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Living Space column: Keep fridge clean, organized

By By Kathryn Weber
Jan. 12, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 12, 2012 at 7:13 p.m.

Refrigerators use more energy than any other household appliance because they run all day every day. Using a simple organizational system can tame the unruliest of refrigerators, making it both tidy and efficient.

If the hardest working room in the house is the kitchen, the hardest working appliance has to be the refrigerator. With everyone in the house rooting through the fridge from morning 'til night, neatly stacked shelves can quickly turn into a jumbled mess. Using a simple organizational system can tame the unruliest of refrigerators, making it both tidy and efficient.

Cost, time savings

Refrigerators use more energy than any other household appliance because they run all day, every day. Therefore, an effective system of organization means finding what you're looking for faster so the refrigerator won't have to run as long to restore the standard interior temperature. Storing items where they can be found quickly and easily also makes food preparation faster and more cost-effective.

Getting organized

All refrigerators are organized to separate items, such as butter, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, from containers and small jars to large juice bottles. Better organizing the contents of your refrigerator means you'll be able to put more food into less space. Today's refrigerators often come with special drawers for meat and vegetables. By using these correctly, these ingredients will be easier to find.

Specialized tools also can help tame the refrigerator monster. Too often, small items, such as tubes of tomato paste or small bottles of truffle oil, get lost in the mix. A roll-out fridge caddy works like a drawer on your refrigerator shelf, and works especially well for small items. Another solution is to use a wire under-shelf organizer for small or odd items. Wire baskets are another quick solution, especially in the freezer where they can be used to hold vegetables and meats, or corral frozen meals (stacksandstacks.com). Add a small, slender clear organizer to collect small packets of soy sauce, mustard and other tiny items that tend to get lost.

Partition the fridge, Freezer

Work to create order by partitioning foods on specific shelves. Place fresh and perishable items, such as fish or chicken, on the center shelf. By placing these foods on the shelf you see first when opening the refrigerator door, you're more likely to use them before they spoil. Separate shelves by dairy, leftovers and fresh food.

Be aware that not all foods need refrigeration, including many fruits, tomatoes, potatoes and onions. By removing these items, you'll have more space.

In the freezer, label shelves for dairy, meat, vegetables and packaged foods, and avoid mixing these items together. Invest in clear containers to store leftovers. When you can see that mound of Kung Pao chicken, you'll be more likely to serve it rather than let it collect mold, meaning less waste.

Add plastic shelf liners for meat storage and use retired placemats at the bottom of vegetable drawers to collect debris and soak up moisture; once soiled, they can be tossed in the washer. Lastly, clean your refrigerator before grocery shopping, tossing out old food and wiping down the shelves. Regular editing will keep your fridge clean and organized.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, www.redlotusletter.com.

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