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So word on the street is we haven't been using our fridges correctly this whole time. I don't know about you, but when I see a dozen little egg shaped holders in my refrigerator door, my first instinct is to store my eggs in there, right? Wrong. Turns out our fridges aren't just giant food cupboards, they're actually extremely intricate household appliances with many built in ways to keep your food fresh and lasting longer, we just didn't know about them! Storing food correctly and safely is an important step in minimizing food wastage, saving money, and keeping our food good for our bodies. So, master the art of the refrigerator, and our food, our bodies, and our environment will begin to thank us.
Lets start with the freezer, where we store, yep you guessed it, frozen things! There are the obvious goods that go in the freezer, like ice, meats, sauces, leftover/bulk made meals, and fruits. But there are some other less known about goods that can be stored in your freezer too, such as flour, hummus, bread, ginger, cooked rice and pasta, and eggs without shells. There really is no excuse to chuck anything away!
The trick with freezers is to pack everything in nice and tightly and to keep it organized since this optimizes storage and even saves energy. Also keep in mind that when things freeze they sometimes change appearance, and a simple label could save you from defrosting a curry instead of a bolognaise.
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The doors are actually the warmest part of the fridge, mainly due to them being constantly opened and closed. Therefore, the doors should be home to foods that are more resistant to spoiling, such as condiments, juices, and other foods that can withstand continuous temperature fluctuations. Yes, this means milk, eggs and cheese should not be kept in the doors! This is a common misconception, as many fridges are designed to look like the doors are perfectly kitted out to store these items, but don't let your fridge fool you if you want to keep your food fresh!
The shelves in our fridges are actually all different temperatures, so while the upper shelf temperatures remain more consistent, the lower shelves are the coldest. This means that pre-cooked foods or foods that don't need to be cooked at all should live on the top shelves. This includes drinks, leftovers, condiments, and ready to eat foods such as dips, tortillas and things in jars such as pickles. Fresh herbs can also be stored up here, by placing them in a jar filled with water and loosely covering them with a plastic bag or a damp cloth/paper towel. This provides both moisture and coverage, keeping them fresher (and tastier) for longer!
This is where we should be storing all the foods that are uncooked and can spoil quickly, as the lower shelves maintain the coldest temperatures. Raw meats, eggs, seafood and dairy products such as cheese and milk should be stored down here. The issue with raw meats is they contain risky bacteria if cross contaminated with other foods, so your best bet is to dedicate a certain area of your bottom shelf to meats alone. The guys at YFM suggested creating a meat locker or bin to store all your raw meats in, to ensure no drips or other unwanted nasties creep into your other foods (especially your fruit and veggies in the crisper below!).
Image: The Kitchn
Crispers are designed to maintain moist conditions to help preserve fresh produce like fruits and vegetables. The best way to store your fruits and veggies is actually to keep them separate – most fridges come with two individual crisper drawers so dedicating one to fruits and one to veggies is a good idea. This is because many fruits produce a chemical called ethylene, which helps them to ripen, however if they come into contact with vegetables it could cause them to over-ripen quicker.
Tips for storing certain foods:
- Keep mushrooms in a paper bag in the crisper
- Store onions in old stockings and hang them in your cupboard for easy access
- Help avocados ripen quicker by placing them in a paper bag with a banana
- Store potatoes in a dark place – in a box with a lid or inside a hessian sack
- Avoid wrapping your cheese in plastic – it can actually absorb the flavours and chemicals found in plastics and can make it spoil quicker. Instead, wrap cheese in waxed paper or parchment to preserve its freshness and flavour.
Every Australian household wastes over $1000 on food each year, filling up almost half our bins. Globally, if the greenhouse gas emissions from food waste were a country, it'd be the third biggest contributor to climate change. Something has to be done, and it can start in your very own kitchen. Thanks to the Australian Youth Food Movement for these tips about fridge organisation. We have the power to make a difference, one organised fridge at a time!
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