National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, celebrated on November 15th, should be celebrated every month!
Unless you’re one of the handful of people (hello, Mom!) who scrub down the insides of the fridge weekly (and the outside every day!), you may be keeping more food than you want.
National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day was created by the home economists at Whirlpool Home Appliances in 1999, purportedly to encourage people to clean out their refrigerator in advance of the need for more space for foods for holiday dinners.
The biggest culprit is food, from leftover food and wine to condiments to whatever, that takes up space and needs to be tossed.
After all, if you wanted it that much, you’d have eaten it already. And you may be quite surprised at what has been lingering at the back of your shelves.
If you have a bottle of Worcestershire sauce or mint jelly that’s been there for years, just get rid of it. Even though some condiments may look and smell just fine, you’re hoarding food you don’t need. If you find yourself wanting some in the future, a fresh bottle will do much better.
Some people have smart refrigerators, but they’re not yet smart enough to tell you to toss that open can of anchovies, or the olives that have been there for three years.
All you need are:
Before you start, take a look at your foods. Would it be more efficient if you purchased some plastic refrigerator/freezer bins to organize things on the shelves?
We went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought plastic bins and now store yogurt, condiments and other products in dedicated “bins.” It’s been an enormous improvement in fridge organization.
1. Unplug your refrigerator
This step can be done at your discretion, but it can help you conserve energy. Keeping the door open while you scrub will raise the interior temperature and make your fridge work harder to keep your food cold.
2. Remove everything inside the fridge to the countertop or the sink.
As you remove them, group them into categories (condiments, fruit, leftovers) so you can efficiently return them to the shelves, or to the trash bin.
3. Toss or recycle.
Get rid of anything that is old, expired, or simply not used. Make firm decisions: Do you really want to keep that Bloody Mary mix that’s been open for six months? Do you use that reconstituted lemon juice, or do you just keep a bottle “in case?” (If the latter, it’s better to quarter a fresh lemon and stick it in the freezer.)
Place the rejects in a heavy duty shopping bag so you can return later, dump the contents and recycle the containers.
4. Remove the shelves and produce drawers.
Place them in the sink in warm, soapy water. While they’re soaking…
5. Clean the interior.
Use soapy water or a multipurpose spray cleaner and clean the entire inside, including the “floor” and “ceiling” of the compartment (you’d be surprised…).
Be prepared with Plan B for sticky spots or stains that don’t come clean easily. This includes lots of hot water, soap and the scrub brush. Some spots need multiple passes.
6. Wipe and polish.
Use paper towels or a clean dish towel to fully remove the soap or cleaner. Use a wet towel as necessary. Be sure to wipe down the the shelf seams and the rubber door gasket. You may need a Q-tip to get into the ridges.
7. Finish scrubbing the shelves and drawers in the sink.
Pat them dry and return them to their places. You’re now ready to put back the food.
8. Put back the food, focusing on organization.
Organize everything in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t drink soda often, for example, stick it in the back. Place the condiments together, the spreads and jams together, etc.
But before putting anything back, use a wet paper towel to wipe down the containers. They can get quite sticky/greasy.
9. Repeat the above with the freezer.
Give yourself a break and take a day off in-between the top and the bottom. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.