There’s nothing worse than throwing away (previously) fresh produce, meat, or dairy just because it was pushed to the back of your fridge or stored improperly. Every year, households in the United States throw away nearly 40 percent of their food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food losses in the United States total over $160 billion annually. Here’s how to organize your fridge to keep all of your ingredients and leftovers fresh—your wallet and the planet will thank you.
Follow the “first in, first out” rule.
When it comes to storing leftovers, meat, and produce, you should eat the oldest foods first. The “first in, first out” (FIFO) system is a great method to help keep your fridge and freezer organized and free of expired foods. To implement FIFO in your kitchen, start by labeling your leftovers with the dates you store them, keeping the older leftovers toward the front or top of your fridge. FIFO not only makes it easier to find leftovers more quickly but can also help you use everything more efficiently.
To make sure you’re using ingredients before they expire, keep the ingredients that were purchased earlier (and whose shelf life is the shortest) toward the front of the fridge. Utilizing a FIFO system is especially helpful when you’re storing multiples of the same product in your fridge, such as milk or eggs. Additionally, adhering to specific storage times can help you ensure your food stays fresh.
Keep your meat in its own drawer.
To keep your meat fresh, keep meat, poultry, and fish in the coldest spot of your fridge, ideally in a dedicated meat drawer. For most modern refrigerators, the coldest spot is at the bottom of the fridge. If your fridge allows you to adjust the temperature settings for each drawer, set your meat drawer to 29 degreess Farenheit.
Whether you choose to use a dedicated drawer or the bottom shelf for meat storage, it’s essential to clean the drawer or shelf regularly to avoid cross-contamination between different meats and other items in your fridge. To help avoid cross-contamination, keep your meat, fish, and poultry packaged in its store wrapping until use, including plastic bags. If your meat didn’t come in a styrofoam tray, keep a plate underneath to prevent leakage.
Use your crisper doors properly.
When it comes to storing your produce, humidity is key. Ethylene gas is a naturally occurring hormone in plants, which triggers some types of produce to ripen. However, too much ethylene gas for too long can cause your produce to ripen, spoil, and rotten before you can use them.
As a result, most modern refrigerators have two crisper doors: One designed to store certain types of produce (typically fruits) at lower humidity and one designed to keep other produce (typically vegetables) at higher humidity. One of the easiest ways to keep your produce fresh longer is to use your crisper doors properly, separating produce sensitive to ethylene gas from other produce. To optimize your fridge storage, check out this handy fridge storage guide for fruits and vegetables.
Keep longer shelf-life items on the door.
Your fridge door experiences the most frequent temperature fluctuations, making the items on the door prone to rapid spoilage. To avoid spoiling your produce, meat, or dairy, only keep items with a longer shelf-life on the fridge, such as soft drinks and condiments.
While some refrigerator doors have designated spots for egg storage, you should avoid storing your eggs on the fridge door for food safety reasons. Eggs should stay in their original packaging, and they’ll spoil more quickly if they experience temperature variations every time you open the fridge.
Store dairy and leftovers on the top shelf.
The upper shelves of your fridge are ideal for taller items, leftovers, and ready-to-eat items, such as yogurt, cheese, and deli meat. Not every fridge has the same layout, but most fridges allow you to adjust shelves, which can save you the headache of trying to fit taller items (i.e., milk) into other spots.
To keep your dairy fresher longer, store your milk, cheese, and yogurt toward the back of the fridge, which should stay as cold as possible without freezing. Always leave cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, milk, and sour cream in their original containers, and store hard cheeses in store wrappings until you use them. Meanwhile, keep all leftovers in leak-proof, clear containers or wraps so you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Whether you’re tired of opening your fridge to curdled milk or wilted spinach, optimizing your fridge storage can have a massive impact on your grocery expenses—and the environment—by reducing the amount of fresh food you toss each day.
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