By Beth Buck
Like many of these modern “holidays”, I thought at first that “National Clean Your Refrigerator Day” was a joke. The internet says otherwise, so there you are. Any day is a good day to clean out your refrigerator, but November 15 is especially good because its proximity to Thanksgiving; you need to make room for all your leftover turkey by throwing out expired yogurt and old pizza.
I admit that keeping my fridge clean is something I often find difficult. If you’re not careful, a container of leftovers can become gross more quickly than you expect. Or more likely, the longer you keep something in the depths of the fridge, the longer it weighs on your mind. “I should do something about that container in the back,” you think to yourself. But you never do, until you realize you are afraid of what you will find when the day or reckoning must come to pass. Something I once pulled out of the back of my fridge resembled a basket of kittens (it used to be potatoes). I’ll spare you the photographs of that one.
Fear of what lurks in the fridge must be part of the collective unconscious, because everyone loves to joke about it (exhibit A, this episode of Dinosaurs; exhibit B, this Garfield comic). This is probably because deep down, we know that when we allow food to sit so long that it needs to shave, we are wasting food. It goes without saying that food waste is the cardinal sin of emergency preparedness.
If the first rule of food storage is to “eat what you store, store what you eat,” then that doubly applies to leftovers or anything that may sit in your fridge for a long period of time. A crazy amount of food storage waste occurs because people put all their stuff in their hot garage and leave it there, unrotated, for a couple of decades. Similarly, refrigerated food waste occurs because we put leftovers on the bottom shelf and forget about them. So it follows that the best way to avoid having to throw out a lot of food from your fridge is to eat it before it gets bad. If you habitually cook more food than you can eat for dinner and the leftovers nearly always go bad before you can eat them, the solution is to cook less food at each meal.
Another way to keep food from spoiling in your fridge is to be aware of what you have in there. For example, if you already have an open package of butter, use up the butter you have before opening another one. If you are unaware that you have several open packages of a given item and keep opening more, they are all likely to spoil.
National Clean Your Refrigerator Day is the perfect time to start over, clean your slate along with your fridge. To truly get into the spirit of this day, or through your fridge, take inventory of what is there, throw out everything expired or fuzzy. Wipe down the shelves, wash out the drawers, then sit back and enjoy your sparkling clean fridge, perfect for storing your leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.