Fridge and Freezer Hacks
Written by Caitlin Schille
The fridge is a battleground. It plays a role in our diet battles, our organization battles, our family battles and more. With so much at stake, here’s a guide to help take control of this important hub.
#1 : The Nutrition-Friendly Fridge
Maybe you’ve made a goal to eat more fruits and vegetables, cook at home more often, or just eat an overall healthier diet. These are great goals, but they are also easier said than done. The first step to achieving these goals is to have good, healthy food available at home. Here are some tips to produce your healthiest fridge and freezer!
While stocking up on nutritious items, keep in mind that not all foods need to or should go in the fridge. Some fruits and vegetables stay more flavorful and crisp when left out on the counter (stone fruits like apricots and peaches, avocados, tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, onions). Also, be sure to store fruits and vegetables separately, as storing them together can accelerate ripening. If your produce is in a bag, make sure there are holes to keep a steady airflow.
- Don’t go overboard. In your initial enthusiasm, it can be easy to buy too much fresh produce, but you don’t want it to go bad before you get a chance to eat it all. Wasted money can be a big detractor to sustaining a better diet.
- If the produce in the fridge is on the brink of going bad, freeze it! It is best to “prepare” fruit and veggies before freezing them. For example, peel bananas, dice onions and bell peppers, wash strawberries, and chop a head of broccoli before freezing.
- Accessibility! Make healthy food accessible, like in the middle shelves.
To optimize time and increase efficiency with your freezer space, prepare “smoothie kits.” Smoothies are a great way to start the day off with fruits and vegetables. Place enough fruits and veggies in a small freezer bag for one smoothie—spinach, kale, peeled and halved bananas, berries, and other chopped fruit (such as apples and pears) freeze well.
Start by stocking your fridge with some healthy staple foods. Have something from each of these categories:
- Fruits: berries, grapes, citrus
- Vegetables: lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli
- Milk/Dairy: cow’s milk, almond milk (unsweetened), soy milk (unsweetened), yogurt (look for low-sugar options), string cheese
- Dips and condiments
- Hummus (great dip for veggies)
- Olive-oil mayonnaise
- All-natural peanut butter
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Whole wheat tortillas
#2 The Efficient Fridge: Where and How to Store Food
The higher levels of the fridge tend to be the warmest; store food there that won’t perish as quickly, or that needs to be eaten soon.
- Ready-to-eat foods
To keep food safe in the fridge, the temperature needs to be between 35 and 38 degrees. Don’t store perishables in the fridge door because the temperature fluctuates more. In the freezer, it needs to be zero degrees. Avoid freezer burn by wrapping foods tightly in a freezer bag before putting them in. Remove excess air from the freezer bags; freezer burn happens when food is exposed to too much oxygen.
Proper Storage Techniques
Herbs: Place them in a jar with a couple inches of water, and cover them with a plastic bag. Place them in the higher parts of the fridge or in the door.
Leafy Greens: Store lettuce, spinach and other greens in a large Tupperware; place a paper towel on top of the greens to absorb moisture. Greens usually come in bags, but this means they can be crushed by other foods, which accelerates the process of going bad.
Carrots: Remove the greens before putting them in the fridge, if there are greens. You can also store carrots in a container full of water to better preserve them.
Corn: Eat corn quickly, when it is at its best. Leave the husk on if you need to store it in the fridge for a couple days.
Mushrooms: Keep mushrooms wrapped in their packaging while in the fridge. Don’t open them until you need them.
The Wallet-Friendly Fridge
- Clean the fridge’s air intake to make it more efficient.
- Cover liquids and food before putting them in the fridge. Uncovered beverages, liquids and foods release moisture into the fridge space, making the fridge’s compressor work harder.
- Don’t put in a bunch of room-temperature things at once. This can make the fridge have to work extra hard.
- Replace a fridge made before 1993 to have a more efficient kitchen.
- Avoid getting a fridge with an ice maker, if you can go without one. Ice makers can increase energy use by up to 20 percent.
Source: US Department of Energy
#3 The Organized, Clean Fridge
Fridges and freezers seem to get cluttered. Here are some ideas to help keep things tidy:
- Label the sections of the door shelves. Clutter happens because we just throw food in the fridge without a second thought.
- Line your shelves with a plastic mat; it makes for much easier cleaning.
- Try a lazy susan or turntable in the fridge so stuff never gets trapped in the back.
- Take a photo of your fridge before grocery shopping to avoid doubling up.
- Consider adjusting the height of your shelves. Most fridges allow for this, but many keep shelves at the wrong height, meaning cartons have to lie flat.
- Buy cheap magazine holders and line them up in your freezer to separate food types.
- Get a plastic box for the fridge and label it “Eat This First.” If food is going bad and going to waste, put in that box so the family knows.
Does butter need to be refrigerated? No, but many prefer cold butter over room temperature, even if it is harder to spread. A kitchen hack: use a cheese grater on cold butter to spread it around bread.
Many fridges aren’t organized simply because there is too much inside of them. Here are some foods you can and should move out of the fridge to free up valuable space:
- It changes the flavor of the potato.
- The fridge changes their texture and flavor.
- They lose crispness. Put them on the counter, out of direct sunlight.
- Avocado (unless it’s already very ripe)
- Bananas turn black in the fridge, even though the insides should remain okay. Let them ripen on the counter.
- Uncut Melon (canteloupe, watermelon, honeydew)
- The fridge might keep the mold away, but it will also make the treats stale.
- The fridge can toughen bread up, even though it can also help it last longer.
- Vinegar-based hot sauce. Most hot sauces don’t need refrigeration. In fact, the cold can weaken their flavor.
- Chocolate-hazelnut spread
- Cold air can pull the flavor out of nuts.
- Stone fruits (peaches, apricots, cherries)
Other foods always need to be kept in the fridge, such as meats, milk, cheese and eggs. There is some controversy about eggs in the fridge, as many countries don’t refrigerate them. Organic eggs can sometimes be left out, but store-bought ones need refrigeration here in the US.
Fridges and magnets go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here are some ways magnets can spruce up your fridge.
- Hot glue magnets onto some cheap plastic cups and stick them to the fridge door for kids to use. This will keep kids from using multiple cups every day.
- Glue magnets to the bottom of light, plastic Tupperware. This allows you to stick food on the interior walls of the fridge, better utilizing vertical space.
- Try bottleLoft. It’s a magnetic bottle hanger that you stick to the interior top of the fridge. You can hang bottles up in the air (if they have a metal top), freeing up space below.
Deodorize the Fridge
After you clean out the fridge, removing any remaining smells by placing any of these items inside the fridge:
- An open container of baking soda inside
- Dried coffee grounds
- A cup of white vinegar
- A charcoal briquette