Ever find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator searching for that thing you know was there just last week? Only to find it missing or worse yet, expired? Not only will keeping a clean refrigerator help you find that snack you’re hungry for, it’ll make it easier to start meal prepping too. With the holidays right around the corner, now’s the perfect time or clean out and organize the one kitchen appliance you can’t do without.
Deep clean once a month. Transfer the contents of your refrigerator into a cooler using frozen foods like beef stew or squid luau to act as ice. Wash down every surface with a mixture of warm water, dishwashing soap, and baking soda. Before you put everything back, consider using bins to organize your food by category. If you can easily find that cucumber kim chee that Uncle Charlie made last week, you’ll save on energy as well.
Make it a habit. Now that you have a clean start, set a weekly reminder on your phone to spend five minutes tidying up. Discard expired food. Note what you have on hand and plan meals accordingly. Need more tofu? Add it to your shopping list. Nancy Nino, professional blogger for Simply Organized in Kahala Mall, says a clean and tidy refrigerator makes meal prep and planning much easier.
Make room for the good stuff. While a refrigerator works best when full, it’s important to be realistic. Toss out foods that no one is likely to eat. Then, place everything in the proper place to ensure freshness:
- Drawers: Meats and seafood should be kept in the drawer closest to the freezer. Fresh fruits and veggies stay fresh longer when placed in the crisper. Don’t wash fruits and vegetables until you’re ready to eat them. Water makes it easier for mold and bacteria to grow.
- Lower shelf: The back of the bottom shelf is the coldest part of your fridge, which makes it the ideal place for milk, fresh juices, and smoothies.
- Middle shelves: Eggs last longer where the temperature is consistent, so keep them in the original container in a middle shelf instead of the egg shelf on the door.
- Top shelves: Place prepared foods and leftovers on the top shelf where you can easily see them. If three days have passed and the same containers are still there, it’s time to reheat or toss.
- Doors: Condiments often contain natural preservatives, so items like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and dressings are the best items to keep on the door. Same goes for pickles, salsa, nuts, and oils.
Eliminate odors. No one likes a stinky fridge. It makes food less appealing and may prevent you from discovering items that are past their shelf life. Martha Stewart suggests temporarily placing a tray in the fridge with activated charcoal, cat litter, or freshly ground coffee as an efficient way to eliminate lingering odors.
Cleaning your fridge doesn’t have to be a herculean task if you do it regularly.