The refrigerator preserves and prevents food from spoiling and rotting and keeps it fresh until its expiry. But the fridge won’t always guarantee freshness alone; additional helpful factors, such as proper placement of food items, should also be observed.
There are some techniques in organizing food in the refrigerator efficiently that can greatly affect the freshness of the items stored, as there are certain areas in the fridge that can be suitable for particular kinds of food.
There are three factors to keep in mind when storing food in the refrigerator:
1. Food Safety
There are still some harmful bacteria that can multiply even when the food is inside the fridge. Raw food should not be stocked on shelves higher than those that are already cooked. For example, do not put uncooked chicken at the top shelf as some of its drippings might contaminate other items below the fridge.
To prevent bacteria growth, food needs to be in cold temperature. The recommended temperature for the fridge should be at 40 ° F or lower and the freezers should be at least 0 °F. However, note that the temperature might still vary on some parts of the fridge depending on the model of the refrigerator or the closeness of the area to the cooling element.
The crispers that can be found at the bottom prevent cold air and retain moisture; this is where vegetables are kept as they naturally produce a small energy that can heat up their surroundings. Vegetables need moist air to prevent them from drying out.
As mentioned earlier, each section of the refrigerator is fit for a particular group of foods.
The top shelves usually contain the most consistent temperature in the whole refrigerator, so it is recommended they be filled with food that do not need to be cooked, such as leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-make food.
Other food items that are recommended to be put on top shelves are the following:
• Pickled products
• Fridge-friendly fruits such as apples, oranges, berries, melons, and grapes
• Milk dairy products (in the back, where the temperature is consistent)
• Eggs, butter, and used cheese (store the cheese in parchment paper)
• Ready-to-eat condiments that are not used as often
The doors are the warmest area. Food that are not prone or are the most resistant to spoiling should be placed here. The following are examples of food items that can be placed in the refrigerator doors:
• Non-dairy drinks
• Shelf-stable food that one wants to last longer
For middle shelves, also referred to as the lower shelf, foods that should be put are:
• Sour cream
• Natural nut butters
• Cold cuts
• Sandwich bread
• Leftovers sealed in containers
The bottom shelf contains the coldest temperature in some refrigerators. This area should be not too overcrowded as food belonging in this part of the refrigerator needs to have cold air flowing around them. Food items that can be placed here are:
• All beverages
• Uncooked meats wrapped carefully and on a plate
• Seafood and poultry that are wrapped up in a plastic or foil with nothing dripping out
Some refrigerators have two compartments for crisper drawers. Consumers should note that there are certain fruits and vegetables that can’t be stored together as some fruits produce ethylene gas, which can make vegetables rot faster. There are certain fruits that should be in the low-humidity drawer such as:
• Ripe avocados
• Peaches, pears, plums, and nectarines
• Ripe melons
• Summer squashes
Most vegetables, such as the following, need to be stored in high-humidity drawers:
• Green onions
• Leafy greens
Food in the freezer should be packed tightly in plastic containers to be organized and to prevent food poisoning. Things that can be put in the freezer are the following:
• Cured meats
• Fresh pasta
• Pasta sauce
Besides the proper placement of food, consumers should also consider the measures of storing food. As was stated previously, there are certain food items that can’t be put in one compartment together, such as fruits and vegetables.
Although it is possible to do so, fruits such as unripe bananas, pears, plums, tomatoes, nectarines, and avocadoes, are not recommended to be refrigerated, because they produce gases that can cause the premature spoilage of vegetables.
Bread, coffee, garlic, onions, and potatoes are not recommended to be refrigerated as well.
Raw meat, poultry, and fish should be stored in safe plastic containers and placed on the freezer. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, and cream should be stored in their original packaging. Once removed from their original packaging, it’s not advisable to return them to their original containers. Eggs should not last in the fridge for more than a week.
Leftovers should be contained in tight and clear food containers and must be removed and reheated within four days to prevent food poisoning.
Other tips to consider
• Don’t over or under-stock the refrigerator.
• Put raw meat in containers such as plates or any plastic container to prevent its bacteria from spreading to other items. As much as possible, assign a meat locker for all raw meat, poultry, and seafood. The meat locker should be at the very bottom of the refrigerator shelves.
• Milk and eggs should be at the back of the shelf where it’s colder.
• Vents should not be blocked.
• Put a date label on fresh foods.
• Put unripe fruits in medium or low humidity crisper drawers because the ethylene that other fruits and veggies produce can make the former ripen faster.
• Replace the filters regularly.
• When grocery shopping, consider the shelf life of the food.
• Keep slow-spoiling foods in the warm areas and the fast-spoiling foods in the colder spots.
• Defrost the fridge regularly as ice build-up can hinder its performance.
• Food with strong odors should be enclosed in a sealed plastic container.