Food Shopping and Storing Food Shopping & Storing The Major Mistake You're Making When Storing Milk in the Fridge Here’s how to save money—and your milk. By Kimberly Holland and Betty Gold Betty Gold Betty Gold is the former senior digital food editor at Real Simple. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines Updated on January 6, 2023 Fact checked by Danielle Slauter Fact checked by Danielle Slauter Highlights: * Has worked as a fact checker for Real Simple since 2022 * Worked as a staff writer for Mochi Magazine * Currently runs and operates the United States blog for Student Beans Our Fact-Checking Process Share Tweet Pin Email Temperatures inside a refrigerator can be inconsistent over time and fluctuate from place to place. Just like your oven, your fridge has hot spots and cool ones. This affects your food's quality and longevity. The Worst Spot for Milk in Your Fridge The worst spot for temperature swings? Your refrigerator door. It's the warmest spot in your fridge, after all. Just think: Every time you open the fridge door, you're dragging everything stored there into what's likely the hottest room in your house. Warmer temperatures and frequent fluctuations can put food at risk of spoiling, especially milk and cream. 10 Things You Should Not Refrigerate Although a gallon or half gallon of milk may fit perfectly in the fridge door bins, the warmer temperatures may make the liquid curdle before you can drink it. Likewise, potentially harmful bacteria grow at warmer temperatures. The longer milk is exposed to the heat of a kitchen, the faster bacteria will grow. Help your milk last longer by storing it at the back of the fridge on a shelf near the middle or bottom. Hot air rises, so upper shelves may be a few degrees warmer than lower ones. As for your fridge door compartments, they're the perfect place to store the least perishable foods you have, like ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, salad dressing, jam, and bottled beverages like sparkling water. These foods, though they taste better or last longer when cold, are less perishable, meaning they're less likely to spoil quickly. Milk Handling Tips for a Longer Shelf Life Taking care to protect milk from warm temperatures throughout the time you have it can help it last longer and taste better until the last drop. 01 of 05 Make milk your last stop in the grocery store Complete all your grocery shopping, then swing by the milk section to pick up your gallon just before you head to the checkout. This way, the milk has less time exposed to warmer air and will be less likely to start growing harmful bacteria. 02 of 05 Keep milk stored at the best temperature for your refrigerator This is around 37° F. The closer foods get to 40° F, the more likely it is that harmful bacteria will begin to grow and multiply. 03 of 05 Store milk at the back of a shelf in the lower portion of the fridge That's where the coldest temperatures are in your fridge, which is an ideal spot for milk. 04 of 05 Return the milk to the fridge right away Don't leave the gallon sitting on your counter or kitchen table while you eat your morning cereal or have your pancakes and bacon. Pour everyone's glass or what you need for a recipe, and immediately put the milk back in its spot. 05 of 05 Shut the door Standing at your fridge with the door open while you search for a snack or dinner inspiration is bad news for everything in your fridge. Only open the door long enough to remove or store what you need, then close it behind you. This helps keep the temperatures stable and safe. Don't Forget About Other Forms of Dairy, Including Breast Milk These rules apply to half & half, cream, and whipping cream, too. And FYI, the CDC clearly states on its website that the same goes for breast milk: "Do not store breast milk in the door of the refrigerator or freezer. This will help protect the breast milk from temperature changes from the door opening and closing." Non-Dairy Milks Should Follow the Same Guidelines Before you take your dairy milk out of the door and replace it with your favorite almond or soy milk, know that non-dairy milks—even those that are shelf-stable at room temperature prior to being opened—must also be kept below 40 F to prevent harmful bacteria growth. If your shelf-stable non-dairy milk is unopened, you can store it in the refrigerator door to keep it chilled only until you unseal the carton. 10 Tips to Keep Your Refrigerated Food Fresh Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Proper storage and preparation of breast milk.