We all hate wasting food. Food waste is a drain on our bank accounts, not to mention our environment.
You meant well when you bought that huge kale bunch and big tub of Greek yogurt, but you just never got around to it!
Well, there are some ways to buy yourself a little extra time to actually enjoy the foods you spend your hard-earned money on. One of the major keys to cutting your food waste and saving your bank account comes in the form of a big, cold, boxy object.
No, not your mother-in-law.
The fridge is your friend. Like all good friendships, they need to be maintained.
So how do you pack your fridge to save on waste and money? Here’s 10 simple ways.
- Set the Right Temp
News flash. Fridges and freezers are meant to be cold. The reason for this is because keeping foods at cold temperatures can prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause the food…and your belly…to spoil. 41 F is the beginning of the danger zone. So, be sure to keep the fridge’s temperature set at 40 F or below and your freezer at 0 F.
There’s usually a gauge in your fridge that allows you to know the temperature. Make a habit of checking it out. Be aware of your temperatures. Catching the problem immediately can save a lot of long-term waste.
- Don’t Overcrowd the Fridge
In order to preserve your food, refrigerators need to distribute air freely throughout the inside. The harder your fridge has to work to keep everything cool, the faster your fridge will wear out.
Be realistic about your grocery spending. Gluttony can get the best of us. If you find yourself throwing more out than you can eat, start cutting down. Especially in the case of fruits and veggies, just buy what you need. You don’t need to buy a whole bag of apples or every banana in the bunch. Just get 1 or 2. If you go shopping every week, just buy enough to get you through until your next shopping trip.
- Use Your Freezer
Unlike the refrigerator, the freezer is made for packing. The more you pack into the freezer, the better it is for all the products inside. Freezer items packed tightly together help keep the item it is touching cool as well.
Freezers are also great for leftovers. If you made a ton of spaghetti and meatballs and can’t imagine eating it for another month, then don’t! Don’t throw it out. Freeze your leftovers, bread, vegetables, and herbs for future use.
- Condiments in the Door, Dairy and Eggs Out
How do you get into your refrigerator? This isn’t a trick question. It’s by opening the door. So, the contents of the door are exposed to room temperature more than any other part of the fridge. Sure, when you close the door, it will get back down to cooling temperature, but the fluctuation of temperatures affects different products in different ways.
Foods more prone to bacteria-growth, such as milk and eggs, should not be placed on the door. Instead, put more temperature-resistant products on the door. This would include condiments, juices, and sauces.
- Meats on the Bottom
Meats, seafood, and poultry are the most temperature-sensitive of foods. They should be placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is the back and bottom of the fridge. Always keep meat in its original packing. Place a plate underneath your meat to catch any juices. Cross-contamination can be costly for your other food products, your wallet, and your health.
- Separate Your Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are lumped together on the food pyramid, but they’re not necessarily the best of friends. Fruits emit a gas called ethylene, which is a chemical that speeds up the ripening process. It can shorten the shelf-life of many vegetables. There are typically two crisper drawers in a refrigerator. Keep a separation between the two.
If you must keep fruits near veggies, some veggies are a little more sensitive to ethylene. So keep an eye out for asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, squash, and watermelon.
Some fruits contain a very high concentrate of ethylene and should just be omitted from the fridge altogether. These include apricots, avocadoes, bananas, cantaloupes, kiwi, mangoes, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes.
- Don’t Pre-Wash Your Produce
Yes. You must certainly WASH your produce. With growing fear of pesticides (not to mention all the other people who touch it before you do), produce needs a thorough washing before consuming. Sure, it’s easier to do it in bulk, as soon as you walk in the door with it. However, it’s not the best idea.
Too much moisture causes foods to rotten much quicker. If you do wash produce before putting them in the fridge, make sure to rinse out any extra moisture with a colander or a salad spinner. Also, store any leafy greens with a square of paper towel to draw out any extra water. If you wash berries before storing in the fridge, eat within three days.
- Put Ready-to-Eat Foods on the Top Shelf
Remember those berries you need to eat quicker? This is their home. The upper shelve region of the refrigerator has the most consistent temperatures. This is where you should put leftovers, tortillas, hummus, deli meats, and berries. There’s no need to keep these foods as cold as the meats below, but they will definitely spoil if they’re stored within the door where the condiments are.
- Know What NOT To Put in the Fridge
The fridge seems like an easy remedy to buy your food some shelf-life, but it can also damage the quality of certain products. Here are a few popular ones:
- Pickles- There’s so many preservatives in pickles, so there is no need to refrigerate them. Refrigeration of pickles just makes everything inside the jar huddle closer together. Putting the jar on a room temperature shelf will allow air to circulate freely. This will leave your pickles crisper.
- Bread- Bread is perfect to freeze, but keeping it thawed out at a cold temperature like the fridge will dry it out. Keep bread on the counter for four days and then freeze what you don’t use.
- Onions- Onions are best in a paper bag and in a cool spot…and away from potatoes!
- Garlic- Put the garlic in a bag next to the onion. Refrigerating garlic makes the root lose its potency, and its nutrients!
- No Food On Top of the Fridge
Yes, it may seem like great usage of space, but it’s not a shelf. It’s the top of a fridge! In order to cool off the inside of the fridge, the refrigerator’s condenser coil will pump the warm out. If one thing stuck with me from science class, it’s that heat rises. This will cause condensation on anything wrapped on top of your fridge that can make food moldy and rotten. Also, keep your wine off of there. The top of fridge is cooking your pinot, killing off those tannins you love.