It’s National Clean Out the Refrigerator Day!

Older refrigerator model, with freezer compartment

When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can’t think of a better way to get the kitchen and fridge ready for Turkey Day than by celebrating National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day on November 15th.

In our busy lives, we rarely have time for some of the little things like sorting through all the stuff in the fridge.  Most of us have adopted a “Don’t Look if it Doesn’t Smell” policy, which means our fridges are jam packed with many things we are never going to eat.  Worse than all the food that gets wasted this way is the risk that someone in our house will eat something that should have been tossed long ago and wind up in the ER with food poisoning.  Even if you are confident that there isn’t anything in your fridge that is more than a couple months old, Thanksgiving is only 10 days away and you need room for all that food both before the meal and after.

To help you make the most of this day in the shortest amount of time, here are some tips for celebrating National Clean Out Your Fridge Day.

1.     Plan Ahead

Plan ahead to ensure you have enough time and everything you need on hand.  Most refrigerators can be cleaned in 1-3 hours.

2.     Get Your Supplies Together

To thoroughly clean out the fridge, you need cleaning cloths, hot water, and dish soap.   You will also want a cooler with ice so that you can keep things cool while you are cleaning shelves and drawers.

3.     Take Everything Out

In order to clean the interior properly, you need to remove all the food from the fridge before cleaning.  As you remove things start sorting them into the categories below.

4.     Sort the Contents

Any food that is expired or is too old to consume safely goes in the trash.  Store the remaining food in the cooler so that it remains cold.  According to the CDC, food can be kept according to the following guidelines:

  • Salads containing protein or pasta like chicken salad and egg salad – 3-5 days
  • Lunch Meat – unopened, 2 weeks – opened 3-5 days
  • Bacon – 7 days
  • Ground Beef and Other Ground Meat – 1-2 days
  • Beef, Pork, and Lamb, Fresh – 3-5 days
  • Chicken or Turkey – 1-2 days
  • Soups and Stews with veggies or meat – 3-4 days
  • Leftovers including cooked meat, pizza, and chicken nuggets – 3-4 days.

5.     Take Out Shelves and Drawers

Remove any pieces that can be removed and clean them in the sink.  It is easier to get them clean this way and it makes the interior of the fridge more accessible for cleaning.

6.     Clean the Inside

Use dish soap and water to clean the walls and floor inside the fridge.  Make the task easier by starting at the top so that any drips or drops don’t fall where you have already cleaned.   Clean all the shelves, drawers, nooks, and crannies.

7.     Clean the Shelves and Drawers

Clean these removable surfaces thoroughly using soap and water.  Once they are dry, replace them in the clean fridge.

8.     Wipe Down the Outside

Use a cloth to wipe down the outside of the fridge.  Don’t forget to clean the top.  Depending on the proximity of your stove, you may need grease remover to get the top clean.

9.     Replace the Food

Replace all the remaining food in the refrigerator.  Taking a little time to organize the contents, like designating one shelf for leftovers, will make it easier to keep it clean over the long term.

10.  Clean the Freezer

Now repeat that process with the freezer.  As you go through the contents of the freezer, remember that frozen food can’t be kept forever and check to make sure the food from the freezer is still suitable to eat.


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