27 December 2013

What's in the Fridge?

I was reading a book a few weeks ago, and part of the story was how the husband decided to clean out the fridge whilst his wife was ill. At the back of the fridge he found a container of something. Taking it to his wife, he asked what it was, and how long it had been there. She had no idea, and didn't really care. I'll never forget his comment "But Joyce, you know it takes 28 days for food to go mouldy in Tupperware!"

Now, I don't know whether or not it takes 28 days for food to go off in Tupperware, but I do know that lurking at the back of just about every fridge is some kind of life-form. This had me thinking about food storage, and how we organise our refrigerators.

I decided to ask a few food storage experts (my mother, a good friend with four children, a neighbour who does a lot of exotic cooking) to see how they organise their fridges. We all seem to basically store food in the same way. Milk, soft drink and other everyday items on the top shelf, dairy and deli items on the middle shelf, meat on the bottom and fruit and vegies in the bins. Eggs went into the egg compartment. Tall bottles in the door.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep frequently used items within reach 
  • Keep items that need cooler temperatures near the bottom 
  • Keep your refrigerator temperature between 35 and 40 degrees F 
  • Door, Shelf, or Bin? Drawers near the top of the refrigerator are specially designed to be colder, to keep meats fresher. If your drawer has a lever for varying the temperature, set it at coldest for meats, and less cold for vegetables or cheeses. 

Bins at the bottom of the refrigerator are designed for fruits and vegetables. If they have adjustable humidity controls, set it higher for vegetables, and lower for fruits. If you don't have humidity controls, leave the drawer slightly open to allow air to flow in and prevent moisture build up - this is important for moisture-laden foods like lettuce and celery.

If your refrigerator can hold large bottles of milk in the door that's a good place to keep them, along with dairy items and condiments.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • The more people in your home, the more the refrigerator will be opened, allowing cool air to escape and costing more to run. Have an insulated drink bottle on the bench or sink for cold water or cordial. This stops the family opening the fridge door constantly for drinks. 
  • Incorrectly setting the temperature controls can cause frozen fruits and vegetables which can be costly.
  • Excess moisture in the vegetable bins will cause produce to spoil more quickly if you find condensation, wipe them dry. Line the bottom with a face washer, or paper towel if you re feeling extravagant. 

Refrigerator Freezer vs. Chest Freezer

One of the best wedding presents we received fourteen years ago was our freezer. It has saved us money, time and energy every day. Now, not everyone has the luxury of owning a separate freezer. If you are limited to the freezer attached to your refrigerator, set up a system that will allow you to know what is on each shelf: meats/poultry, dairy/breads, vegetables, etc. This system also works for separate freezers.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Always remove store wrapping and wrap items in freezer-weight foil or paper or Tupperware type freezer containers. These are designed especially for the freezer, are clear and have an airtight seal.
  • The day before adding a large quantity of food, turn the freezer to its coldest setting .
  • Mark a "use by" date on freezer packaging, and be sure to rotate items to avoid spoilage. 

What to Put Things In

Clear containers, wraps and bags are ideal - you'll know exactly what's inside with just a glance. Sauces and other casserole-type leftovers are best placed in plastic containers, while dry items, like chicken breasts, pork chops and hamburgers can be placed into plastic bags. Permanent markers can be used for writing on plastic bags, and ballpoint pen on Avery labels works well for marking freezer containers.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Always remove as much air as possible when preparing items for freezing to prevent freezer burn. A great tip: use a drinking straw to suck the air out of the bag before sealing tightly. 
  • Raw or cooked meat can be successfully frozen only once - never refreeze thawed meats.
  • Keep freezers 75% full to run efficiently - use milk bottles of water to take up space if needed - and you'll always have cooler blocks ready for your picnics.

With a little planning, your refrigerator and freezer can be an efficient storage area that will save you money, time and energy.

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Cath! Thanks for all of the tips. I, too, am lucky enough to have a separate freezer in our garage. It's in a terrible mess - full from corner to corner with unmarked stuff! I'm going to work on cleaning it out and using your suggestions! BTW - I'm stopping by to let you know that we have nominated you and your blog for a Liebster Blog Award. This award is given to bloggers by bloggers and I follow you on Bloglovin', so know what a great job you do! I hope you'll accept the nomination, so please stop by my post, Breaking the Rules, at http://www.tootsweet4two.com/breaking-the-rules/ to get the details on how to accept this award and share the encouragement by giving the award to some of your favorite bloggers! Tootles!


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