Spring Clean, part 2–Your Refrigerator

You’ve cleaned, organized, and re-stocked your pantry.  Now it’s time to work on your refrigerator.  Like most baby boomers and seniors, you probably want to do this in the simplest way possible, while still supporting your health.

A clean refrigerator is a sight to behold!

Before you start, here are a few general guidelines:

  1. Check the refrigerator temperature.  It needs to be 40 degrees or less to maintain food safety.  Place a thermometer inside the unit (but not on the door) to monitor the temperature.
  2. To absorb odors, keep an open box of baking soda in the fridge, and replace it every 1 – 3 months.
  3. If you’ll have foods out of unit more than 2 hours while cleaning, place them in a cooler to keep them safe.
  4. Date labelling phrases according to USDA:

“Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality.  It is not a purchase or safety date, but is the most reliable date to follow.  (These take normal handling into account.)

“Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management.  It is not a safety date. 

“Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.

“Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to go!

1)  Empty the refrigerator.  I like to do this one shelf at a time, so I start with the top and work my way  down.

2)  The old adage, “When in doubt, throw it out,” still rings in this former school foodservice director’s head.  If you don’t know how long it’s been in the refrigerator, it goes into the trash.  Also toss unwanted, old, or nearly-empty jars of food and items beyond expiration date.  Mold and bad odors are sure indicators of foods bound for the trash can.

3)  Use a mild multi-purpose cleaner or a baking soda/water mix (1 Tb baking soda/cup of water) to clean back and sides of the refrigerator, shelving, and drawers.

4)  For dried out spills, use a paste of baking powder and water.

5)  Wipe outside, including handles.  Also remove items being stored on top of refrigerator, where dust and grime can accumulate.

In re-filling your refrigerator:

  • Place raw meat on the bottom shelf, as raw juice drippings could contaminate other foods.
  • Limit foods stored in the door.  This is actually the warmest place in the refrigerator; when the door is opened, the interior temperature can go up.  Best items for this area:  condiments, jelly, juice.
  • As a general rule, most left-overs are good in the fridge for 5 days.  Wrap tightly or put in a ziploc plastic bag, and place in the front part of the refrigerator so they don’t get lost.
  • Store eggs in their original carton.
  • Store fresh produce in perforated plastic bags, but don’t rinse until you’re ready to use it.
  • Maintain good air circulation.
  • For additional healthy eating ideas, give me a call!We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for your friends or family.
    If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that—oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.

    Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness.  A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
    Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.

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