In preparing for the holidays, another thing I do is give the refrigerator and freezer a good cleaning. I only have one refrigerator, and need all the space I can get when it is time to entertain. Before I begin my holiday food shopping I take inventory of what I have, toss what is old and then give everything a quick wipe down.
Here is my refrigerator-freezer after I cleaned it and did an initial shopping trip. You can see it is not “perfect”, but this goes back to my philosophy of order – it is not about being worthy of a magazine photo shoot. For me, it is about knowing what I have, and being able to find it when it is time to prepare food for festivities!
Yes, taking an hour or two to clean the refrigerator and freezer doesn’t seem like something to add to the holiday craziness, but I find it helpful. When it is time for me to do my holiday cooking, I don’t have to waste time digging in the refrigerator to see what I have, I don’t waste money on groceries I have but can’t find and when I get home from the store it is easy to fit everything in the fridge. Even better, when I’m busy cooking for holiday guests, I can easily locate all the ingredients I need.
If you’re not entertaining in your home this holiday season, save this project for the new year!!! Whenever you’re feeling the need to establish some order, here are the steps I take…
I start with the freezer, as I usually find a few things in the refrigerator that I toss in the freezer to save for after the holidays – cheese, meats… From there the process for the freezer and refrigerator is about the same. Keep in mind that if you haven’t cleaned these out in a LONG time, you’re not going to achieve a perfect final product right now.
Here are my objectives…
1.) Get rid of expired items, to make room for holiday food.
2.) Take inventory of what I have, which saves time and money.
3.) Consolidate and order to maximize my space.
1.) Pull out the contents. I go shelf by shelf, because it is divided by food group already. If your fridge isn’t divided right now, pull out everything on the shelves first and then do the door(s).
2.) Toss anything that is old, expired, or you just know you aren’t going to use. I clean my fridge fairly regularly and I found a moldy onion, some salad mix that was breaking down to liquid and mayo that expired in July! among other things that ended up in the trash!
3.) Wipe down the shelves – I use my handy dandy vinegar bottle! Sometimes a warm dishrag and Dawn is helpful for things like apple juice and milk stuck to side walls – at least that’s the stuff I find!
4.) Sort everything by food type… dairy, veggies, meats & cheeses, fruit, beverages… When things are categorized in your fridge it is easier to find them, and you can use the space more efficiently.
I also use plastic containers and ziplock bags to contain like items that are small, and are easily lost or in disarray. In my meat and cheese drawer, I have block cheese and cheese sticks in a small tub, sliced cheese in one ziplock and shredded cheese in another ziplock. This makes it easy to find when I need it and to identify if I need more when I go to the store.
As you are cleaning out the fridge and freezer also take note of what you have that might be useful in holiday cooking. i.e. I found that I had some extra marshmallows and peanuts in the freezer, mayo (not the expired one!), feta cheese and a few other things that I probably would have bought too much of had I not cleaned out my fridge and freezer first.
Also, resist the urge to restock all of your staples as you do your holiday shopping. I take the opportunity to use things up – like salad dressing. If we run out of our favorite, there is still another option, and it leaves more space for the holiday groceries.
The top photo shows you my produce bins – the home of items I will buy last minute – they are fairly empty and clean – love! The top two shelves (bottom left) is the start of my holiday shopping. It shows you what it will ALL look like as I buy holiday food! But, I still have the holiday food grouped by category so it is easy to locate when it is time to cook.
My Categories: (Top shelf down)
– Meat and cheese for entertaining, eggs
– Dairy (yogurt, sour cream…)
– Beverages, a few misc. items (broth, garlic, applesauce)
– Milk, Tea & Juice
– Meat & Cheese drawer
– Veggie Drawer
– Fruit Drawer