Schedule Regular Fridge Cleanings to Prevent Food Waste
It is a job no one likes to do — especially in my house — but with the price of groceries steadily rising, cleaning your refrigerator needs to be a weekly task to prevent food from going to waste. (See also: Household Cleaning Hacks That Save You Money)
When refrigerators are messy and remain unclean for a long period of time, two things are going to happen:
- Leftovers get pushed further to the back each day and are forgotten about quickly.
- Smells and food gases can ruin otherwise good food by making it taste funny or outright causing spoilage.
Here are some tips for keeping your fridge a priority in your weekly cleaning schedule.
It likely will take one good cleaning to get you back on track for an effective maintenance schedule. Take a few hours of a weekend, and then commit to one weekend every month to ensure the refrigerator is in good condition. Remember that regular cleaning will help extend the life of your appliance and keep repair and replacement costs down.
Get Everything Out
Remove every object residing in the refrigerator. If you don’t have enough counter space, use cardboard boxes to house your foods until the cleaning job is done. Next, remove all racks and drawers. You can place them outside near the hose, or in a bathtub or utility tub. Spray shelving with a bleach solution, or a natural cleaner if you prefer, that will disinfect and sanitize the components of the refrigerator.
Use a bucket containing half bleach and half hot water, and a clean sponge. Start at the top of the refrigerator and scrub all of the walls, ceiling, and remaining shelving. You can use an old toothbrush to get into the hard-to-reach areas. You will need to pick up debris with a paper towel, then repeat the washing process to ensure the interior space is clean. You can then wipe down the entire inside with a clean cloth and warm water, especially any components that are rubber or soft plastic (bleach can cause the disintegration of these materials). The bleach is necessary because the dampness of the refrigerator’s interior can cause the growth of mold and mildew. After the interior of the refrigerator is cleaned, tackle the shelves and racks in the same way. Once they have been cleaned, rinsed, and dried, place them back into the refrigerator.
Sort and Organize
Clean out your bucket, add fresh hot water, and get a new sponge or cloth. Start sorting the items you took out of your refrigerator. Select the jars and other objects that go back on the door shelves. Clean each bottle and jar off with a damp cloth before putting it back in the refrigerator, checking dates of expiration as you go. Toss all expired foods and group similar items together. This will help you know exactly what you have on hand and what you need to purchase from the store. Many times consumers overspend at the grocery store on supplies they already have.
Add Baking Soda
Baking soda is cheap and very effective at eliminating odors in the refrigerator and freezer. Put a baking soda box in the back of the refrigerator in a place less likely to be disturbed daily to prevent spillage. Replace the box every 30 days, and write the date you added it to the fridge on the box to help you remember. Add a note on the calendar too.
Develop a System
In order to keep up with refrigerator maintenance, arm your pantry with some necessary items including freezer bags, permanent markers, and more baking soda. As you add food back to the refrigerator, mark the date you made it and what it is, if necessary. Select one day each week when the refrigerator should be cleaned. It may be ideal to select the day before garbage is collected so the expired food doesn’t sit around the house for long. When that day comes, reorganize food items and throw out spoiled leftovers. Use a pre-moistened cleaning wipe to tackle spills and wipe down exposed areas weekly.
Buy Only What You Need
At the grocery store, buy only what your family can eat within the week, unless you can freeze it. The less you buy, the less chance the food will go to waste. You should get a basic idea of how much your family eats and what is left over after a typical seven-day time period. Use the information to shop accordingly. You’ll save not only money, but also the frustration of seeing wasted food being dumped into the trash week after week.