It was a pretty straight-forward project, but it took me a whole afternoon to get it done. I pulled everything out of the refrigerator one shelf at a time, sorting things as I went. Then I cleaned off each shelf in the sink before pulling out the next shelf. Once I had cleaned all the shelves and drawers, I wiped out the interior, dried and reinstalled the shelves, and returned the keepers. Then I repeated the whole process with the door. My dish washer was about 2/3rds full, and I filled it with the newly emptied containers and ran it immediately. That was handy for banishing odors from a few things which were spoiled.
As I was sorting, I paid a lot of attention to the things that I had let go to waste. I wanted to better organize things and establish a system to make sure we eat what we buy and don't let things turn into science experiments. The main trouble spots I identified were: leftover odds and ends, an insane number of lemon and lime slices, a surplus of homemade salad dressings, and fresh herbs.
The solutions I've come up with for these problem areas are:
1. I designated the top shelf for leftover odds and ends that need to be used up. We don't usually have a problem with leftover meals going to waste. It's things like half a can of re-fried beans, leftover toppings and sauces, and way too many slices of lemons and limes in tiny containers that make their way to the back of the fridge to die. Hopefully having all these things corralled in one place will help us use things up, and will prevent us from slicing a new lemon when there's half of one already cut. I'm trying to monitor the shelf and utilize the contents in meals or put things in the freezer before they've been hanging around too long.
2. I'm trying to make only enough dressing for the salad I've made that night. I realized that when I make too much, we just don't end up using it.
3.When I buy fresh herbs, I'm going to try freezing half the bunch in ice cube trays immediately after I've bought it. I almost never use a whole bunch of cilantro or parsley, so it turns to green goo in the produce drawer. Yuck.
So here is the after, almost one week later. The contents have rotated a fair amount. So far the new system is working well, although a week isn't really enough to know if it's standing the test of time.
I'm really pleased with the result. I haven't decided the best use for the top right hand section of the door, though. It has a really flimsy shelf, so I need to make sure I don't put anything heavy there. Right now it has essential oil and ginger for sushi. Also, I can't believe how soon I'll be finding a new use for the eggs/dairy section! Lent is quickly approaching. I'll probably put packed lunches there then. Right now I have that with the breads, just to distinguish it from other leftovers.
What do methods do you find helpful for managing the refrigerator?