Now that you’ve re-organized your pantry, it’s time to tackle the refrigerator. Not a favorite job of mine, either, yet quite necessary to keep your foods fresh and your fridge smelling sweet and clean. I find it best to just plunge in and do the whole thing in one go.
With modern refrigerators being frost-free, it’s much easier to clean one than it was when you had to defrost those big wedges of ice that formed in the freezer of older models. That always involved pans of hot water, a table knife to loosen chunks of ice, a tray to catch the drips, newspapers on the floor–a huge mess.
Nowadays it’s a much simpler process, so let’s get going. The first thing is to open unmarked containers of leftovers and toss anything that is a weird color, smells bad, or has fuzzy things growing on it. Dump that junk in the compost, wash out the containers, and move on.
If you have leftovers that are still edible, by all means use them up as quickly as you can. Lots of things can be dumped into a pot of water or stock for a delicious soup: raw or cooked veggies, cooked rice or grains, cooked beans or meat. Add some herbs and spices, lots of sautéed onions and garlic, and voila, a yummy pot of soup.
Once you’ve sorted out the contents of the fridge and freezer, then it’s time to clean. I like to wrap frozen foods in newspaper and put everything in a box while I clean. Put the refrigerated foods on top of the frozen, cover with more newspapers, and push the box out of the way. Everything will keep just fine.
One can use an all-purpose household cleaner such as Seventh Generation, or simply a bucket of sudsy water, and baking soda for scrubbing off stains and spills. Be sure to rinse well, as baking soda tends to leave a gritty film behind.
When you fridge and freezer are all fresh and clean again, it’s nice to line the drawers with paper towels, and to put paper towels underneath bottles of oil or anything else that might leave drips.
I recommend labeling every container of leftovers, or anything you freeze, with the contents and the date. If you want to get really organized, then make an inventory and post it on the door of the refrigerator. This is especially handy if you freeze green beans or other produce from your garden. That way you can write down “10 boxes of peas,” and cross off each box as you use it up. The inventory will also help you keep track of foods that need to be eaten right away, or let you know when you’re low on something and need to replace it next time you shop.
Once you have everything put back in your nice clean refrigerator, clearly labeled and dated, give yourself a nice reward, such as a cup of your favorite tea or chocolate, with perhaps a home made cookie or scone on the side. You deserve congratulations. Enjoy!