Green Kitchen Tip #7
Keeping an orderly refrigerator is especially important if you are trying to minimize your ecological footprint by purchasing the smallest refrigerator feasible for your needs. Downsizing your cooling space can have a positive impact on your life, as long as you invest a little time and thought into how you organize and maintain your refrigerator.
A cluttered refrigerator has the following negative attributes:
- You spend more time with the door open (energy wasting behavior) looking for ingredients
- Clutter, if stacked thoughtlessly, can interfere with the air flow in the refrigerator making the appliance work harder and potentially not keep the interior optimally cool
- Clutter is mentally disturbing, even if only subconsciously
- In a cluttered refrigerator, frequently used items tend to migrate to the front of the refrigerator, while things like leftovers and rarely used items can lurk in the background and foul in obscurity.
Furthermore, food that cannot be eaten, and is possibly too revolting to introduce to your compost bin, most likely will end up in a landfill, where it produces methane as it decays and contributes disproportionately to global warming.
Not only that, but an unnamed food blogger once publicly admitted that she prefers to throw away Tupperware that harbors vigorous cultures of unmentionables. While this actually makes sense, because plastic containers are relatively porous and therefore cannot be disinfected as thoroughly as glass containers, the thought of failing to recycle plastic containers was nevertheless upsetting to me.
I have compiled a few tips to help us all (yes, I still need a reminder every once in a while, as well) be better stewards to the earth through our food storage habits --
- Have a system of organization – this helps because if all your cheeses and all your condiments are together in one area of your refrigerator -- items with relatively long shelf-lives – you won’t need to shuffle through them to check for spoilage as often. Make sure everyone in the household agrees to and abides by the system. If one member of the family disregards the system, it will mean extra work for the person who regularly cleans out the refrigerator, as well as time and energy wasted searching for errant items.
- Choose a day of the week to perform a regular refrigerator check-up. Keep in mind that if done weekly, it will only take a fraction of the time that it takes to clean a neglected refrigerator.
- I hesitate to recommend labeling dates on your containers of leftovers, because I know for myself this would encourage me to procrastinate until the final hour of utility, but such a system may work for some.
- Eat leftovers within the week, or be firm about tossing or composting them. Leftovers are rarely as appealing as their freshly made counterparts, and they rarely age well. Rather than planning lunches on weekend days, I have started foraging on leftovers, since I often eat these meals alone and typically don’t have time to do anything extravagant anyway. Occasionally I’m amazed by available leftovers, which I would have forgotten were there.
- If your typical day-to-day schedule has been disturbed (due to illness, vacation, power outages, or what have you) make it a priority to sift through your fridge, as soon as you get a spare moment.
- If you are an adventurous home cook, occasionally you will find yourself with a large quantity of an ingredient you don’t typically cook with. Such ingredients are especially easy to overlook and find spoiled some time later. Use these instances as opportunities to expand your horizons. These atypical ingredients can challenge you to create or search for further recipes featuring the ingredient in question.