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Getting Closer to Hunter-Gatherers: Surprising Things You Don't Actually Have to Refrigerate

By The Paleo Diet Team
March 28, 2018
Getting Closer to Hunter-Gatherers: Surprising Things You Don't Actually Have to Refrigerate image

In our modern society, we're used to special storage rules from one food item to another. Fruit juice, for instance, and many canned goods can sit in the pantry forever but will need to be chilled once opened. Potatoes kept in the dark, grains kept in dry conditions, and a whole slew of things that need to be kept cold at all times or we risk that unpleasant smell of rotting protein. However, as time passes and food poisoning scares stack up, we've gotten into the habit of simply throwing everything in the fridge. But is refrigerating sweet potatoes really the paleo way?

If you've been working hard and having fun living your life, or at least managing your diet in a way your primitive ancestors would understand, then it's easy to see how our habit of over-refrigeration could actually be detrimental to your new paleo lifestyle. Food storage and preservation has been a part of human society for thousands of years, but electric refrigeration has not. Cool caves and root cellars were the old way of preserving foods and even these were used selectively only on items that were better off chilled.

One of the most efficient things you can do for both your kitchen and your budget is to understand the true difference between what needs to be cooled and what doesn't. You might be surprised at how many commonly refrigerated items will be fine for a week on the counter instead. If you really want to live like your paleo ancestors, take a look at our long list of things that you don't actually need to refrigerate and might actually be more delicious eaten at their natural temperature.


The first category to think about is produce. There are a lot of herbs and vegetables that are just fine at room temperature and a few that can actually rot faster in the fridge instead of on the counter or tucked away in your pantry. It's very important to know the difference between the items that you need to refrigerate, like leafy greens, and the ones that can be moved from your refrigerator to free up space.

Sweet Potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes actually keep best in a dark, cool, and most importantly dry environment. That's part of the reason why they are sold in paper bags or plastic with holes in them. Store your potatoes in a dark part of the pantry up off the ground and away from the wall to keep them dry. By following this method of storage, a large bag of sweet potatoes can be preserved years.

Onions and Garlic

  • Both onions and garlic do very well in a dry environment and temperature doesn't matter too much. They can remain fresh in a bowl on the counter for months which is a great way to ensure that you always have some fresh garlic or onions.


  • Tomatoes do not do well in the fridge and if you've had a bad history with stored tomatoes, this may have been your mistake. Tomatoes from the fridge get mushy fast.


  • Our final no-fridge vegetables actually get distinctly 'better' if you leave them out at room temperature. Peppers increase in heat over time if you don't chill them.


Fruits are split almost down the middle on whether or not they are better chilled or unchilled. Most fruits, due to their nature, are safe to keep at room temperature for at least three days but some survive longer than others. Most fruits with a solid 'meat' around a core or a pit do very well on the counter while some are much better off stored in a warm environment rather than cold.

Apples and Pears

  • Apples and pears are both solid fruits. They should be chilled if the weather is warm because they will bruise more easily but are often safe for one to three weeks on the counter.

'Stone Fruits'

  • Stone fruits are fruits with meat and pits like cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums. These are naturally soft and resistant to warm temperatures so are equally enjoyable outside the fridge.


  • Like peppers, bananas ripen at room temperature and even more slowly in the fridge. This means that if you tend to buy your bananas a little green and eat them fast, they should be fine on the counter for about a week.


  • Berries suffer from excessive moisture which is common in a fridge. Keep your berries in a covered bowl on the counter and eat them relatively quickly or go through the effort to keep them dry in the fridge.

These are just a few of the many fruits and veggies that can be stored outside your fridge, making more room for all those yummy Paleo foods that need some space on a cold shelf.

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