Thanksgiving Day is around the corner so it seems appropriate to note that November 15th is “National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day”.
Yes, really. Now is the time to purge all those unidentifiable artifacts taking up valuable space in your refrigerator and freezer to make room for your holiday favorites. (Oh, and it’s also “America Recycles Day”, so dispose appropriately.)
Cleaning out the fridge is something most of us only do when something explodes, starts cultivating other living organisms, or smells so bad we can no longer ignore it. We've all had the unfortunate experience of consuming something that “didn’t agree with” us. The Mayo Clinic advises that leftovers are only safe for 3-4 days. After that, the risk of food poisoning steadily increases.
Are you sure that to-go container is from Sunday? How long did it sit in your car or your bag before you got it into the fridge?
Get in the weekly habit of cleaning out the fridge the day before trash pick-up so the offenders can head straight to the curb. Grab the trash can, some clean rags and soapy water, and pen and paper. Work quickly. Pull everything out, wipe down and dry the interior, then return only what is not expired and you know you will use shortly. Make a list of items you need to replace.
As you return things to the fridge, group like things together. This saves time and money later by making meal prep easier, eliminating duplicate purchases, and reducing waste. Manufacturers detail the specific zones of your refrigerator in the manual. (If you can’t locate the manual, google your make and model.) Seriously,check out the manual.
It is generally agreed that the doors are the warmest part of the appliance, so store the most shelf-stable things there, like salad dressing, bread, and condiments. If there are drawers marked “fruit” and “vegetable”, use them for those purposes and make sure their settings are correct. (Again, check the manual for recommended settings.) Place “drippy” items, like raw or thawing meat, on dishes or in bowls to avoid the contamination of items nearby or below. Doing this, will also expedite future weekly clean outs by reducing the need to wipe down every week.
Repeat the same actions for the freezer. Some people find it helpful to keep an inventory list on the freezer door that includes item, date, and serving size. It can be particularly helpful when you need a quick easy meal. Though technically frozen food will keep as long as it stays frozen, it is recommended to use within 3 months. Taste, texture, and color will be compromised with freezer burn. Trying to prove me wrong, a friend once cooked a steak that he had kept frozen for 4 years through 3 moves. Gray steak with a sawdust texture is NOT appetizing!
Conveniently, November 15th is also “National Raisin Bran Day” and “National Bundt (pan) Day”. So, while enjoying your raisin bran and searching for your Bundt pan, organize the food pantry, clean out the expired products, and make your inventory list for holiday baking and cooking. Again, group like things together: baking ingredients and spices ; boxed side dishes, rice, and pasta; canned vegetables, fresh potatoes, and onions; breakfast foods, etc.
You may now be looking at the trash can and feeling guilty about the amount of food you are throwing out. Forgive yourself and vow to do better in the future. Here are some tips to consider:
Thanks for reading,