Oops. I did it again. | Learning how often to clean out the refrigerator

Doesn’t it seem like I  just cleaned out the refrigerator? And I really thought I was doing a pretty good job of using the food that was in there. Turns out I was following a couple of my 10 ways to waste food.

If it weren’t for this blog, I would have no idea when I last cleaned it out, but now I can look back and see that it was in April. So it looks like every 3 months is not going to work for me. Boo!

But the good news is that I did clean out the refrigerator, I have a fresh start again, and I have learned more about what I need to change to make it better the next time!

Of course, I have pictures!

Before:

The Process:

I like to do the real deal and take out all the shelves to clean them.

This was a sad thing to find behind a drawer. I’m pretty sure it was maraschino cherry juice. I scrubbed it for a long time.

Food Waste:

I think I’m the most sad about the blueberries. :-( Some of the cheese is because something leaked into the cheese drawer.

After:

I went grocery shopping today, so it doesn’t look as cleaned out as it might have otherwise.

Those little serrano peppers down there are the first harvest from our little garden. Yay!

What I learned:

* I need to clean out the refrigerator more often. I’m hoping once a month will be enough. Pretty please?

* I need to clean out the refrigerator before and after a trip. Some of the things in the waste pile were there because I couldn’t remember for sure if they were leftovers from before our trip or after.

* I still need to clean out the condiments, gunk, and whatever else is lurking  in the door shelves. We tend to have a lot of condiments. So many that they won’t all fit in the door. I would like to limit the number of condiments to what will fit in the door, so that they are not crowding the rest of the refrigerator.

* I tried a new strategy of cleaning out one shelf at a time as I could grab little bits of time. I thought I would like it, but I really didn’t. I much prefer doing all the shelves at once, then all of the drawers together.

* I know that being more consistent with menu planning and shopping with a list that I actually look at while at the store (unlike today), will help me. I’ve been thinking about posting my menu plans to keep me accountable.

* I need to make banana bread more. And banana muffins. And feed the monkeys at the zoo…

So how is your refrigerator looking? And how often do you think it should be cleaned out?

I’m linking up with Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing and The Frugal Girl’s Food Waste Friday.

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34 Comments

Filed under Before and After, Cleaning, Food Clutter, Food Waste

34 Responses to Oops. I did it again. | Learning how often to clean out the refrigerator

  1. Josine

    Did you keep your bananas in the fridge? That way they go bad really fast! I recognise the vacation-leftover problem. I now try to start eating stuff at least a week before leaving, and even then it is hard to finish everything that will go bad on time.

  2. Before the bananas get to that stage, I can usually pass of a ton of them on my kids by cutting them into chunks and spooning a little mound of peanut butter onto the top of each chunk. They can eat some serious bananas that way.

    Also, if you slice them and freeze them before they get that brown, they’re great for throwing into smoothies.

    I declutter my fridge every week (I waste food if I don’t do it at least that often), but I don’t actually CLEAN it all that often….just when the shelves start to disgust me.

  3. Hi Josine and Kristen – Thanks for the banana advice! I kept putting them in the fridge when they were getting a liitle too ripe because I thought that would slow things down until I had time to make banana bread or mash and freeze them….and then I never “had time.”…. I know I need to get rid of the extra step I’m doing there.

    I’m still planning to use them for banana bread – Do you agree that they are not too far gone for that? Thanks!

    • I think some of them would be ok for banana bread… maybe the middles of each… ?

    • You can freeze the bananas whole… when you want to make banana bread you just pull out 2 or 3 to thaw. Thaw in a bowl or bag because there will be some liquid that leaks. When fully thawed, snap (or cut) the stem off and the banana will slide right out of the skin. I stash all my overripe bananas in the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

    • WilliamB

      As long as the bananas aren’t actually rotten or smell bad, they’re fine for smoothies or banana bread/muffins.

      You can freeze bananas in their peels. Defrost in a bowl (to catch the juices), *then* peel.

      Bananas don’t ripen faster in the fridge but it seems like it because the skins get browner more quickly.

    • I freeze banana’s (and any other fruit) for smoothie use whenever they get a little too ripe to enjoy.
      I usually just peel, break in half and set them on a plate to flash freeze the outside. Then the next time I go into the freezer I just pop them into the freezer ziplock in the door with the rest of the banana chunks. The flash freezing helps to keep them from sticking together.

      I’ve done the same thing with strawberries, blueberries and peaches.

  4. Hey, it looks like you have less food waste than in April! I would say that is progress!
    I have a challenge for you…

    Maybe try to not go grocery shopping in the next two weeks and see if you can eat up your fridge! 8)

    • It is better than April for sure! I have been thinking about trying not to go shopping as much to use stuff up, so thanks for the challenge!

      Another thing I did that I forgot to add in the post: I made a list of items that are in there that need to be used up!

  5. Sarah Godwin

    As a general rule I check out whatever is in there when I work on my weekly (or bi-weekly)menu plan and grocery list (which I haven’t been very good about during this pregnancy). Then I see what needs to be used up before I go buy anything more and I can get out the clutter and wipe down any messy areas before adding new groceries. I try to pay attention and clean up refrigerator messes as they happen, though sometimes something gets by me for a while. Fruit that needs to be used usually goes into a smoothie or into the freezer to be used in a smoothie later. I’ve had trouble eating leftovers during this pregnancy, so whatever Ken and the kids won’t eat in the first day or so gets portioned out and frozen for later, so I don’t end up pitching it. I did have to throw out some salad greens this week b/c I was rebelling against my daily salads. Ugh! As for all those bananas, I have a yummy recipe for Banana-Orange Muffin Bread that I should send you. It is tastier than regular banana bread and freezes well, so you can keep it on hand to pull out for company or just for family.

  6. We usually have leftover night once a week, and a week where I don’t go grocery shopping once a month. That helps empty all the odds and ends out of our house!

    • Thanks Jessica! I do try to have leftover nights, plus we eat them for lunches, but sometimes things slip through – often because they are hiding from us in there. Sometimes because we don’t really want to eat them, so we put it off until it’s too late.

      I really like the idea of skipping a week of grocery shopping once a month, maybe except for some milk and produce?

  7. WilliamB

    Two thoughts:

    1. You don’t have to scrub your fridge when you clean it out. If the thought of “all that work” is one reason why you avoid cleaning your fridge, then I recommend separating out the tasks.

    2A. One common reason that people “lose” food in their fridge is that they don’t see it. If that’s the case for you, then I recommend removing from the fridge the things that don’t need to be refrigerated. In your pix I see ketchup, chocolate syrup, vinegar-based hot sauces, nuts, laughing cow cheese, and probably the mustards and jams.

    2B. Along the same lines don’t store food in opaque plastic bags. You can’t see through them and if it’s produce, they don’t breathe and so make the food go bad faster.

    And young lady, what did I tell you about storing food in grocery store produce bags?!!

    • WilliamB,

      I was hoping:
      A. Maybe you wouldn’t remember everything you already told me.
      B. You wouldn’t notice. :-D

      But it is better than the last time, so at least I am improving! Old habits are hard to break!

      1. It always seems like it needs scrubbing, but I’m sure that will lessen as I implement changes.

      2A I most certainly lose food from not seeing it, but I thought all of those things said “Refrigerate after opening.” Except the nuts, but I was trying to make those last longer.

      2B Two of the bags are meat, which I usually keep in the bags just in case they leak. And the good news is that it is pretty rare that I waste meat. What do you think about things like green beans and cherries – Do you store those things in platice bags?

      • WilliamB

        That is so fantastically better than April. I’m glad to hear you recognize that because progress tends to be incremental, which is sometimes discouraging.

        1. I agree. Nice side benefit, eh?

        2A. It can be tricky. Does it say “refrigerate after opening” or “best if refrigerated after opening”? If the latter then you definitely can keep it at room temp. If the former,… well, sometimes they fib. The one that really is uncertain is the jam. You can try it out by putting a bit of jam in a jar on the shelf and see what happens.

        2B. DEFINITELY keep meat in a bag or container in case it leaks. I store fruit in the container it came in before washing, and in a tupperware (with paper towel to absorb liquid because as I’m sure you remember, water encourages rot) after. I keep most veggies in special produce bags designed to let the veggies breathe – I can’t remember if I told you about them or not (see? I don’t remember everything). But whatever you do, don’t store produce in the bags you get in the grocery produce section – it’ll last longer unwrapped than it will in those wet plastic saunas. And don’t think that I missed the lead of lettuce in its sauna bag as well!

        Can you keep less food in the house? For most people it means shopping more often but it also means less waste. It doesn’t have to be a permanent change – you can make your task easier by keeping less food, then increase the amount in the fridge as you get better at seeing it and using it.

        I’ll give you the same offer I gave The Mrs: if you email me a list of the food you have in fridge, freezer, cabinet, I’ll pull together dishes for you to try. FG has the best email addy for me.

        • mairsydoats

          I second the notion of storing some things outside the fridge, unless, of course, you’re in the middle of a heat wave. There are times of the year I move a bunch of stuff (pretty much the WilliamB list, plus the peanut butter) back into the fridge, but most of the year my cabinets don’t get that warm. And the hot sauces are pretty much indestructible in the cabinet.

          Another notion to consider – perhaps when you next refill some condiment-sort of things, you might want a smaller container? If you’re not using the goods up quickly, perhaps the real estate in your fridge is more valuable than the cost savings for a larger size. For me, this is especially true of mayonnaise, mustard, things I don’t use quickly at all. I made the mistake of buying too large a ketchup (and both regular and spicy), and am paying for it in lost fridge space.

          I also have to give myself explicit permission to only scrub a little section when I notice it rather than letting it snowball into hours of work. And I’m really only semi-successful at that.

          Great that you’re improving and changing habits!

    • I don’t think I could handle not refrigerating your list William B!

      I base most of my fridge organization around being able to see all of the food readily. It is so very true that if you don’t see it you don’t remember it.

      I didn’t know that about the plastic bags, so I’m excited to implement that tip.

  8. Don’t you HATE the money we toss away?? I am raising a hand guilty to this too. when I am on top of my game, I will toss everything into “soup” :) I have no recipies, but have made some pretty good soups in the past! LOL

    Followed your link on Org Junkie!

  9. Barbara

    Egads, do I hate the fridge!! The constant shuffling, the delicate balance of expiration dates- it gets too much for me sometimes. I HATE the maintenance of it all!! I have simplified my fridge as best I can. I got these fridge compartment things/baskets with handles- they have them at Container Store and I hear Wally World as well- and I put like things together. I also designated a purpose for each shelf and drawer:

    Top shelf: liquids- milk, juice or tall bottles
    Middle Shelf: jars and containers; eggs
    Bottom Shelf: leftovers in see through containers

    Every Wed PM after I run the dishwasher and before I plop down on the couch to watch the guilty pleasure reality shows, I skim the fridge for expired foods or old leftovers and toss them or put them in the garbage disposal. Thurs. is trash day, so out goes the stinky fridge stuff. (I have a big problem with grocery store rotisserie chicken; after we eat it, I tell myself I’ll make a broth from the bones. Never happens. But the carcass still sits in the fridge, taunting me!!)

    I get the whole banana issue as well!! I just used up 8 overly ripe bananas for muffins and bread! Yum!

    Thanks for the post! I look forward to seeing what you’ve been working on, as it motivates me to get movin’ and get some stuff done!

    • WilliamB

      Barbara, sounds like you have a really well working system. But I practically lust after chicken carcasses … but they’re only useful if you use the stock you make from it. Two questions for you:

      1. Do you use chicken stock? If not, making some seems unnecessary.

      2. Do you know what’s blocking you from making the stock? It can be as simple as simmer the carcass in water for 2 hours, then boil down till you have about 2c. stock. Rostisserie chix is highly spiced, so you can skip the usual extra steps of making a “fancy” stock.

  10. It’s all a learning process isn’t? You might want to try some banana “icecream” that I made a couple of weeks ago. I used a lot of bananas and got something a bit different.

  11. Tiffany C.

    I too have a banana problem. I think I am just going to bag them up and put them in the freezer if they’re too ripe to feed the kids. Then it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to get to them. I have such good intentions of making banana bread…….

  12. Imagine my surprise when I read your post and saw a picture of my refrigerator :) LOL, I just went through the same thing a week or two ago. I’m quite appalled by how wasteful we are. Stopping by from orgjunkie.com

  13. It’s never ending isn’t it? Once I get something cleaned out and move on, the thing I cleaned out needs cleaning out again!!! Ugghh!!

  14. carla

    Suggestion: store leftovers in glass if at all possible. You not only can see what you have but I guarantee, food does not spoil as quickly in glass so you buy yourself a little time if you cook too much one meal. And no, it doesn’t have to be terribly expensive glass containers made for that purpose. I use canning jars from when I used to do canning. A dozen jars at the store will probably cost about what a couple of Pyrex or Anchor dishes will cost. Wide-mouth jars work best for all sorts of things (from soup to mashed potatoes, to tuna salad) and you don’t have to hunt for the correct lid if they are all alike. One more plus: it’s vertical storage instead of horizontal.

  15. I think it’s fascinating to look into other people’s fridges. :)

    I often peel the bananas before I freeze them and since I don’t care for banana bread I use them to make chocolate, pb, banana smoothies, my kids favorites.

  16. Karen

    i have banana envy! i am in victoria, australia and due to flooding in queensland a little while back bananas are now $13 a kilo! (that’s about $28 a pound).

    i have 2 left in the freezer to make banana cake with but i’m kinda saving those until we really can’t remember what bananas taste like…

  17. Pingback: Where to start decluttering? 7 questions to help you (and me) figure it out « Ready. Set. Simplify.

  18. I try to always look in my refrigerator before I go grocery-shopping. There´s almost always something in there I can make dinner of. Somtimes it´s pretty strange combos, but it works and I don´t have to waste as much food. Maybe you can eat leftovers 2 times a week instead of 1? We eat leftovers about every third day and that works great for us. I really, really like your blog. I read some other blogs, usually they´ve come much further than me with their simplifying, I´ve been looking for a blog like yours for some time now. I think your´re doing a great job!

    • Elizabeth

      Welcome, Cattis! We have been eating leftovers quite a bit for lunches, and that seems to have helped a lot in reducing our food waste since I wrote this post. I’m so glad you are enjoying my blog! :-)

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