And the truth is, your fridge probably has something to do with it.
The fridge may be the most used appliance in any kitchen. The problem is that you might not know how to use, clean, and maintain it properly, which means a lot of food goes bad before you can eat it.
Instead of literally throwing away your money, we're here to help you figure out how to clean your fridge, how to properly organize your fridge, and how to maintain that organization and cleanliness.
Getting Your Fridge Clean
First things first: let's get your fridge clean. You can't keep it clean if you don't do this first.
Clear Everything Out
It's not an enjoyable task, but it is a necessary one. You should be doing it every couple of months, so you're probably due for a cleaning anyway.
Take every single individual item out, starting with the freezer and then moving to the fridge. Take anything that might defrost and put it in the sink.
Clean, Toss, and Take Inventory
Once everything is out, break out an anti-bacterial solution and take out a few of your aggressions on your fridge. Clean everything from shelves to handles to ice trays. No surface is too small.
Then, go through all of your food items one by one. Anything that's spoiled or is about to spoil should be thrown away or composted. The same thing goes for almost-empty condiment bottles, old takeaway cartons, and anything in the freezer that requires discretion.
Hint: if there's a chance of freezer burn, it's been in the freezer too long.
As you go through food items, make a list of all the things you're tossing in the rubbish bins. This will tell you what you need to replace at the store.
And if you're throwing away an almost-full jar of something, pause and consider whether it actually needs to be thrown away or whether it was a wasteful purchase from the beginning.
Organize Your Fridge, Top to Bottom
Once you've tightened the ranks, it's time to properly organize your fridge.
Remember the expression, "Everything has a place and everything's in its place"? You probably didn't know it, but there's actually a correct place to put every individual item in your fridge.
For example: despite popular opinion, milk shouldn't be stored in the door of the fridge. It should actually be in the back of the bottom shelf, where the fridge is coldest, to prevent spoiling.
With that in mind, let's chat about what should go where in your fridge.
If you've been using the top of your fridge like a food attic, you're doing it wrong.
In order to regulate the temperature inside, your fridge's condenser coil pushes warm air out. And as science class tells us, warm air rises, which means all that warmth ends up (you guessed it) at the top of the fridge cabinet.
If you've wondered why you keep throwing out bottles of wine after storing them on top of the fridge, now you know. Heat is kryptonite for wine, and the same thing goes for bread (nobody likes a fuzzy baguette).
The top of your fridge should only be used for appliances, paper towels, and cookbooks. That's it.
Next is the upper shelves of the fridge. This area has the most consistent temperatures in the whole fridge.
As such, you should keep things that don't need to be cooked on the top shelves. This includes leftovers, ready-to-eat foods like hummus and tortillas, and drinks (not milk).
This is also a good thing because it generally keeps these foods in your eye line when you open the fridge, which will remind you to eat them before they spoil.
Then, there are the doors.
The doors are the warmest part of the whole fridge, which makes sense when you recall that they're the most exposed to warm air anytime you open the fridge.
Because of this, the doors should only house things that are most resistant to spoiling -- like jams, juices, condiments, and other similar items. Keep in mind, though, that many condiments have a shelf life and don't necessarily need refrigeration to keep.
The upper shelves might have the most consistent temperatures, but the lower shelves have the coldest.
This is why milk should be stored here instead of the door. Things that spoil fast, like eggs, raw meat, and seafood.
Raw meat and seafood come with their own associated bacteria, so there should be a section of the lower shelves designated exclusively as the meat locker to prevent cross-contamination. Either keep meat in the packages you bought it in or place it in a bin that's cleaned frequently.
Note that the bottom shelves of the fridge and the freezer do not use the same logic. Cold air must be able to flow, which means that the bottom shelves shouldn't be packed to the brim.
Otherwise, you'll get pockets of heat and warmth (room temperature yoghurt, anyone?) which leaves you with inconsistent temperatures, a higher energy bill, and food that goes bad tragically fast.
Next, the place where you probably send much of your produce to die: the crisper.
The crisper drawers are designed to keep fruit and vegetables moist so that they keep longer, which means that the fruit and vegetables belong in the crisper.
This is not to say you want a free-for-all in the crisper, as many fruits produce ethylene to help them ripen. That's fine, except for the part where the ethylene causes other produce to ripen, go yellow, or even sprout.
This includes obvious suspects like ice, meat, and produce, but it can also include less obvious suspects like pasta sauce, tortillas, even bread. Fun fact: bread can keep in the freezer for up to three months (just don't store it in the fridge, it will dry out).
The key with the freezer is the opposite of the fridge: pack foods tightly in their containers at close quarters to maximize storage. In the freezer, packing things together actually saves energy. Just don't use glass jars because they can shatter. Stick to plastic Tupperware and bags instead.
Keeping Your Fridge Clean
Once you know how to correctly organize your fridge, you also need to know how to keep it clean and organized. Here are a few tricks that will help.
Line Your Shelves
Before you put a single item back in the fridge, line the shelves, especially the crisper.
There are two reasons for this:
- It absorbs extra moisture, helping produce stay good longer.
- It soaks up any juices from fruits and veg, which makes it easy to clean.
You can go for something colourful, but newspaper or paper towels will get the job done just as well.
Ditch the Clutter
Wait, didn't you already remove the clutter?
Yes, but not completely.
You see, there are quite a lot of items that people store in the fridge that don't actually need to be refrigerated at all.
Hot sauce, for example, can stay fresh for up to three years out of the fridge, even after opening. If your avocados never seem to ripen, stop storing them in the fridge. Alternately, potatoes rot faster (and taste funny) when refrigerated.
Even honey, which you might think needs refrigeration, can be happily kept in the pantry. In fact, honey is the only food with an eternal shelf life. Seriously, they found honey in the pharaohs tombs that was still perfectly good.
One Bottle Rule
Another good way to keep your fridge tidy is to abide by the one bottle rule.
It's simple: one bottle of each thing in the fridge at any given time. The extra unopened bottles can live happily in the pantry without any trouble, saving you a lot of space in the fridge door.
No Plates or Cups
Finally, resist the temptation to put leftovers in the fridge in plates or cups. Your leftover cuppa joe, for example. Or a leftover plate of fruit.
Make it a rule that anything that goes into the fridge must be transferred to proper storage containers. This will help reduce spills and prevent spoilage.
Ready to Make the Most of Your Fridge?
After all of that, your fridge should look ready for a professional kitchen!
If you still need a bit of guidance in the fridge department, you came to the right place. Check out the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen section of our blog for more tips and ideas. Or, if you're looking to replace your fridge, check out our selection of available appliances today.