How many times have you opened the door of your refrigerator to get something out and been blown away by the smell? Or can’t find what you’re looking for because there is so much stuff jammed in there? It’s a common problem for a lot of families. Living a hectic lifestyle leaves little time to think about the dreaded task of cleaning out the refrigerator and keeping it organized. However, if you don’t practice some simple, regular maintenance steps, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money on a regular basis. Yes, you will spend some time on the front end by cleaning and organizing, but it will save you time and money for the long haul.
1. Remove and examine everything from all the shelves one by one – toss the smelly meat, produce and dairy items, and containers with expired dates. Put the keepers in categories with like items together; ie., all the condiments together, all the fruits together, all the dairy together, etc.
2. Give your refrigerator a good cleaning – from the shelves to the drawers to the walls, clean it well to remove any spills and lingering smells from old food. Don’t forget to clear out all the dust bunnies from underneath and behind your fridge to keep it working properly.
3. Organize your keepers – Most refrigerators have organizational systems of some sort built into the design. Most have a crisper drawer for fruits and one for veggies. And a drawer for meats and dairy. Some have wide deep shelves on the door that will hold a gallon of milk, juice containers and condiments. And a shelf with a clear door to store butter or margarine containers. You can use these systems for the majority of your keepers. For smaller items, or items in different categories than mentioned above, you can get clear plastic bins and label them with the contents so everyone will know where to put them back.
• As you put new groceries away, make it a habit to check expiration dates and fresh items to make sure they are still good. If you’re not sure about an item, check out the Still Tasty website. You can search on an item to make an informed decision about whether to keep it or toss it. There is also a section that provides insight into what we consider expiration dates; ‘best by’, ‘best if used before’, etc.
• Periodically perform a thorough cleaning of the inside and outside of your refrigerator. I state, ‘periodically’ because that time frame will be different for everyone. If your fridge gets a lot of traffic because you have several family members, or if you entertain on a regular basis, you will need to perform maintenance more often than a smaller household. As part of your maintenance routine, put a fresh box of baking soda on one of the shelves and mark the date you placed it there on the side of the box. This will absorb odors and keep each item from taking on odors from other items.
• As you organize the contents of your refrigerator, put taller containers in the back, shorter containers in the front, and make sure the labels are facing front, so you can easily see the contents of each container. When you do this, you can see what you have so you don’t buy duplicates, and can quickly retrieve the item you need.