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There’s nothing worse than filling your fridge with fresh food on Sunday, only to discover half of the items have gone bad by mid-week. In the U.S., the average person throws away more than 20 pounds of food every month! That’s like tossing money in the garbage. But the good news is that you have a lot more control over how long your food stays fresh in your fridge than you think—check out these smart tips:
1. Location, Location, Location
Where you store certain items in your refrigerator has a lot to do with how fresh they stay. Fruits and vegetables should be kept separate (That’s why fridges come with two drawers!). They each produce different kinds of gases and if you store them together, the result is quicker spoiling. Check to see if there are humidity adjustments on your drawers. If so, set the fruit drawer humidity to low (this lets gases escape, delaying rot) and the veggie drawer to high (moisture keeps greens fresh). Another important note: Don’t store milk or eggs in the door of your refrigerator (even if there’s an egg storage compartment in the door). That area gets exposed to room temperature every time you open your fridge, which can lead to quicker spoilage. Instead, store condiments like ketchup, salad dressing, and other less perishable items in the door compartments.
2. Store Food As-Is
Put fruits and veggies away without washing them—it’s difficult to get them completely dry and the added moisture can lead to mold. But do poke holes in your produce bags so that they aren’t airtight. As for meats and poultry: leave them in the store packaging until you’re ready to cook them to avoid exposing the meat to bacteria.
3. Seeing is Eating
One of the main reasons for so much wasted food? You forget it’s there because it’s hidden behind a tower of Chinese take-out boxes. Solve this problem with clear glass stackable storage containers. Now, when you open the door and scan for food, you can instantly see that leftover piece of grilled chicken that will be perfect on top of your salad at lunch.
4. Herb’s the Word
Delicate herbs like cilantro and parsley are among the quickest things to spoil in the fridge. The trick to keeping them fresh is to store them like flowers in a vase. Put a little bit of water in the bottom of a mason jar, snip the bottoms off the herbs, place them upright in the jar, and cover with the lid. (If the sprigs are too tall for the lid, put a plastic bag over the top of them and seal the bag to the jar with a rubber band). Your herbs should last two to three weeks. Note—for basil, leave the lid off the jar and keep it on the counter at room temperature instead of in the fridge.
5. The Temperature Zone
Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or colder and your freezer at 0 degrees or colder. To check their temps, place an instant-read thermometer inside—if it’s not cold enough, it could be time to buy a new fridge. One to consider: The LG Door-in-Door Refrigerator ($1799; homedepot.com) has a special mini door that lets you grab frequently-needed items without having to open the larger door—that allows the interior to stay as cold as possible. Another great option is the Samsung French Door Refrigerator, which lets you set the freezer and fridge at different levels of humidity, which keeps produce fresh longer ($1799, homedepot.com). Psst—if these models seems pricey, think again—appliance sales go on all the time, so start shopping and you might find the fridge that works for you is marked down to a price that’s just right. Let the money-saving begin!