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Keeping Your Refrigerator Clean and Organized Makes You Healthier

February 24, 2010
contents of fridge

This is an actual image from my top shelf of the refrigerator

Here are some tips and tricks I use and share with you in how to keep your refrigerator looking its best while having the right foods on the right shelves which in turn helps you choose the best foods to eat.

I had started a trend in my refrigerator last year and at least once a month I do my best to really review what foods are kept in my refrigerator. It is so easy to simply add foods pushing back those items we may have brought home from a restaurant or from a previous night only to forget about them and worse – to not even being able to recognize said food item when you get around to cleaning your fridge. Yuck!

Keeping your refrigerator clean is not only important for you and your family’s health, but how you keep foods in your fridge can actually help you choose those healthy foods by making them look that much more appetizing by how they are stored…How so?

With the recent unexpected stint in the hospital, I ended up rereading the few magazines I had at my disposal and of course the magazines were food-based. So many things came to light with the amount of time I had in resting and in healing, that I was reminded that I had to get my refrigerator back to its gleaming self once more.

Literally not a couple of hours out of the hospital, I pulled up a chair to my refrigerator and literally and sadly tossed many foods that were way past their prime, and some of which had turned odd colors we will not speak of here and I washed every shelf down. I ended up with basically a bare refrigerator and knew I was turning a new leaf quite literally.

In the past, when I have had friends reach into my refrigerator they have mentioned more than once how great it looked – and no, I do not have one of those fancy refrigerator (wish list please – hint hint, nudge nudge) – so here are a few of my tips and when you follow them, you will not only see what is in your refrigerator, but it seriously helps you to choose better foods and to get to cooking quickly and easily.

scary look contents of an over stuffed refrigerator

scary look contents of an over stuffed refrigerator - clicking on the image you will see other scary and actual refrigerators and their contents

Tips and Tricks to Organizing your Refrigerator in Making you Healthier and your Food Choices Smarter:

  • To Start – I Grab a Chair and pull it right up to the fridge so that I can get comfortable with not bending over.
  • Starting from the top shelf, remove every item, look at its expiration dates, toss what needs to be tossed and while the shelf is empty – cleaning it helps make this process quick and easy.
  • Organizing your Refrigerator: The top shelf I reserve for all fresh vegetables and having them seen clearly and well organized makes it easier to grab them for quick use and for eating. The second shelf is for cheese, spreads like mustard, yogurts, breads like tortillas, etc. The bottom shelf I have adjusted so that drinks can stand easily – like the Britta pitcher, orange juice, soy milk, etc. The bottom shelf is also used for leftover foods in properly labeled containers which can be reused.
  • Storing Leftover Foods: I may store the left over foods in clean reusable plastic containers, but never reheat in the plastic – use your dishware for this to help prevent BPA plastics from leaching into foods. Read my popular article on avoid BPA plastics from getting into your food.
  • Top Shelf and Using Bowls for Fruit and Vegetables: I use bowls on the top shelf to hold and contain vegetables than can be out of their bags like bell peppers, jalapenos, fennel, etc.
  • I use a second bowl to add fruit that can be grabbed quickly for use in cooking and eating, like apples, lemons, limes, grapes and oranges. I usually keep a few of each in this bowl and any extras go into the bottom fruit drawer.  I keep lettuces, spinach and other greens on the right side of the top shelf. My fresh cilantro is usually in a glass with the bottoms in fresh water. And my other fresh herbs are kept here too like rosemary and thyme.
  • Second Shelf for breads, condiments and sauces: I keep my yogurts, cheeses, spreads like my homemade hummus and salsas, mayonnaise/mustards on the second shelf along with my tortillas and pita breads. Having them grouped makes it easier to locate them.
  • Bottom shelf for tall items and leftover foods: I have adjusted the shelves so that I can have fruit juice containers like orange juice and my soy milk stand easily on the bottom shelf along with the Britta water pitcher. I also keep any leftover foods on this bottom shelf and would keep meat ready for cooking here too, since the bottom shelf is the coldest in your refrigerator. A wine bottle can also stand up easily. Making the bottom shelf handy this way really allows you to use your side door for other items…
  • The Refrigerator Door:
  • Go through all those salad dressings and condiments, undoubtedly you will find at least one that is way past its expiration date! Then while the shelves are empty, wipe down every nook and cranny.
  • Then group the items with like items.
  • On the bottom side door “shelf”, I keep taller items like maple syrup, ketchup, salad dressings, sesame oil and any tall drink containers like seltzer.
  • The second or middle shelf, I keep eggs (and there are those who say you shouldn’t keep eggs here) but I do keep them in the box they come in, and I also don’t open the refrigerator door as often like a family of 6 might – so if you have a large family – you may want to keep your eggs on that middle shelf by the yogurts. I also keep on this shelf level, my yeast jar for making breads, a small collection of other condiments like jellies and jams all grouped together. I also keep the specialty sauces like hoisin, sesame oils, soy sauce together, since when making asian dishes, this section comes all on out. By keeping them together in the refrigerator, you will make selecting your foods for your recipes that much easier to locate in your refrigerator.
  • I do use the cheese/butter area to keep my opened and well wrapped cheeses. Butter I always keep in the freezer and only take out a stick when I need to use it.I also keep my fresh ginger in this section as well.

Once you have reorganized your refrigerator, not only will you be well pleased with yourself, but you will easily be able to locate those foods you need for cooking. And by having the freshest vegetables and fruits seen first on that top shelf, you may just be reminded to choose healthier foods than that store bought Etermann’s or Sarah Lee’s cake that sneakily sits on that second shelf…I won’t tell you ‘how could you!’ especially when you could have made it yourself…but I am only teasing you…

Also since now the air can circulate around your food, your refrigerator is working not as hard, your foods have a less chance of spoiling quicker and well, you can see what’s in your refrigerator.  And don’t forget to clean that bottom grate on the outside of your refrigerator to keep.

When my friends come over and start to help themselves, you should hear them exclaim how great my refrigerator looks – and its healthy too – which in turns helps me to continue a healthier life style and making it easier for me to locate and grab those ingredients for cooking every night.

Hope you enjoyed these tips – let me know how your organize your refrigerator and any tips you may have in helping you stay organized in your kitchen – would love to hear from you!

Chow Ciao for Now ~Chef Maven

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 2:12 pm

    Great post! Reminds me how desperately I need to get my fridge organized 🙂

    • February 26, 2010 3:20 pm

      You will feel so much better when you do…and taking a chair to sit on down, so you can really see everything – saves your back from hunching over. Doesn’t take more than 10 minutes, but wow, it really makes you rethink how one stores their foods in the refrigerator!

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