The Secret Ingredient

Inspiration for Everyday Cooking

Spring Cleaning: The Refrigerator

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It must be spring…I’m in a cleaning kind-of mood!  I’ve also been on a clear-out-and-clean-out rampage lately, starting with my recipe files, and now I’ve moved onto my refrigerator.

Cleaning out the fridge is never a task I relish.  In fact, it completely grosses me out.  I always seem to find something that migrated its way to the dark back corner of some shelf or drawer and has turned a frightening shade of green, or worse, has disintegrated into goo.  The upside is that I notice all the jars and bottles which have expired, reclaim all my storage containers which have been occupied by the aforementioned green, gooey items, and best of all, have a chance to scrub the daylights out of the shelves, drawers and walls.

This go-round I discovered some coffee beans in a ceramic container, but who knows if they are regular or decaf (a mistake I don’t dare make).  I realized I had two jars of oil-packed anchovies open, two different versions of chili paste with garlic (used in many Asian dishes), three bottles of soy sauce, and that my jar of Dijon mustard was virtually empty.   I also realized that when you pull out all the drawers, an awful lot of junk collects underneath them!

If you’re considering cleaning out your fridge (which I would highly recommend!), start by taking EVERYTHING out.  Then, you can make your decisions about what to keep and what to pitch without standing in front of the open-door, letting out the cold and wasting energy.  Once you toss all the expired and/or spoiled food and condiments (don’t forget to recycle the plastic and glass!), organize everything into categories.  For instance, I have all my sandwich spreads together in one door-shelf:  jams, jellies, peanut butter, mayo, mustard, ketchup.  On another shelf I have all my cooking condiments like soy sauce, chili pastes, soup base, nut and seed oils (like walnut and sesame, which should be refrigerated), and tubes of tomato paste (which are perfect when you just need a tablespoon, not an entire can).  I have all my nuts stored together (yes, nuts should be refrigerated!), my fruit in one drawer, veggies in another, cheeses in yet another.  I put the things I use most (like milk, orange juice, eggs) right on the middle shelf where they are easily accessible, and less used things such as breads on the top shelf.  The other shelves I use for containers of things I’ve prepped for a later meal, or leftovers I’m saving for another day.

One last note about cleaning—- since you are putting FOOD into your refrigerator, it is best to use all-natural, chemical-free cleaning products.  White vinegar mixed with warm water is a particularly good cleaning agent and is safe to use around food.   For an all-natural odor-neutralizer (for those times when you do forget about something and it rots), a simple box of baking soda placed in the back of your fridge will do the trick to absorb any unwanted smells.

Yes, cleaning out your fridge is a bit of a daunting task, but I promise that once it’s done, you’ll smile every time you open the door!

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