Having a perfectly neat and tidy fridge might not be at the top of your priority list, but you’ll be surprised at how much time, money and hassle you can save by keeping your kitchen’s most important appliance spick and span.
Why’s a tidy fridge desirable?
- A well-organised fridge makes it so easy to plan meals, because you can see all the ingredients at a glance. A sad pile of wilted greens, fossilised carrots and bits of rock-hard cheese are not going to motivate you to cook healthy family meals from scratch. But you’ll easily find dinner inspiration in gleaming rows of fresh veggies and neatly stacked tubs and packets!
- You’ll cut down on food wastage. How many times have you had to toss out vegetables that have been lying neglected at the back of the drawer? Or discard a bowl of rancid leftovers because they were hidden behind last week’s salad? When you arrange your fridge with military precision, you always know exactly what’s in it, and what you need to use up first. You can also effortlessly build any leftovers into your family’s weekly menu (see below).
- An over-stuffed fridge can waste energy, because all that food prevents cold air from circulating efficiently.
- It can also become a breeding ground for bacteria. Food safety should be a priority, especially if you have children in the house.
The grand clean-up
- Start your new ‘regime’ by emptying your entire fridge. Be ruthless, and throw away anything that’s past its best. Don’t forget to dump those old bottles of jam, chutney and pickles that haven’t been dipped into for months.
- Remove all the shelves and wash them – and the interior surfaces of the fridge – with warm soapy water. Use an old toothbrush dipped in toothpaste to scrub any grime out of the door seals and other nooks and crannies.
- When you replace the clean, dried shelves, assign a food ‘category’ to each one. For example: your NutriDay yoghurts, cheeses, dips, spreads and mayo go on the top shelf, drinks and leftovers go on the middle shelf, and small bottles and condiments go in the door shelves. Meat products should always be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and should be tightly wrapped in clingfilm so they don’t leak juices.
- Wrap your cheeses in waxed paper, and store them in a big lidded plastic box, such as an ice-cream container.
- Always pack leftovers into boxes with plastic lids, or tightly cover plates and bowls with clingfilm. A good tip is to keep a roll of masking tape and a black marker pen in the kitchen: use these to create labels for each box. Then add a date so you know how long it’s been in the fridge.
- Line the bottom of your vegetable drawer with paper towels, which will absorb any moisture. Remove the plastic on top of the veggies and arrange them in neat piles, in a single layer– you’ll find that most vegetables last longer when they are not ‘sweating’ under a layer of clingfilm.
- Explain to the family that this is how the fridge will be arranged from now on, and that you expect things to be put back in their proper places. If necessary, put a label each shelf to remind the kids where everything goes.
Keeping the fridge organised
- Every weekend, spend 10 minutes doing a quick fridge ‘audit’. Tidy the shelves, toss out anything that’s about to go off and give the shelves a wipe.
- Make a list of anything that’s running low, and stick it to the fridge door to grab next time you go shopping.
- Plan your meals for the next few days around any ingredients that need to be used soon. Here are three examples of things you can make from fridge leftovers:
- If you have plenty of eggs, make a tasty frittata (flat omelette). In a large shallow oven-proof pan, fry the ingredients – chopped veggies, cubed meat or sausage, bacon bits and so on – in olive oil. When the vegetables are soft, beat together six eggs and pour this mixture into the pan. Top with plenty of grated cheese. When the bottom of the frittata is just beginning to set, place the pan in an oven preheated to 180 ºC and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
- Use slightly wilted leaves, herbs and veggies to make a vitamin-packed soup. Even lettuce can be used in a soup! Stir-fry the leaves and chopped vegetables in olive oil with a little garlic, then add some peeled, cubed potato (which will thicken your soup). Now pour in just enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover everything to a depth of a few centimetres. Simmer until the potato is tender, then blitz till smooth in a food processor or blender. Stir in some cream and season to taste with salt, pepper and any other herbs or spices you fancy.
- Make a nourishing stock to use in soups, stews and sauces. Put any chicken pieces, or the carcass of a roast chicken, into a big pot and add some or all of the following: a sliced onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, chopped carrots, celery and parsley stalks. Cover with water and bring to the boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the top. Simmer gently for 2 hours, topping up with water now and then. Strain into a bowl, allow to chill, then skim off any solidified surface fat. Freeze right away, or store covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.