April 17, 2012

Don't forget fridge, cupboards when spring cleaning

Spring is synonymous with freshness, which is probably why the idea of spring cleaning came about. If you are doing a spring cleaning, do not forget your cupboards and refrigerator/freezer. This is a great opportunity to take inventory of your stock, throw out the expired, use up the excess, and free up some space, as fresh opportunities (local produce) become available. Not only does a thorough cleaning of cupboards and cold storage look great, but you can also clean up potentially bacteria-ridden spills and crumbs that attract pantry pests.

Refrigerator, Freezer

Be sure you are storing food properly. Before you begin cleaning, check the temperature in your cold storage and make necessary adjustments. Your refrigerator temperature should be between 33 and 39 degrees (above freezing, but below 40 degrees). The freezer should be zero degrees.

Start at the top, checking dates and removing leftovers or other old products, wiping shelves in between. I would recommend sanitizing the shelves since many foods stored in the refrigerator, such as raw meat, contain harmful bacteria, and this is a good opportunity to eradicate unseen dangers. Trying to keep your refrigerator and freezer uncluttered helps to maintain a clean and safe cold-storage space, so if you are doing this "big clean" only once or twice a year, be liberal with discarding unused food. Try to use items that have been in your freezer for a while, or consider discarding them. Food stored in a freezer continues to be safe for some time but will begin to decline in quality after six months, so make a list of what you have, and plan on using it soon.

When cleaning out your refrigerator, check dates on bottles of things that last for a while, dressings, mustards, etc. I am often surprised to find outdated products that have been in my household a relatively short time but were close to their use-by date when I purchased them. Tossing half-full bottles of dressing is a good reminder to check those dates prior to purchase to avoid wasting money in the future.

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