Because everyday is a Hallmark holiday of some sort or other, November 15th happens to be National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. Crazy, yet true.
When you think about it, the timing of this “holiday” makes a lot of sense. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, what better time to do a thorough cleaning and organizing of your most vital of appliances. Gotta make room for that turkey, or if you’re not hosting, side dishes or desserts you may be preparing and bringing to the big meal.
STEP ONE – The Cleanout
In a perfect world, you would clean out your fridge on a regular basis, wiping up spilled food and caked-on residue, keeping the rims of salad dressings, jams and the like all shiny and pretty. Since most of us don’t have time for such luxuries, let’s do a major clean out now and aim for a maintenance program moving forward.
Start by removing all contents of the fridge (area by area so as not to cause spoilage of items left out too long). Trash any expired foods, more than 3-day old leftovers, nearly empty salad dressings or other containers, and anything else that’s been in there like forever.
Next, scrub down all the shelves and drawers til they are sparkling clean. Wipe down the outside of the fridge, especially the handles, which can harbor lots of yucky bacteria. Martha Stewart recommends wiping the interior of your fridge with a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart hot water, using a damp cloth and then drying with a clean towel. If you use soap or detergent they can leave behind a fragrance which will be absorbed by the food.
STEP TWO – Stuff you probably never knew
Before you put the remaining items back where they used to live in your fridge, take a gander at the guidelines below from Elizabeth Mayhew, contributing editor to NBC’s Today Show and the author of FLIP! For Decorating.
1. Set the temperature of your fridge to 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees for the freezer).
2. Don’t overstock your fridge…food needs room to breathe. By the same token, too little food in the fridge also effects the overall temperature and ability of the appliance to work properly. So all you single people with diet coke and water in your fridge, BUY some food!!
3. Keep your produce dirty until ready to eat. Wash it right before eating to avoid wilting and spoiling.
4. Use square, BPA-free containers as they are safe and fit better than round containers.
Apparently it’s very important to store food in specific areas of your fridge to maintain proper temperature control, thus keeping items fresh as long as possible. You may need to adjust the height of your shelves to accommodate these recommendations.
Where to Store What
Top Shelf – this is the least cold part of the fridge and where most of us typically store milk, a big no-no
- Juice, beer, water, sodas, white wine
Middle Shelf – most consistent temperature of anywhere in the fridge
- Eggs, in their original carton
- Leftovers in clear containers
Lowest Shelf – coldest section of the fridge
- Good for Milk & other dairy products
- Raw meat, kept on a plate or bowl
- Other cooked meats
Door – warmest part of the fridge
- Natural Oils (walnut, sesame) other oils do not need to be refrigerated
Drawers – never mix fruit & veggies in the same drawer as fruit gives off gases that cause veggies to rot quicker
- Veggies go in the high-humidity drawer
- Fruit goes in the crisper drawer
STEP THREE – Line your shelves (or not)
So I recently learned about a really cool new product called Fridge Coasters. Fridge Coasters are beautifully designed, super absorbent “liners” that fit inside every refrigerator no matter the manufacturer or refrigerator model you own. All coasters are designed with perforation lines to ensure a snug fit.
Fridge Coasters should be placed in high traffic areas inside your refrigerator; under produce in the crisper bins and under milk and salad dressing. Fridge Coasters are the ultimate multi-tasker. They come in 3 useful sizes: door coaster, original shelf and bin coaster: place in shallow deli/drawer bins and large bin coaster: place in veggie bins or directly on the shelf surface.
STEP FOUR – Organize
Big shocker that I chose the turquoise Fridge Coasters…can’t seem to get enough of this color. If you decide to use this product or some other type of shelf liner, install those before organizing the food.
Using the guidelines above place all beverages, other than milk and, if you have room, any other items that won’t spoil easily since this is the warmest part of the fridge.
Place your eggs, in their original carton and leftovers in clear containers on these shelves. You can use plastic or glass containers, but glass is best from an environmental perspective. If you’d like to label the leftovers to indicate the contents and date, try these. To take things a step further, you may want to buy some clean fridge bins to help categorize items for easy retrieval. There are actually many options on sizes for fridge bins. I found these on Amazon and these from Martha Stewart at Macy’s.
After adjusting the height as needed, place milk, other dairy items and raw meats. You may want to use a lazy susan for the smaller items, like cream and yogurt, so you can just grab and go. Place raw meats either on a plate or in a shallow dish to capture any leaking fluids.
Grouping like items together, place your condiments, dressings, oils, butter and cheeses. It’s also a good idea to keep nuts in the fridge as they spoil pretty quickly. While butter and cheese are dairy products, they don’t need to be kept at very cold temps.
Place unwashed lettuce and other veggies in the high-humidity bin. Place fruit in the crisper bin.
And voila, you’re done! Looks pretty spiffy, no? Now you’re all ready for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.