There are so many things to store when you’re a solo cook aiming for single servings. This is intended to be a reference page for storage tips for all sorts of things–vegetables, dry goods, left-overs, or just that part of a can of tomatoes that will be used soon (we hope). These have been collected from various sources such as works on kitchen science/cooking or food science, websites, et cetera. (Some of the links to Cook’s Illustrated data may be available only if you have the online subscription–sorry! References to books can be found in the Bibliography)
Vegetables & fruits
Corn (sweet): Keep corn in husks, wrap in a wet paper bag (or wet paper towels), place in a zipper-lock bag and store in the refrigerator. Best eaten as soon as possible. For more than overnight storage, freeze after blanching (5 minutes in boiling water), shocking in ice water, draining, and putting in zipper-lock bag with air squeezed out. Will lose some crisp texture, but the flavor will be fine for things like corn chowder or sautéed corn.
Eggplant: Eggplant don’t do well in cold temperatures, so store at cool room temperature. If placed in the refrigerator, they will soften and get brown spots rapidly.
Grapes (table): Grapes will keep longer if not rinsed as the moisture can trigger microbial growth, and left attached to the stems. Just remove any that don’t look good, and rinse just before serving.
Lemons: Instead of passing on that economical bag of lemons at the supermarket, take them home and store them in zipper-lock bags in the fruit drawer! Cook’s Illustrated tests demonstrated that those stored in a closed zipper-lock bag were good at 4 weeks out. (I’ve had some in my fridge at least that long and they are still going strong.) Those lemons may not be as large as those sold individually, but I think that they are usually the thinner-skinned lemons which usually give more juice than some of the very thick-skinned ones. When you take a lemon out of the refrigerator to juice it, roll it on a hard surface briefly then juice it using a reamer (or a citrus juicer).
Onions: Onions are another perishable, but unrefrigerated item that I must have at hand at all times, so I don’t buy the yellow (cooking) onions one at a time. I store those in a terracotta onion keeper (an overgrown garlic keeper) on the counter. Generally I use them fast enough so that even in our humid climate they don’t mold. Sweet onions (like Vidalia, Walla Walla, et cetera) spoil more rapidly, so those get put into the vegetable drawer in the fridge.
Potatoes: Potatoes are something I like to have around for use at the drop of a hat, but so often I find sprouts. Potatoes should be stored in a cool dark place. They can be stored in the refrigerator, although some sources say that will promote more sugar. Cook’s Illustrated has tested a number of storage methods–including refrigerating them–and does not detect a flavor change with storing in the refrigerator. (I store mine in the refrigerator since I don’t usually buy a 5-pound bag.)
Tomatoes: Tomatoes should NOT be refrigerated–I’d find a way to use it and not refrigerate it. Refrigeration it will affect the texture–makes them mushy, and “deadens” the flavor. If refrigeration is absolutely necessary, then it has become a cooking tomato. Store on the counter, stem end down (this retards moisture loss) at room temperatures between 55 ° F and 80 ° F (Morash). To store that cut tomato? Well, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature, and use with quickly.
Berries: Very perishable. If not using immediately, rinse with a dilute vinegar solution (3 cups water and 1 cup of white vinegar), dry in a paper towel lined salad spinner, and store in a paper towel lined airtight container.
Apples: Refrigerate wrapped.
Pears: Refrigerate, loosely wrapped, and ripen at cool room temperature.
Pantry: dried goods
See post on Storage Containers. For most of my storage (except for freezer) I use Ball ® Mason (or Kerr) jars. If you do single-serving cooking you are likely to have dried good stored longer than someone doing the cooking for the “average” family. I used to save jars and lids and finally got frustrated by having a jar, and not having a lid. More and more you don’t get glass jars to save, so I’ve gone to the hardware store, or my local Harris Teeter carries a good selection of canning supplies including various sizes of jars, rings, and lids. I use wide-mouth jars in a range of sizes–one lid assembly fits almost everything, and you always have lids. They seal better than canisters, and a lot cheaper–but then I’m a confirmed function over fashion/decoration person.
The Ball® Mason jars are great for the refrigerator (See above).
It is possible to use glass in the freezer, if you are careful of the fill level; however, I don’t–I’m looking for ways to maximize storage space, and glass jars just don’t do that. For that, there are the zipper-lock bags that can be laid flat until frozen, and then stack close together so nicely.