You can reduce food waste by trying these fridge management tips.
Your fridge may be packed to the brim with fresh ingredients, snacks and cold drinks, but if it’s poorly organised, you might end up throwing things away before you can eat or drink them.
To avoid food wastage, you need to think carefully about the food you buy and make the most of your freezer. Knowing what’s in your fridge and that it is stored at the right temperature can also help reduce food waste – saving money in the process.
Most people quickly run out of fridge space once they have put away the weekly grocery shopping. But before you start shopping for a bigger fridge, it may be time to give your old fridge a long-overdue clean-out.
Anything with visible mould should be thrown out, and you should regularly weed out half-used jars that are past their best before date. Check the packaging for indications of how long it’s safe to keep them after opening. If this has already elapsed – or if you think it may have – out it goes. In future, write on the lid of jars or tubs the date you opened them.
Get into the habit of checking what you already have in your fridge or freezer before you go shopping. This will prevent repeat buying of items you already have and can help cut food waste.
The right spot
When you unpack your shopping, avoid stuffing items wherever you can find a space. Organising everything in the right way will help your food last longer.
Keep food with the fastest approaching best before date closest to the front of the fridge.
The top shelf is for foods that don’t need cooking, such as pre-cooked meats and leftovers.
On the middle shelf, store dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter.
The lower shelf is the right place to store raw meat and fish – be sure they are wrapped. Storing these items on the bottom shelf also minimises the risk of cross-contamination.
Drawers are great for vegetables, salads, fruit and herbs.
The fridge’s inner door is the warmest area. You should store items with natural preservatives here, such as condiments, fruit juices, and jams.
Packages of open food and leftovers should be entirely sealed to keep your fridge smelling fresh and stop bacteria from spreading. Glass containers and compostable bioplastic clingwrap are eco-friendly alternatives to plastic containers.
It’s important to keep your fridge’s shelves, drawers, and walls clean. Ideally, you should spot clean your fridge weekly and deep clean it monthly.
Make sure you clean up any spills or drips as soon as you notice them. This will eliminate odours and keep your fridge bacteria-free.
If you have an auto-defrost fridge and find that water is collecting at the bottom, it could be the result of a blocked drain hole. The drain hole is inside the fridge, at the back, usually just above the salad drawer shelf. You should have been given a little plastic implement to use to unblock it when you bought the fridge. If you can’t find it, a straw or a cotton bud will work just as well.
Fridge interiors usually get more attention than the exteriors, but you also need to pay attention to the condenser coils.
Located at the back of the fridge, these coils can become covered in dust and dirt. Your fridge must therefore work harder to keep food cool, which will increase your electricity bill usage and shorten the life of your fridge.
Switch off the fridge and move it away from the wall to access the back, then vacuum the coils to remove the dust. The coils should be cleaned at least once a year, or more often if you have pets or your kitchen is a dust trap.
It’s essential to keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from other foods to avoid contamination and to maintain optimal food hygiene.
Ensure packaging is always tightly sealed and that you store uncooked meat and seafood on the lowest shelf. Then, if any juices do leak, they won’t drip onto other foods.
Always wash your hands before and after using your fridge. This is difficult to do in the middle of cooking a meal, but it is essential if you’ve been preparing foods such as raw meat, poultry or fish. Washing your hands before touching the fridge door or its contents will avoid possible contamination.
Keep fruit and vegetables in separate compartments to avoid fruit picking up the taste and smell of vegetables like onions.
It’s not always clear what needs to go in the fridge and what’s best left out, and some items may unnecessarily take up space in the fridge. For example, onions, tomatoes, avocadoes, peppers and melons can usually be safely stored at room temperature.
Your fridge will only perform well if it is at the right temperature. However, fridge temperature controls can be confusing, sometimes with just a 1-5 or a 1-7 with no clear indication of what these figures mean. Generally, 1 is the warmest (or least-cool) temperature, and the highest number is the coldest.
Your fridge temperature should be set at 5°C or below to ensure your food stays fresh. If your fridge doesn’t indicate the temperature, get a fridge thermometer so that you can keep an eye on it.
Don’t overload the fridge, as air needs to circulate for optimal performance.
Open the door as seldom as possible, and don’t leave it open for longer than absolutely necessary.
The tips listed above, if effectively implemented, will assist you in properly maintaining your fridge for maximum performance.