15 Refrigerator Rules from you Nixa Naturopathic Doctor for Fresher Foods

Turkey, stuffing, vegetables, salads, pie, drinks…next week we’ll be trying to cram all those wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers inside our already stuffed refrigerators. Now’s a great time to organize more efficiently so you can fit in all those leftover goodies while keeping costs lower and food fresh longer.

An unorganized refrigerator can be inefficient, which can add hundreds of dollars annually for electricity costs and food that spoils too quickly. A well stocked refrigerator is actually more efficient than a sparse one, but make sure to leave room for the air to circulate around the food on each shelf.

Follow these 15 simple rules from your Nixa Naturopathic Doctor to keep your foods fresher longer.

Rule # 1--Doors are for Non-Perishable Items

No easily perishable foods should be kept on the doors of your refrigerator. That includes eggs, meat, or any dairy products. Keep the doors for condiments, jams and jellies, drinks, and other items that won’t be affected by their fluctuating temperatures.

Rule # 2--Warm Leftovers Belong on the Top Shelf

Although you want to put away leftovers while they are still warm, the heat will rise and can spoil the foods above them. Therefore, put warm leftovers on the top shelf where the rising heat will not affect other foods.

The top shelf is also good spot for tall items, like milk and juice containers. Because of its height, fresh herbs and leafy greens in mason jars of water will also fit well. These will keep your herbs and greens fresh, and beautify your fridge!

Rule # 3--The Cheese Drawer is a Perfect Place for Butter

Many people put butter on the door, but the fluctuating temperatures are not good for your butter, which can easily lose its Vitamin A if not kept at a consistent temperature.

The cheese drawer is also good place to keep your cheese, yogurt, and cream cheese. If your refrigerator lacks this drawer, an upper shelf is a good choice for these items.

Rule #4--Dont' be Afraid to Add Organizers

Lazy Susans, turntables, bins that allow for airflow, and magazine holders can all be utilized to help organize the items on your shelves and allow you to avoid lforgetting items in the back until they are too far gone.

All shelves can be a good place for your leftovers once they are thoroughly cooled. Keep them in glass containers that stack nicely to help you see what you have stored. Glass is also an excellent choice because it will not absorb flavors and odors.

Rule #5--Keep Eggs on the Shelf in Their Original Container

Although many refrigerators have a place for eggs on the door, this is a poor place to keep them. Eggs require a consistent temperature. The upper shelves are a good spot for eggs. Keep eggs in their original container on an upper shelf. The container will help you keep track of how old they are.

Rule #6--Don't Store Vegetables and Fruits in the Same Drawer

Most refrigerators have a crisper drawer, where we tend to put our vegetables and fruits. However, as a rule, vegetables need a high-humidity environment while fruits need low humidity. So we can only set a drawer for one or the other!

If you have two crisper drawers this is easy. Set one on higher humidity for vegetables and the other on low humidity for fruits. But if you only have one crisper drawer, decide which you’ll keep in the drawer, and give the bottom shelf to the other. This may change from season to season, depending on what you need the most room for.

Try not to cut fruits and vegetables until you’re ready to use them. If you do need to store a cut portion, be aware that it will spoil more quickly.

Rule #7--Extend Vegetable Life with the Right Wrap

Cloth bags will help vegetables and fruits to last longer.

You can wrap broccoli, celery, kale, and lettuce in aluminum foil to extend their life.

Leafy greens and asparagus do well set upright in a mason jar with a little water in the bottom.

Store salad in a mason jar or a cloth bag. If you purchase salad in one of those plastic boxes, it will last longer if you put a paper towel in the bottom to help absorb excess moisture. (Do not mix tomatoes in salad for storage. The moisture in the tomatoes will make your greens spoil quickly.)

Mushrooms also like cloth or paper bags and low humidity. Don’t keep them in plastic or glass.

Rule #8--Keep Mold Out of the Environment

Clean your crisper drawer and shelf where you store produce frequently so that mold is eliminated and does not spread to other items.

Wash berries as soon as you bring them home with 1 part white vinegar to 10 parts water to prevent mold growth.

Remove any items that exhibit signs of decay IMMEDIATELY and clean the drawer or shelf it was in or on.

Rule # 9--Keep Your Meat Drawer at 29 Degrees

This is the temperature that will allow meat to be thawed, yet still a bit icy on top. It is the best temperature to avoid spoiling. Only keep raw meat/chicken/fish in the refrigerator for 2 days. If it will be longer before you'll use it, freeze it or precook it for your recipe.

Make sure that all raw meats are wrapped well so they won't leak. If you fear they might leak, save yourself cleanup later by wrapping the drawer in plastic wrap or putting a container under them to catch the liquid.

Ground chicken and turkey or hamburger can be cooked and then frozen for quick use later on.

Rule #10--Freeze it Rather Than Lose It

If you can't use it quickly enough, freeze it! Blanch vegetables such as beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, leafy greens and Brussels sprouts before freezing. Blanching stops the enzymatic reaction that causes vegetables to decay.

Store wheat germ and flours in the freezer and they will retain their nutritional value longer. If you’ve ground more grain than you need, let it cool then stick in the freezer until you need it.

Yeast remains viable much longer if frozen.

Before your herbs decay, cut them up and place a couple tablespoons in each section of an ice cube tray. Add your favorite oil and freeze.

Pack foods in the freezer closely together for better freezing. Keep open spaces between shelves for airflow. If you have large open spaces, fill them with bread loaves or even upside down empty bins for more efficient use of your freezer.

Rule #11--Keep Your Refrigerator Clean Inside and Outside

Keeping your refrigerator clean will prevent mold and decay from spreading from one item to another. One bad apple really will spoil the whole bunch!

The gaskets on your refrigerator doors must be working right for your refrigerator to function properly. To check them, thoroughly clean and dry the gaskets. Then open the door and inset a dollar bill. Close the door and try to pull the bill out. If this is easy to do, the gasket needs be replaced. An inefficient gasket allows air to flow out, raising your electric costs and preventing your fridge from keeping the cold temperature it needs (40 degrees is optimum).

Occasionally clean the coils on your fridge. If they are in the back, you may be able to clean them with the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner wand.

Have you ever spent time scrubbing the inside of your refrigerator because some liquid has spilled, dripped and dried in to a sticky mess? Why not protect your shelves to make any cleanup much easier?

Something as simple as plastic wrap can make cleaning a cinch. Cover the shelf with a layer of plastic wrap. Then, when you’re ready to clean up, simply pull off the wrap and apply a new clean layer!

Looking for something stronger and more decorative? Plastic dinner mats can be cut to fit your shelves and door pockets. These can be easily taken out and cleaned, then returned to their places. Such methods not only make clean up easier, but save you keeping the refrigerator door open for long periods of time while you try to scrub and clean parts that are not easily removable.

Rule #12--Use Activated Charcoal to Eliminate Odors

Although a box of baking soda will help, if you really want to eliminate odors, try activated charcoal. As a bonus, his works as an air deodorizer in you home as well as in your refrigerator.

Rule #13--Carrots Love Tomatoes But Potatoes Hate Onions

Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas, which is like an aging hormone for fruits and vegetables. It causes fruit to ripen and is used commercially to speed the ripening of tomatoes, bananas, pears and other fruits.

If you store fruits or vegetables that produce this hormone (such as apples and onions) next to produce that responds to it (such as strawberries and potatoes), it will speed up the aging process and cause your produce decay quickly. Ethylene production is one of the reasons why one rotting apple can ruin the whole bunch.

Foods that PRODUCE Ethylene include apples, apricots, avocados, ripe bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherimoyas, cranberries, figs, green onions, guavas, grapes, honeydew, kiwifruit, mangoes, mangosteen, nectarines, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, potatoes, prunes, quince, and tomatoes.

Foods that are RESPONSIVE to Ethylene include asparagus, unripe bananas, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, garlic, green beans, kale, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, raspberries, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, watercress, and watermelon.

Natural gas, smoke (from foods or cigarettes), and heat (including your stove, oven, and toaster) can increase Ethylene gas production. You may want to invest in an Ethylene gas absorber for your refrigerator (Bluapple makes one available on Amazon or at Bed, Bath, and Beyond).

Rule #14--Some Foods Should NOT Be Refrigerated

Remember that NOT EVERYTHING does better in the refrigerator. Keep these foods OUT of the fridge:
Avocados—These will stay green and hard in the refrigerator. If you want them to ripe more quickly, put in a paper bag with an apple. Don’t put them in the refrigerator unless you’re trying to stop the ripening process.

Bread—Cover and keep if refrigerated, it will get stale more quickly.

Bananas—-Wrap the crown with plastic wrap to slow ripening.

Tomatoes—-Keep on the counter. If put in the refrigerator, they will become mealy and mushy.

Garlic--Keep in a cool, dry place for up to two months. If put in the refrigerator, they will eventually sprout.

Honey—Stays indefinitely in the cupboard. If put in the refrigerator, it will eventually crystalize.

Onions—-Store in a mesh bag or bin that allows for air flow. Or put in old panty hose, with a knot between each one, and suspend from the ceiling. If stored in the refrigerator, they will become mushy and moldy.

Melons and winter squash—-unless you've cut them, leave them out. If refrigerated, the will lose their nutritional value more quickly.

Potatoes—-Keep in a cool, dry place. Paper bags work well. If you want them to stay good longer, add an apple or two. To keep them from sprouting. Keep away from onions. If put in the refrigerator, they will become sweet, soft and gritty.

Rule #15--Fresh Food is Better

When your food is kept fresher, it tastes better, has a more pleasing texture, and give you more nutritional value.

So use these simple rules to help you and your family enjoy your foods more and keep them fresh longer!

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