A home fridge carries an average of 7,850 bacteria per square centimetre.
And this is just in the salad drawer. A disorganised fridge set at the wrong temperature and that isn’t cleaned regularly can carry harmful bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli – nasty bugs indeed.
If you’re concerned about the health of your family and curious about where we should really be keeping the milk, then read on.
We’re going to give you the low down on exactly how to organise your fridge and how to maintain a clean and healthy environment.
What is the Proper Way to Organise A Refrigerator?
The organisation of your fridge is closely linked to how easy it is to keep clean, as well as how long your food stays fresh. Plus, the logic behind this information will certainly help you to locate the contents easily and quickly see what needs replacing. Practical and healthy!
Understanding Fridge Compartments
Depending on the make and model of your refrigerator, you’ll notice different compartments that are labelled for specific products.
The Dairy Compartment
You will usually find this in the door, which is one of the warmest places in the fridge. Here’s where you’ll keep your cheese and butter because, let’s face it, who wants to spread hard butter?
Some models have a plastic cover over this little compartment. Do you know what it’s for? Well, butter tends to absorb tastes and smells from your fridge and this handy cover keeps it from tasting like last night’s fish sticks.
The same general idea goes for cheese, although it’s worth noting that some of the softer cheeses are prone to listeria contamination so would benefit from being kept in a colder part of the fridge.
Top and Middle Shelves
Here is where cooked meats, ready-to-eat food, milk, or leftovers live.
Milk? Yes, most of us put milk in the door because, well, it fits. However, as we’ve seen, the fridge door is one of the warmest spaces in the fridge and fresh milk will benefit from a colder space on one of the higher shelves.
Typically, the lower shelves enjoy the coldest temperatures which makes them the perfect place for defrosting and storing raw meat. It also prevents it from dripping onto and contaminating other items.
The Crisper Drawer
At the bottom of your fridge, you will find the crisper or salad drawers. These offer a separate space to keep your fruits and vegetables from drying out as they provide a slightly more humid environment. This moist, warmer atmosphere is designed to keep fresh produce fresher for longer, especially thin-skinned vegetables like asparagus, or leafy vegetables such as kale and lettuce.
We need to be careful though, which fruit and vegetables we store together. More on that in a moment.
The Fridge Door
Condiments such as mayonnaise, tomato sauce, and mustard can be safely kept in the fridge door. We can add bottled water, fruit juice, and sodas to this list.
These items can withstand temperature fluctuations better than other food products. The door compartments are the furthest away from the chiller unit and most affected when we open the fridge, so this makes a lot of sense.
How Do I Organise My Fridge for Food Safety?
With all those bacteria waiting to take hold of our food, what can we do to keep them at bay and avoid contamination? And how can we ensure that it stays fresh?
Storing Fruit and Veggies
It can be tempting to pop all our fruit and veg into the crisper drawer, after all, that’s what it’s there for right?
Certain products should be stored away from others though, and here’s why. Some fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas produce a hormone called ethylene as they ripen. This allows them to soften and become sweeter, just what we want from our fruit.
However, other produce such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage are classed as ethylene sensitive. That means that when they are exposed to these plant chemicals they degrade faster. More information on which plants are ethylene producers can be found in this great article.
Meat is one of the main bacterial offenders in a fridge and needs specific storage conditions.
Raw meat, especially pork and chicken, should be stored in the coldest part of the fridge. They tend to spoil very quickly and should be kept on the lowest shelves in an airtight container to avoid dripping onto other foods. These meats will only keep for around two days before they start to spoil, so it’s better to freeze them if you’re not going to cook them in time.
As mentioned above, cooked meat can be stored in the upper sections of the fridge for quick access. Again, making use of an airtight container will prevent drying out and odour transfer. Be sure to eat cooked meats within 3 – 4 days though, as they are also prone to bacterial contamination.
We’ve chatted about milk, butter, and cheese, but what about other dairy products like yoghurt or sour cream?
These products do best and last longest in the colder parts of the fridge, so middle or lower shelves would be the best place for them.
As a last thought, common sense tells us that an overstocked fridge is going to battle to cool its contents. If there is no room for the cold air to circulate then you may find food spoiling quickly.
How Do I Organise My Fridge for Convenience?
Sealable plastic or glass containers are going to be your best friend for safe and convenient food storage. Not only will they prevent cross-contamination of food, but they are stackable and see-through.
A major plus is that using sealable containers helps to keep your fridge shelves clean.
Have you considered keeping an “Eat First” box? A container that contains left-overs, items that need to be finished up within the next couple of days, or items that spoil quickly is a great idea. Not only does it stop your family foraging about in the fridge for snacks, but it ensures that nothing goes to waste.
Maintaining an organised fridge also means that you are less likely to lose items, only finding them weeks later when they’re sporting an attractive mould beard.
When we open the fridge door, the cold air gushes out the bottom and warm air rushes in. To conserve energy and maintain the temperature of your fridge, it’s wise to keep commonly used items in the front within easy reach. This saves us rooting around and letting the cold air out.
While each family will use different methods to store food, if you follow the basic guidelines above then you’ll find what works for you, safely.
The Best Way to Clean Your Fridge, Naturally
Nobody wants to spend their Saturday afternoon cleaning their fridge. However, this is an essential part of maintaining a healthy home, so let’s find out the best (and quickest) way to do it.
Remove all shelves and drawers. Empty your contents into a cooler box and pull out all internal compartments. These should be washed in warm, soapy water – but be careful with glass shelves which may crack if the water is too hot.
While these are drying, make up a solution of 1 part baking soda in 7 parts water. Use this solution with a soft cloth to wipe down the entire inside of your fridge. You can use a soft brush, even an old toothbrush, to get to the hard-to-reach places.
Adding vinegar to this solution will help the cleaning process along, eliminate odours, and kill any remaining bacteria.
Once you’ve wiped everything down, repack your fridge and you’re done.
How Can I Keep My Fridge Clean?
We don’t want to have to perform this task too often so let’s work to keep the fridge clean and hygienic.
- Wipe down condiment bottles before replacing them in the fridge to prevent them from leaving messy rings on the shelves.
- Make use of clear containers and be sure to label them. This helps to keep old, smelly food out of the fridge.
- A little open container with a few scoops of baking soda will absorb bad smells from your fridge. Just replace it every so often to keep it fresh.
- Make liberal use of trays and shelf liners. These are super easy to whip out and wipe down without having to disassemble your fridge.
- Place paper liners in the crisper drawer. This helps to absorb fluids or juices from the produce and can be replaced quickly and easily.
- Don’t allow open cups or bowls in the fridge. They can be knocked over leaving a sticky mess or make other items in your fridge smell.
Organise Your Fridge and Stay Healthy
It may not be high on your list of things you cannot wait to tackle, but time spent cleaning and organising your fridge is well worth the time and effort.
If you feel, however, that your fridge is simply too far gone and you need a replacement, then we can help. Visit our specials page for some great deals or pop into one of our stores for fantastic offers on fridges and freezers.