Odds are, you’re no stranger to food waste; the average American family throws out 25 percent of the food it buys, much of it spoiled. Heck, one glance at your own fridge might reveal a carton of expired milk and mustard dating back to the Reagan administration.
But, get this: That waste is costing you, a lot. According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, spoiled and unused food can run a family of four up to $2,275 per year. One huge contributor to that deficit: a disorganized refrigerator—because when you can't find your food, you can't use it.
So, how can you best arrange your fridge to prevent food waste? We spoke to Whirlpool’s Home Cleaning Consumer Advocate, Lucinda M. Ottusch, to get the lowdown. Read on for tips about keeping your most important appliance up to snuff, and saving tons of cash in the process.
Storage and Organization
While many of us have an organization system for our fridge, it’s frequently not the right one. We don’t group our foods correctly, or we don’t store them in the right places. Next time you re-org your refridge, use this cheat sheet:
While placement is important, Ottusch’s No. 1 tip is putting like with like: “Group similar items together, such as proteins or dairy,” she says. You’ll not only find everything easier, you’ll avoid losing items to your fridge’s black hole.
Need more space? Citrus fruits, apples, bananas, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, bread, garlic, and even some condiments don’t need to be refrigerated. Learn more about what stays and what goes in "Refrigerate This, Not That."
Cleaning and Maintenance
Keeping your fridge clean and scentless is good for organization, not to mention your health. Spills should be wiped up immediately to avoid contamination, especially if they involve meat juices. As for regular scrubbing, “Clean both the freezer and refrigerator sections about once a month to avoid buildup of odors,” suggests Ottusch. Placing an open box of baking soda in the back of your appliance will help with the aroma issue, as well.
One area most fridge owners forget is the water and ice dispenser. Ottusch warns, “Be sure to change your refrigerator water filter at least every six months.” Otherwise, mold and mildew will build up. And that’s never a good thing.
Finally, make sure to clean the coils, located behind or underneath your fridge. “Dirty coils can block the air exchange or reduce air exchange making the fridge work harder, which could shorten its life span and reduce its efficiency,” says Ottusch.
Buying a New Fridge?
For optimal efficiency, look for these three things:
While organizing your refrigerator may not solve all your food waste problems—consolidating your shopping list is another must-do—it goes a long way towards fixing the situation. And if that saves you a few thousand dollars, all the better.
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