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Volume III
May 11, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Make Yours a User-Friendly Fridge!

By Alice Osborne

I'm a big believer in making sure my spaces, my tools, my appliances, etc., are all user-friendly. This saves time and energy--two things we need more of. This said, I wondered what information was online re: organizing the refrigerator. Whew - there's tons.

The American Dairy Association site,, has some good ideas (shared by Karli Bertochi) on the subject.

See if these tips don't help Make your fridge more user-friendly:

1) Don't store milk on the door. Fridge doors don't get cold enough to keep your milk as chilled as you need it to be for good taste. Doors are best for steak sauce, the salsa jug, the ketchup bottle, etc.

2) Inventory fridge when making weekly meal menu. You'll be able to incorporate existing items you already have on hand (before they spoil), which will save you money.

3) Purge contents once a week. Go through all shelves, drawers, and door spaces looking for everything past their expiration dates. Toss stuff out. Then wipe down all surfaces with hot soapy water.

4) Group and store like items together (breakfast items, lunch fixings, kids' snacks, etc.). Keep taller items towards the back of each group of items so that you can see them behind the smaller ones in front. And consider using plate-size plastic turntables for grouping categories of items together (one for dairy-yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream; one for condiments; one for jams and jellies, for instance).

5) Store it right. In reusable, see-through, airtight containers. Square- or rectangular-shaped left-over keepers use space more efficiently than round-shaped containers. I've researched plastic for other Cook'n articles I've written, so I KNOW glass is best. Consider phasing out your plastic stuff and investing (even if it's just a little at a time) in tempered glass storage keepers - they look nice, they last forever, they're efficient, and they're microwave safe (no pcb's leeching into zapped food!).

6) Label containers. Date each container (with a water-based marker - keep it near the fridge). OR, you can create your own paper labels on your computer that can be taped to your containers. However you do it, labeling helps with food rotation - older foods get eaten first. This little habit is a hard and fast rule in the restaurant management world because it really cuts waste - why not manage this way at home?

7) Use the coldest areas wisely. The back and bottom of the fridge are the coldest areas, so keep perishables and hardy veggies (broccoli, cauliflower) there. Crisper drawers have higher humidity to keep celery, lettuces, and peppers crisp.

8) Don't overstuff. Overstuffing makes the fridge work harder and costs more in electricity. Avoid this by keeping potatoes, onion, tomatoes, apples, and citrus outside the fridge. Store spuds and onions in a net bag in the pantry; put tomatoes, apples, and citrus in a fruit bowl or on a large platter. They make a nice display for the table or on the end of a counter top.

9) Keep items clean. Who likes setting out or using condiment bottles with sticky gunk on the lids and along the mouths of the containers? Get in the habit of always wiping out the lids and the grooves (where the lid screws on) so they're nice to use for next time. Keep milk jugs wiped clean--they can easily get a crusty film on the bottoms that then gets on the shelves. You get the idea--if we keep stuff clean, we enjoy the work more.

10) Keep an inventory list on the fridge door. When you run out of something, don't worry about remembering it for the next shopping trip - write it down instead.

The bottom line? When you open the fridge door, you want to be able to see at a glance what you have on hand, and you want to be able to find what you're looking for quickly and easily. Also, I think what you're looking at should be pleasing to the eye - the inside of the fridge should sparkle with cleanliness and organization. It's inviting and so much more user-friendly!

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