Spring Cleaning – Your Refrigerator

cleaning refrigeratorAs the weather warms up in March, I like to open up the windows, let in some fresh air, and do some spring cleaning. Since I have two young children at home, my spring cleaning usually happens in fits and starts. To tell the truth, my goal is usually to have the spring cleaning done by early May because I can only find a free hour or two each week to devote to it. This week and next week I am going to bring back a couple of old blog topics to help with spring cleaning this year.

This week we are going to go back to a blog written in January of 2013, “How to Clean and Organize your Refrigerator”. My refrigerator desperately needs to be cleaned out, so I think it is going to be my first spring cleaning project. Having a clean refrigerator prevents food waste because you can easily see what you have on hand and what needs to be eaten up soon. Having a clean refrigerator also lowers your risk of food-borne illness because foods are more likely to stay at the appropriate temperature and less likely to spoil.

Here is a simple checklist to follow for cleaning your refrigerator. Here are a few things you can do quickly if you do not have the time for a full refrigerator cleaning:

  • 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 any juices that leak 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.

Good luck with your spring cleaning,

Justine

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Get your Kitchen Organized for the Holidays

fridgeI am positive that one of the reasons for food waste is crowded, unorganized refrigerators. Just purchased food, as well as leftovers, get lost behind and under other items and spoil before they get used. Crowded, messy refrigerators can be discouraging and make us want to throw in the dish towel and head for the first drive-thru we can find.

We are just starting into the holiday season when you will likely need extra space in your refrigerator to thaw that turkey, make salads for the potluck, cool beverages, etc.  I guarantee that you will save money by spending 1-2 hours cleaning your refrigerator out.

Watch this 3 minute video How to organize your Fridge video or get the handout How to Organize Your Refrigerator.pdf .  Both provide simple, straightforward steps to make the job go fast and easy.

Peggy Signature

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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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.

Mise en Place: Work Smarter, Not Harder in the Kitchen

Recently when making supper for my family, I realized part way through making the pizza that I did not have any pizza sauce! I thought I had some, so didn’t check to make sure before I started making the pizza.  So supper got put on hold while I sent my husband to the store to get the pizza sauce. If I would have practiced ‘mise en place’, I would have known before I started that I didn’t have any sauce and could have run to get it before starting to cook or went to Plan B.

Mise en place is a French phrase that means to put in place. This means that before you begin preparing a dish, you gather all the items you need and prep what needs to be done ahead of time, such as chop onions. Mise en place allows food professionals to be efficient in the kitchen so they can get food prepared quickly and out to waiting customers. This handout from ISU Extension and Outreach gives you a visual explanation of mise en place.

However, you don’t need to be a professional chef to practice mise en place.

If you are preparing the Thanksgiving meal this week, practicing mise en place will help you be more efficient in the kitchen and less stressed about getting everything on the table on time! Looking at the recipes you are making will tell you what ingredients you need and what steps you need to complete. If you neglect to practice mise en place, you run the risk of not having all the ingredients on hand (like me!) or your food might burn or overcook as you rush to measure ingredients that need to be added to the dish.

I plan to start practicing mise en place more regularly to help make my time in the kitchen more efficient and enjoyable. I have a 3-year-old son, Parker. Therefore, it’s important that I get supper on the table quickly at night before he gets too hungry and wants to snack. Since I’m busy with work and other activities during the week, I try to prepare some items on the weekend so it’s easy to put supper together when I get home. I cut up veggies and put in the refrigerator and cook some meat ahead of time so it is ready when I need it. This is part of mise en place as well. A little planning and prep ahead of time saves me time (and a headache!) in the long run!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Declutter and Save Money on Grocery Bills

I am still in my organizing/cleaning frame of mind. I don’t mind when I have multiples of things I use all the time—like canned tomatoes, black beans, yogurt, margarine, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc., but when the pantry is full of partially used items or things I can’t remember how long I have had or why I bought them, it’s time to make a list and clean them out.

First, I make a list of everything I have too many of, partial packages, or specialty items that I have to make an effort to use. Then I make up menus using those items, crossing them off as I go. Sometimes I have to buy a few items to round out a meal or complete a recipe, so I also start a grocery list.

Last week it was my turn to host dinner club.  (Once a month, eight friends and I eat together. When it is your turn, you plan, prepare, and clean up after the meal. Then for 8 months you have great meals for free!)  I decided on a Tex-Mex theme to take advantage of what was in my cupboard. I was able to present a great meal while only buying 1 pound ground beef, 3 avocados, and a bag of carrots.

For the future, I am trying to write the month and year on items when I add them to my pantry. I remember my mom using a magic marker to write dates on the tops of cans and boxes. It was easy to see how long items had been on the shelf.

-pointers by Peggy

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