How to Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator

If you have been reading the SpendSmart blog lately, you know I am on a crusade to get my kitchen more organized.  After creating better centers in my kitchen and organizing the pantry, I started on the refrigerator. I hate wasting time hunting for items and juggling containers to make something fit in the refrigerator. Throwing away food, feels like throwing money in the trash. I save money and time with a more organized refrigerator.

If your refrigerator needs to be cleaned and organized, check out the step by step guide How to Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator.

If you are not ready to tackle this job, here are a few quick tips to properly store food in your refrigerator.

  • Make sure your refrigerator temperature is  40°F or slightly below and your freezer is 0°F or below. Higher temperatures mean faster food spoilage.
  • Air circulates constantly in a refrigerator and foods dry out quickly. Everything needs to be wrapped in foil, plastic, or put in airtight containers. Moisture- and vapor-proof materials are best.
  • Perishables like dairy, eggs, and meat should be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not the door). Fresh meat should be in a drawer or in a container on a bottom shelf so juices do not drip on other foods.
  • Identify a spot for leftovers and label them. Make a plan to use them. If you know you will not use them within four days, freeze them or throw them away.
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator when they happen to prevent bacteria (germs) and odors from developing. Use hot soapy water to clean up any spill and rinse with clean water.

How Clean is it? – Washing vs. Sanitizing

I have been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately.  Not just getting things washed, but sanitized.  When I wash something, I get all the visible dirt, crumbs, pet hair, etc. off of it.  When I sanitize something, I get the germs off of it to prevent my family from getting sick.  I know that if I can keep the germs off the things in my home that my family touches a lot, I can keep them out of the doctor office, which saves me time and money.    

So, why have I been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately?  My son tries to touch and eat everything.  On top of that, he still eats most of his food with his hands.  Just this morning, I watched him run into the bathroom and pound on the toilet, then run into the living room to pet the dog, then run over to his toys where he began to play.  Shortly after that, he started asking for breakfast.  I could just visualize the germs on his hands traveling from the toilet, joining up with the germs the dog carries around, and ending up on everything he was touching, including his toys and his breakfast.

I do not want him to get sick from something he may have touched in the bathroom or on the dog, so I do two simple things.  The first is washing.  I wash his hands, the table, the counters and other dirty surfaces, and toys.  To wash surfaces and toys, I get a paper towel wet with hot, soapy water and use it to wipe down whatever is dirty, whenever it is dirty (such as the table after a meal).  Sometimes I use a wash cloth or dish rag instead of a paper towel, but I always put it in the dirty laundry right away to prevent dirt and germs from passing from the rag to something that is clean.

The second thing I do is sanitize the things he frequently touches to kill the germs that may be growing there.  I always make sure a surface is washed before I sanitize.  I usually sanitize surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom (table, counters, sinks) once or twice each week.  Other things I sanitize as needed, such as door handles, light switches, and toys. 

To sanitize, I have a clear, plastic spray bottle where I mix ½ teaspoon of bleach with 2 cups of water.  This solution is effective at killing germs, plus much less expensive than buying a pre-made cleaner.  To remain effective at killing germs, this solution should be dumped out and remade once each week.  Also, if you have young children at home, store this solution where the children cannot get to it. 

I almost always sanitize at night before we go to bed, so I just spray the table, toy, etc. and let it air dry overnight.  If you want to sanitize something that you think someone might be touching before it can air dry, simply dry it with a paper towel.  Even though my home is not sparkling clean, I take comfort in knowing that I am taking this small step toward keeping my family healthy.  

~ By Justine Hoover

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