Does your fridge smell a little suspect? Do you have multiple near-empty mustard jars, half-full relishes, and countless containers of salsa (mild, medium and extra spicy) vying for space with your daily essentials? Is your freezer playing host to baggies filled with meat so freezer-burned you can no longer identify it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to clean out your fridge to make room for the good stuff.
It’s a daunting task, but it must be done. Turn on some lively tunes and kick everyone out of the kitchen.. Have bags or bins for garbage, compost and recycling at the ready. Wear rubber gloves, and possibly a surgical mask.
Turn the temperature control down a few degrees since you’ll have the doors open a lot, and take everything out of the fridge. Everything. We mean it. If your fridge has a drip pan, remove it to clean.
Once all the food is out, remove shelves and racks, and wash them in hot soapy water. Wash all stationary pieces with a soapy cloth or sponge. Don’t use any strong cleaners — food-grade dish soap only. You don’t want to risk poisoning yourself or your family in the name of a clean fridge!
Replace that ancient box of baking soda (you should be changing it every three months) and while you’re at it, use a few tablespoons of the new baking soda and some water to create a paste that can be rubbed all over the inside of your fridge, then rinsed away with a damp cloth for extra odour control and rotten smell eradication.
What to Toss
In the fridge: Toss anything that’s passed its expiration date, but also keep in mind how long something has been open.
Follow these guidelines for food safety:
Ketchup: 6 months
BBQ Sauce: 4 months
Maple Syrup: 12 months
Salsa: 3 days (fresh), 1 month (commercially produced or
Mustard: 12 months
Pickles: 1 to 2 weeks (homemade or barrel), 2 months
Jam and Jelly: 6 months
Mayonnaise: 2 months
If you have two types of mayonnaise, three types of ketchup and four barbecue sauces, don’t combine one type of condiment into a single bottle. Instead, pick the freshest one and throw away the rest.
When it comes to meats and cheeses, be ruthless. Anything that looks or smells bad has got to go. Also, start storing opened packages in airtight Tupperware containers, rather than closing them half-heatedly with clips and ties. Your food will last longer and your entire fridge will smell better. Plus, containers that can be stacked and labeled are easy to organize.
In the freezer: Follow the directions specific to your freezer for defrosting, if necessary. (Most modern freezers don’t need to be defrosted but will benefit from a good cleaning.)
Then ascribe to these rules when deciding what to keep and what to throw away:
Bacon or Sausage: 1 to 2 months
Ham, Hot Dogs or Cold Cuts: 2 to 3 months
Raw Roasts, Steaks or Chops: 4 to 12 months
Raw Ground Meat: 3 to 4 months
Cooked Meat: 2 to 3 months
Raw, Whole Poultry: 1 to 2 months
Raw Poultry Parts: 9 months
Cooked Poultry: 4 months
Raw, Wild Game: 8 to 12 months