My fridge is one of the places I like keeping spotless. I can’t stand rings of sauce on the shelves, uncovered food or odour – so I’ve always kept a pretty close eye on how the interior looks. But not so much with how it functions.
I knew I might have an issue when I found myself throwing out a lot of food the night before garbage pick up. The waste left me ridden with guilt so I started to think twice about buying too much unless I was sure it would get eaten.
I decided one evening to give myself a refrigerator overhaul. I soon realized it’s not the amount I’m buying; it’s my management (lack of it) that’s causing the problem.
With some creativity, organization and preparation, I decided to put some new skills into practice. I highly recommend a fridge makeover – the first step is making a commitment to reduce waste. Even give yourself a limit (that’s reasonable) and stick to it.
After you make your declaration to reduce waste – clean!
Once all items have been cleaned out, take a small bowl of warm/hot water with some baking soda. Soak a clean cloth in the baking soda solution, ring out access and start scrubbing!
Remember to rinse out the cloth regularly and replace the mixture once it becomes dirty. When you’re finished, take warm/hot water with a splash of lemon juice and give it a good wipe-down.
Throw away anything old and put back what you’re keeping.
Now to organize! Look at your opened refrigerator like a filing cabinet and start thinking about how you want to sort things. Adjust shelves, and make the space work for you.
Start with GREAT storage
Proper storage is key to the longevity of any food you keep. Different foods call for different moisture and temperature levels. Fruits and vegetables should be kept separate because fruits give off high levels of ethylene which is a ripening agent that will cause surrounding items to rot. Vegetables should be stored in bags with holes to allow for good airflow and should not be packed or overcrowded to also aid in proper airflow.
Look at the different tools available to store your food items. Airtight, leak-proof and clear containers are best.
One common mistake is waiting for freshly cooked foods to cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Always store food as soon as possible; if heated food isn’t refrigerated within two hours of mealtime, it’s no longer fresh. Bacteria grow at room temperature which will cause foods to spoil much faster.
The second mistake is storing in deep containers. Switch to shallow containers that are no more than 3” deep and don’t stack too many together or in close proximity. Leave a layer of space between the surface of the food and underside of the lid as well. The faster you cool foods, the longer it will last – which results in less waste. Even though we joke about our parents storing everything but yogurt in a yogurt container, it’s probably best suited for that purpose only.
Use it all up!
Introduce new recipes that force you to repurpose. A common dish is frittata where you can throw pretty much anything into an egg mixture. Soups are another beneficial way to repurpose foods; have you ever tried having soup for breakfast? A bowl of soup can pack more nutrition than common breakfast foods.
Keeping with the liquid theme – make juice! When you see that you have some fruits and vegetables that are on the ripe side and you know it won’t get eaten on time – it’s time to bring out the juicer. Juicing is an easy way to get in that 7 to 10 a day.
If sharing is caring and cooking is an expression of love, then sharing your food holds a great deal of importance. Share a dish with someone on your street that could use a home cooked meal or even freeze a portion to give to share down the road. Cooking swaps are great too. Like cookie swaps at Christmas time, gather some friends and arrange for each of you to cook extra of a certain meal each week or month.
– Use a label maker to create labels for various sections. Everyone will know where things go and will help keep your fridge organized for longer.
– A lazy Susan on a shelf or two will help keep things from being lost and forgotten in the back of hard to reach areas.
– Try to avoid re-using plastic containers that were meant for temporary or single purpose. I.e. that infamous yogurt container that NEVER has yogurt. Glass containers are your safest option.
– Before storing away your vegetables, remove rubber bands, trim and remove any browning ends and store in a breathable storage bag. You can also wash, dry and roll leafy greens in paper towel before storing to increase its life.
I didn’t realize that I could potentially be saving hundreds of dollars a year on maintaining these simple rules.
What are some other tips and tricks you’ve learned to help save extra money in the kitchen?
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