for two months or longer in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Refrigerate melons and citrus fruits to maintain freshness.
Freezing fruits is the easiest way to preserve this food group. Wash and dry your fruit before freezing. Peel, slice or dice fruits, preparing them as you want to use them after thawing. Add sugar if sweetness is desired. For peaches, apples or other fruits that darken after cutting, add ascorbic acid, crushed vitamin C tablets or lemon juice before freezing, according to the Colorado State University Extension. While cherries and all berries should be frozen immediately after picking, apples, plums and peaches need to ripen beforehand. Fruits well-suited for the freezer include applesauce, avocados, grapes and pears.