Spring Clean Your Refrigerator

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Spring is a great time to clean and organize your refrigerator, making room for the upcoming abundance of farm or garden-fresh produce.

Not only is having a clean refrigerator safer, but it will also help you to know exactly what you have on hand so that you don’t waste food or money. How many refrigerators are stocked with more than one container of mustard?

Begin by taking out all of your condiments. If some haven’t been opened, they’re good until the expiration date. Once opened, condiments should be date-marked to determine how much longer they’re safe to eat. Date marking is an important habit to get into, and a black marker works well.

Clean Fridge

From the day opened, dips are safe up to 2 weeks, salsa up to 2 months, mayonnaise and bottled salad dressings up to 3 months, barbeque sauce up to 4 months, ketchup up to 6 months, mustard up to 8 months, and jams and jellies up to a year.

Next, take out everything else and toss out or compost any leftovers older than 4 days.

Remove produce drawers and shelves to wash them with hot soapy water. Also clean any shelves and surfaces that can’t be removed, including handles, with hot soapy water, then wipe with clean water to rinse off the soap. Dry with a clean towel. After cleaning, an optional step is sanitizing by diluting 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wipe down any sticky containers or jars before placing back in the fridge. After putting everything back in the fridge, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment.

The next challenge is keeping organized. Adding extra clear organization bins will help similar items stay together, such as leftovers, sandwich fixings, smoothie ingredients, sauces or condiments. A clear bin labeled “Eat Me First” could help you avoid wasting food that is about to go bad. Store leftovers at eye level in front so they’re not forgotten. A bottle or can dispenser will save space for cold drinks while providing easy access. A lazy Susan placed in the back of the fridge makes it more difficult for items to get lost.

Once you have gone to all the effort to clean and organize, wipe up spills with a paper towel and warm water as they occur. Keep an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb any odors. This worthwhile effort could make “mystery food” a thing of the past.