- Many fruits and vegetables do not need to be refrigerated if they have not been cut.
- Condiments like hot sauce, soy sauce, and honey are safe at room temperature.
- If you need shelf-stable meat, beef jerky, cooked bacon, and summer sausage are safe.
- Some dairy products like butter and eggs can be left out under the right conditions.
- There are several drink options, like tea and coffee, which do not require chilling.
Whether you are out on the road or looking to stock up for a winter storm, it is imperative to have which don’t require refrigeration.
The best foods that don’t need the fridge include canned meats like chicken, tuna, roast beef, starches, and grains such as pasta, rice, cereal, bread, and oatmeal. Vegetables like carrots, peppers, potatoes, corn, onion, and cabbage. Fruits such as apples, oranges, kiwis, bananas, and avocados.
As someone who travels to Las Vegas often (and doesn’t want to spend $50 a night for a fridge!), I always pack my room full of food that doesn’t need to be stored in the refrigerator. It can help keep costs down and are perfect for a midnight snack! I have discovered much delicious and nutritious food over the years and want to share what I have learned. Below I will cover many of these foods, including why they don’t need the fridge and how to make the most of them.
Why Do I Need Foods That Don’t Need the Fridge?
While it may not seem necessary to some people, having a well-stocked pantry is vital for being prepared should an emergency or disaster happen. Natural disasters and weather events like blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes can knock out power to homes for days or even weeks. During this time, you and your family will need food and supplies to get through this difficult time.
Another reason people stock up on these foods is for camping, RVing, road-tripping, and other outdoor adventures. Having a car packed full of food allows you to be ready to take on the great outdoors. Even if you only plan to be out for a couple of days, this is more than enough time for perishable items to spoil.
Are Shelf-Stable Foods the Same as Non-Refrigerated Foods?
Not quite. Many foods don’t have to be kept cold to stay fresh, but this does not mean they are considered “shelf-stable.” The term shelf-stable refers to foods with a low moisture level and a low PH level. Many foods like fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category but do not need to be kept cold.
It is important to know the difference, as storing a tomato in your pantry will leave you with a moldy mess.
Fruits and Vegetables Which Don’t Require Refrigeration
Fruits and vegetables are an amazing way to ensure you get all the proper vitamins and nutrients your body needs. It is important to note that you should not leave out fruits and veggies that have been previously refrigerated, as this will cause them to spoil much faster.
Also, do not cut up the fruits and vegetables before you plan to eat them. Once cut, these will need to be kept cool to prevent spoilage, thus defeating the purpose of buying them.
Whether you call it a fruit or a vegetable (it is a fruit), tomatoes are a good choice to have on hand. Tomatoes will last three to four days once ripe, so if you need to keep them longer, opt for slightly unripe tomatoes to get a couple of extra days.
They are a good choice because they contain nutrients and vitamins like A, K, B1, B3, B5, and C. They are also high in iron, potassium, and zinc just to name a few.
Onions are a vegetable that can last up to four weeks at room temperature. Just make sure to keep them ventilated to prevent them from getting moldy. They are a good food to have on hand as they are a good source of vitamin C, Potassium, and fiber.
Avocados are the way to go for a superfood full of healthy oils, vitamins, and fiber. Avocados will last three or four days once ripe. However, it is easy to grab unripe avocados for future use, as this will give you a few more days before it ripens.
If you need food that seems to last forever, potatoes are the perfect food. Store them in a cool location but not under 45 degrees, as this will deteriorate the flavor and texture, and they will last for several months.
Potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. They are also a great source of energy, being high in carbs.
Bananas are the perfect go-to food for those on the go and are a personal favorite of mine. I never go out hiking without one. They are full of Fiber, vitamin B6, Potassium, and Magnesium.
Bananas can last for several days if stored properly. Grab the green ones if you need them to last a long time. These will take several days to ripen but can still be eaten unripe. To get the most time from them, keep them out of the plastic bag, keep them away from other fruits, and wrap the stems with plastic to reduce ethylene generation.
Any Fruit or Veggie Sold at Room Temperature
When it comes to fruits and veggies, you can’t go wrong with any options, not on the cooling shelf in the supermarket. While much of the produce in the coolers can still last for a bit out of the fridge, having been previously cooled will impact their shelf life. So stick with the non-chilled produce, and you will be good to go!
No one likes to eat bland food, and luckily many condiments do not need to be chilled to stay fresh.
This may or may not surprise you, but hot sauce does not need to be stored in the fridge. In fact, many manufacturers recommend keeping the sauce out of the refrigerator for the best flavor.
Capsaicin, found in the spicy condiment, keeps the sauce shelf stable as it hinders the growth of bacteria. Look for a sauce over 20% vinegar for the longest shelf life. According to the USDA, many brands will keep for up to six months.
Like most food containing salt, soy sauce can safely be stored outside the fridge. The salt prevents bacteria and other nasty things from forming in the sauce.
Soy sauce can safely be kept for years if it has not been opened. However, if you have cracked the bottle open, it will be safe to consume within one year. Be sure to keep it away from direct heat and light to keep it as fresh as possible.
For a natural sweetener, honey is good to have on hand. It is also used on toast and biscuits for a delicious and quick breakfast. In addition, honey has anti-bacterial properties and a pH of around 3 to 4, making it impossible for anything nasty to grow.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you may not notice some changes, like a cloudy appearance and crystallization. This is because honey is a natural product and does not impact it being safe to eat. But if this bothers you, feel free to replace your honey yearly.
Who doesn’t love pickles? I do, and they are a great item to have on hand for cookouts and healthy midnight snacks. When properly canned and sealed, pickles can last up to two years.
Keep in mind, if you love those fancy pickles in the refrigerated section of the store, these will not do well at room temp and should be stored in the fridge.
If you can’t drink coffee without some sweetness, you likely have some sweetener packets like Stevia or Sweet and Low on hand. These are safe to store in a pantry or other cool and dry locations for years. According to Equal, a common sweetener manufacturer, their product can last indefinitely if properly stored.
Although it is all we as humans should drink, water can get boring. So if you need some other beverages to change things up, here are some options that will last at room temp.
While tea does not technically expire, it must be stored properly to retain its freshness. Keep your tea in an airtight container and away from heat (well, until you want to drink it). Tea can stay fresh for years under these conditions, but most recommend tossing it after two years. After this time, it will lose its freshness and taste.
If you are an avid tea drinker and want to keep your tea as fresh as possible, try storing it in a humidor. These handy tools are for more than just cigars. They can keep your tea leaves away from moisture, ensuring exquisite taste every time.
Coffee comes in wide number varieties, from the ground to the whole bean. Each has its shelf-life, but they do not require the fridge to keep on hand. Ground coffee can last up to five months in the panty, and whole beans will last up to nine months.
If you want to keep coffee for years, grab some individual packages of instant coffee. These can last for many years if kept sealed.
Many grains can be kept on hand long-term if kept dry. Here are some of the best choices to have on hand.
Dry pasta is a staple everyone should have on hand. It can last for years when stored in airtight containers. The key is keeping it dry, as once it is exposed to moisture, the pasta can grow bacteria.
Ready-to-eat cereals like Cheerios are one of the best foods to have in your pantry or to take camping. According to the USDA, cereal can last for 6 to 12 months at room temperature. It can also be good beyond the expiration date but may be stale.
Rice is like pasta; it can last around two years in your pantry or decades when sealed in airtight containers.
Most people don’t think of leaving dairy items out of the fridge. However, there are a few which are fine to leave out.
Now this one may surprise you. Butter does not need to be stored in the fridge! The cream that produces most butter is pasteurized, meaning it will take time to spoil. To get the most from your butter, keep it away from the light, store it in the proper container, and choose salted butter. If you follow these instructions, you can store butter at room temperature for up to two days.
If you want to bring milk camping or store it in your emergency bag, powdered milk is for you. While it may not taste as good as fresh milk, it will remain fresh for 18 months. If stored properly, powdered milk can last indefinitely, according to the USDA.
Now here is a tricky one. Eggs are always in the cooler at the grocery store. So, can you leave them out when you go home? No, these eggs must remain in the fridge to prevent spoiling. However, fresh eggs from the farm will not need this treatment. Eggs that have not been washed or chilled will still have the protective outer layer they are layed with.
Of course, powdered eggs are a good option if this doesn’t sound good to you.
Finally, many types of meat that, when cured properly, are safe out of the fridge or freezer.
Perhaps the most popular option for dried meats, beef jerky is a great non-refrigerated meat option. It can be rehydrated or eaten as is. Beef jerky can last up to one year, but the date on these will likely be around six months.
Canned Meats and Fish
Many types of meat can last indefinitely if properly canned, and the cans are free of dents and rust. Some popular options include Spam, chicken, corn beef, fish, and clams. These will need to be refrigerated once opened, so only crack the can if you need the whole thing.
Who doesn’t love bacon? Well, luckily, pre-cooked bacon does not have to be refrigerated. Now you can bring some camping to enjoy with your powdered eggs and instant coffee! A pack of this bacon can last up to 10 years unopened. If you open the package, plan to use it within a few days.
About THE AUTHOR
My name is Virginia Just, and I have a passion for food and consider myself to be a great home cook. I love watching Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef with my husband to learn new techniques. I am currently working on getting my first of many nutrition certifications to become a Nutrition Coach and advise people struggling to stay healthy.Read More About Virginia Just