$2,200 FREE! Come get it! Now that I have your attention…According to Jonathan Bloom, author of “American Wasteland,” the average family of four throws away $2,200 a year in food. Now I must say that I am guilty of throwing away food. It feels awful. With a little planning and time you can organize your refrigerator and make sure you don’t waste food and money again!
Get your fridge organized: The first thing you want to do is clean your refrigerator. Make sure to throw away all food that is expired or that you know no one will eat. A messy fridge seems overwhelming and may have you reaching for a takeout menu instead of cooking something yummy with ingredients you have.
Keep everything in clear containers: I don’t know if it is a Polish thing or just a frugal thing but my family has always saved the butter containers or any other container that could be used over and over again. Unfortunately everyone forgets that the sour cream container now has a delicious pork chop in it. Not until three weeks later do you find that pork chop and its green and blue with mold. Yuck. Keeping food stored in clear, see-through containers makes it easy to see what’s in them. You will be more likely to eat it than leave it sitting to mold over.
Save room: I love orange juice with breakfast but the brand I enjoy comes in a big container that takes up a lot of space. I found a really cool juice container that takes up half the space as the original one did. Now I can store more stuff in the fridge. Remember to put a sticky note on the container with the date it should be used by!
Know when food goes bad: You pulled a chicken out Monday, now its Thursday, can you still cook it and not get a bad case of “multiple trips to the bathroom?” Leaving a chicken in the fridge for a long period of time is unsafe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all poultry should only be left in the fridge for no more than two days. Check out foodsafety.gov to see the other guidelines for different kinds of meat.
Have a preparation night: I usually prepare all my meals for the week on Mondays. Block out some time one night a week to create meals you can eat over the next few days. This will save you time and frustration during your morning routine. Instead of worrying about making your lunch or breakfast before running out the door, your meals could be all set and waiting for you to grab and go. I am saving money by eating the food I bought and I don’t have to spend money on lunches at work which can cost as much as $12 a day!
Keep fruit separated: Fruit stored together ripens faster and goes bad quicker, which means it will probably end up in the trash. There are great green products out there that really help food last longer. Make sure to label the containers to remember which fruits are in them.
Get creative with leftovers: Now that your refrigerator is organized and looking amazing, you’re wondering what to do with the leftovers. I hate leftovers. Who really likes leftovers? To me, they are not as flavorful as a fresh cooked meal. But when I’m desperate for food and all that I’ve got is leftovers, I check out supercook. You can enter the kind of meat you have, what you’re cooking with and it even asks what spices you have on-hand. It then gives a list of recipes that you can make with those ingredients. It also gives options of recipes that if you add one more ingredient, it makes it even tastier.
Organizing your refrigerator may take a little bit of time and planning on your part, but once you properly arrange, store and label your food, you’ll conserve money, time and freshness. Good luck cleaning out your fridge!