A refrigerator can say a lot about a person. I don’t go and check on other people’s refrigerator intentionally but sometimes I just happen to get a glance inside. At times I’ve been horrified with the chaos inside, I ask myself, “How do these people live? What are they eating? How are they still alive?”
Yeah, I’m a little obsessive (and judgmental) about food storage and safety. But the reality is, we all have to be. For this very reason, I selected a medium-size refrigerator for my home. For a lot of you, it may even be considered small. (No, it’s not dorm size!) I bought one that was smaller so that it would limit the amount of food I could buy and store. If there is no room, I can’t buy that much. And, since I lean toward fresh food rather than outdated, overripe and moldy item, a smaller unit does the trick. Let’s be real: No matter how neat and organized someone is, items have the tendency to end up in the back of the refrigerator…no man’s land.
The first thing I do when I come home from the store is to go through what’s currently in my fridge. I get rid of the “iffy” foods, place what I just bought in the back and bring the oldies but still goodies to the front. It’s that tried-and-true “rotate your stock” method.
When I’m in my cooking mode (which, as you may have guessed, is often), I make sure to only put back labeled containers of whatever I made back into the refrigerator. I write down the name of the food and the date on the container first. This is a trick that I carried with me from the restaurant biz and it works well.
I also clean my fridge weekly. I toss out food that is no longer good (or past its expiration date) and wipe it down. When I spill something, I clean it up immediately with a suitable product using a fresh sponge or cloth, rinsing it often. Meat drawers are the second-dirtiest spots in the fridge after produce drawers, so I pay particular close attention to these areas. Out-of-sight is not out-of-mind.
Another thing I do is to keep track of the inside temperature of my refrigerator. Because I realize the importance of this, I even keep a second thermometer inside the fridge and compare that reading to the one built inside of the unit.
A few other things I’m careful about when it comes to food storage and safety:
- I always refrigerate any fruit or vegetable once it has been cut. Some bacteria can actually grow in it so I also make sure to use it fairly quickly to avoid it becoming dangerous to eat.
- To stop cross-contamination, I make sure that I keep cut-up and prepared foods in air tight bags or containers.
- I always store meats on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. I keep it well wrapped (or in containers) to avoid it from dripping.
- Any foods that have been sitting at room temperature for more then 2 hours is tossed in the trash.
- I use produce within 2-5 days after purchase.
- I find creative ways to use fresh herbs quickly so they don’t go bad.
Taking care of your fridge is one way of taking care of your health.