Natural Year Challenge: Household - Month Six
Clean Your Refrigerator
As our Natural Year Challenge continues, we turn our attention to safe food storage.
It isn't easy to keep the refrigerator clean and organized. Keeping its contents fresh is also a challenge. Moldy food, however, is one of the most common ways we can be exposed to harmful toxins, so proper management of this appliance is well worth our time and energy. Here are some suggestions for keeping your refrigerator and its contents clean, organized, and fresh!
- Vacuum refrigerator coils periodically. Vacuum under and behind the fridge to help keep it running efficiently.
- Clean inside surfaces with white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. The use of harsh chemicals can emit harmful vapors, which easily seep into food. When deep-cleaning your refrigerator, use both vinegar and peroxide. For ease of application, make a spray bottle of each.
- White vinegar: Can be diluted or used full strength.
- Hydrogen peroxide: Can be diluted 1 part 3% peroxide to 6 parts water. A darker spray bottle is best for peroxide as it is light-sensitive.
Spray white vinegar and follow with peroxide. No rinsing is needed, and the combination sanitizes well.
Vinegar of the Four Thieves is an excellent disinfectant and may be used as an alternative for the white vinegar. See our Naturally Healthy Bathroom article for the recipe and how-to video.
- Clean as you go. Keep your vinegar nearby. Wipe down shelves and drawers as they are emptied. Place plates or bowls beneath meats that are thawing, to prevent drips.
- Keep your fridge smelling clean. Absorb odors with an open box of baking soda, an open container filled with coffee grounds, or a zeolite bag.
- Buy only what you will eat. Try not to "overbuy."
- Don't open a new jar until the old one is empty. Keep perishable/half-filled jars in the front of the refrigerator to avoid "losing" them in the back.
- Be willing to throw away. If a food doesn't look or smell right, toss it!
- Label. Keep a grease pencil on hand. Transfer leftovers to a mason jar. Cap with white plastic lid and mark contents and/or date. If you prefer avoiding plastic altogether, label with masking tape and pen.
- Side compartments. Those handy shelves on the door are the warmest spots in the fridge. With all of the opening and closing, stable foods such as condiments and dressings work best in these locations.
- Crispers. Crisper drawers help keep fruits and vegetables fresh by controlling the level of humidity. Vegetables dry out easily, and the crisper helps by keeping water vapor in. Fruits often require a lower humidity level than vegetables, so if you have two drawers, keep fruits in one, vegetables in another. Fruit also emits ethylene gas as part of the ripening process, which can discolor or prematurely harden vegetables if stored together. If your refrigerator is equipped with individual controls for each crisper, adjust accordingly.
- Fruit storage. Once ripened, fresh fruit is best stored in the refrigerator. This includes bananas. According to this Purdue University article, apples are best stored in produce bags with some holes or perforations to allow air circulation and avoid excess moisture buildup. Sort through fruits such as berries before storing, discarding any spoiled ones. Leave stems on strawberries and do not wash in advance. Store in a colander lined with paper towel to allow cold air in refrigerator to circulate. For more on fruit storage, see this article.
- Vegetable storage. Some vegetables are best left at room temperature, while others do better in a cooler, drier environment. The following list offers some specific guidelines.
- Asparagus: 7-10 days. Break off ends and stand upright in 1 inch water.
- Beets: 3 weeks.
- Broccoli: Heads keep up to 7 days.
- Brussels sprouts: 7-10 days. Remove any discolored leaves and wash before use.
- Cabbage: Several weeks in crisper.
- Carrots: Up to 4 weeks in crisper.
- Cauliflower: Up to 1 week.
- Celery: Up to 10 days. Revive by placing in water.
- Cucumber: 7-10 days. Discard if flesh turns soft and/or translucent.
- Garlic: Keep in dry, airy location.
- Leeks: 7-10 days.
- Lettuce: 7-10 days in crisper.
- Onions: Cool, dry place in open-weave mesh for air circulation. Up to 2 weeks.
- Peas: Keep for only a short time. Best prepared and eaten quickly.
- Peppers: Up to 1 week.
- Potatoes: Cool, dark place with good air circulation. Check for rotting skin and discard before it contaminates others.
- Radishes: 7-10 days in crisper.
- Snow peas: A few days.
- Spinach: Up to 1 week. Best if used sooner.
- Squash: Up to 1 week in refrigerator. Do not wash or brush skin until ready to use.
- Swiss chard: Up to 2 weeks.
- Turnips: Can be stored in or out of refrigerator.
Keeping the refrigerator clean and well-organized can be a challenge, especially with a large family.
Join Andrea for a look at what works for the Fabry household!