By Christy Tapocsi, YMCA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
What a perfect day to fall right before the holidays: Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day on November 15. This is a great chance to stay ahead of the stress by preparing your most-used appliance for the upcoming festivities.
Having a clean kitchen is critical to reducing your risk of foodborne illness and cross-contamination. Plus, an orderly kitchen makes it easier to practice healthy habits.
Today, I’m sharing simple fridge hacks everyone can use for cleanliness, organization and safety. You can “hack your fridge” in one fell swoop, begin with cleaning out the door, or start with just one shelf!
START WITH A CLEAN SLATE
- Take out everything.
- Throw away all foods that are expired. You know those old salad dressings and condiments you keep promising to eat eventually? Now’s the time to get real and get rid of them. This ensures that the contents of your fridge are safe. Plus, it creates more space for holiday meals.
- Wipe down every surface. This is a prime opportunity to get the gunk off of each shelf, bin and the door. After a thorough cleaning, place a box of opened baking soda in your refrigerator to eliminate odors. You might be surprised at how good it feels to see that fresh interior, and it helps you mentally prepare for the upcoming festivities and new year.
Bonus: Make your own cleaning solutions with items you most likely already have in your kitchen!
- Observe FIFO: First In, First Out. This is a term used in most restaurants and is a good one to use at home, too. It means you use the oldest items first until they run out. For example, drink all of one carton of milk before opening another. This will keep you from wasting food, money or space in your fridge. So, put items that expire first in the front, where they are the most visible.
- Maximize your bins. Use plastic bins and Lazy Susans. Group similar foods together such as condiments, drinks and produce. Make items easy to see and grab. After all, if you can’t see them, how will you eat them?
- Establish a snack spot. Designate a space in your fridge for grab-and-go snacks. Use a bin to arrange pre-portioned fruits, string cheese, nuts, etc. Here are 10 quick and healthy snacks to get you started.
PROTECT YOUR HEALTH
- Keep the temperature at 40 degrees in the refrigerator. Bacteria thrive in temperatures above that. The freezer should be at 0 degrees.
- Store milk in the middle of the fridge, where it will be consistently cold, versus the door, where the temperature fluctuates. Avoid storing perishables in the door for this reason as well.
- Put all raw meats in the bottom section of the refrigerator in a container or dish. This ensures that any juices from the meats will not leak onto fresh foods and contaminate them.
Establish Healthy Habits with the Y
Bringing order back to the kitchen makes a healthy lifestyle easier—but it’s just the first step. The YMCA’s Nutrition Counseling services offered by Christy and our experienced team of Registered Dietitians can help you cultivate healthy eating habits and provide the support you need on your way to overall wellness. Let us partner with you in reaching your goals!