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How To: Organize Your Fridge & Keep It Clean

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As the first month of the New Year comes to a close, we find ourselves starting to reorganize and clean our homes, especially our kitchens. One of the easiest things in our kitchens to get disorganized and cluttered quickly is our refrigerators.

After a few trips to the grocery store, a busy weekend or two, your entire refrigerator becomes stocked full of food.

My mom and I have spent a few hours cleaning out the refrigerator and some of the things we find are quite appalling -- like finding out that the salad dressing you used last night actually expired a year ago.

So that we all can avoid a similarly terrible experience, here are a few tips and tricks to keep your refrigerator organized and clean.

One of the most common mistakes with organizing your refrigerator is not letting the proper amount of air circulate between the food. Let's face it, we all shove our food and containers to the back of each shelf and stuff the rest of the food inside the fridge to fill the entire shelf. Keeping space between the back and front of each shelf allows for air to better circulate through the fridge. If you don't leave enough room for air to move, your food won't be the correct temperature and it will go bad much faster.

The next biggest mistake is how we organize the food in the fridge. Certain foods go on certain shelves to ensure food safety. Food should be organized in descending order with ready-to-eat food on the top shelves, followed by seafood, whole cuts of beef and pork, then ground meat and ground fish, and whole ground poultry on the bottom. This keeps your food that is ready-to-eat, like pre-made food, leftovers and store-bought items such as yogurt, condiments and drinks, from getting contaminated from raw food.

If you have a lot of milk jugs, juice containers or other types of drinks in your refrigerator, invest in large bottles you can easily pour out of. Use bottles that are slim so you can stock your fridge with all the juice and milk you want, without taking up too much space in the refrigerator. Place an erasable and removable label on each bottle to mark what it is and when it expires, as well.

For all of those fruits and vegetables that take over the bottom drawers, stick each food in separate, slim containers so you can easily stack your fruits and vegetables to save room for air to flow and so you can keep everything in an orderly fashion. Remember, fruits and vegetables need to go inside the drawers because they are made to keep fruits and vegetables at a certain humidity.

After you reorganize your fridge, remember that it should maintain a temperature between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep your fridge cleaner longer, take an inventory every week or two to monitor what's in your fridge and what needs to be thrown out; clean up any spills or spoilage quickly to avoid those disgusting days when you open your fridge to a "pleasant" surprise.

If you organize your fridge and keep it clean, that big spring cleaning task won't be so daunting.

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