Begin with the Fridge
Did you know certain vegetables could actually lose their flavor and develop brown spots when stored in your refrigerator? Or that cheese should be wrapped in parchment paper to keep fresh? Tips like these are essential when preparing to makeover and organize your kitchen. Although it may take some effort initially, a kitchen makeover will make your life considerably easier, saving you money & time on unnecessary trips to the grocery store. It can even improve your health. Knowing what items you have on hand and where they are located will make preparing meals a lot easier and could prevent that unexpected biology project from developing in your fridge or pantry. Organization in the kitchen can also prevent weight gain, as we are more prone to eating out. An easy way to keep those pounds off is by preparing your meals at home, as you have total control of what you’re preparing and how much of each ingredient you’re using.
Below are a few tips and tricks to help organize your fridge. When your foods are stored properly, they will stay fresher for a longer duration, allowing you to prepare more meals at home. The first thing you want to make sure of, is that your refrigerator’s temperature is set to 40 degrees F or below, as any warmer can allow harmful bacteria to grow on food.
Dairy Products: According to Cooks Illustrated, milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products are best stored on the upper shelves of your refrigerator; the temperature there is the most constant, so they’ll keep longer.
Eggs: Make sure you do not store your eggs on the inside door of your refrigerator- this is the warmest part of the fridge. It is best to store your eggs in their carton on the middle shelf.
Mushrooms: According to theKitchn, commercial mushrooms (the ones you buy at the grocery store) are best left in their original packaging. Unopened, they keep with very little browning for over a week. Once you open the container, wrap the whole package in plastic wrap or put the container in a large zip lock plastic bag (and squeeze out most of the air before closing). Wild mushrooms are best kept in a paper bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Vegetables: Warmer growing vegetables like tomatoes, avocados, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, peppers and beans, can actually lose flavor, develop brown spots and have texture effected, if you pop them in the refrigerator. It’s best to store these types of veggies in a cool dark place, like the pantry. Root vegetables, onions and hardy greens (kale, chard, collards) can be stored in Debbie Meyer GreenBags in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. To make sure the veggies don’t decompose prematurely, keep them away from ethylene-producing fruits: apples, stone fruits, mangoes, passion fruit, pears, and kiwis.
Fruit: Fruit, except melons, citrus, and bananas, should be stored in the refrigerator in a separate drawer from the vegetables. Know that bananas ripen very quickly and will speed the ripening process of nearby fruits. Do not wash your fruit until you are ready to eat it; the excess water quickens decomposition. Although whole lemons are best left out on the counter, lemons that have been zested, but not juiced, can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator. Fruits may also be stored in Debbie Meyer GreenBags.
Cheese: According to Formaticum’s blog, the best way to store your cheese is in cheese paper. The next best thing is to wrap the cheese first in parchment or waxed paper, and then loosely in plastic wrap or a plastic baggie. Scientist Harold McGee says in his book, On Food and Cooking, one should avoid directly wrapping cheese in plastic at all costs because the cheese can absorb the flavors and chemicals from the plastic. Before storing, do a “face clean” of each cheese: scrape the surface with a non-serrated knife to remove any excess oil that may have “sweat out” at room temperature.
Meat: Meat is best stored on the bottom shelf, where it’s coldest and prevents cross-contamination (so juices do not drip on other foods). Refrigerate raw ground meats and poultry for 1-2 days & raw roasts, steaks and chops 3-5 days; store cooked meat and poultry for 3-4 days. Fish: Before refrigerating a piece of fish, dry it completely and wrap it in waxed paper. The FDA recommends all seafood, including fish, be used within 2 days of purchase. Fish should have a mild and fresh smell, so make sure to check the smell before you cook it- if it smells too fishy or has an off color, throw it out. To thaw frozen fish, place in the fridge overnight, or place it in a sealable plastic bag and immerse it in cold water until thawed.
Herbs: Basil, parsley, cilantro and other leafy, water-based herbs should be treated like flowers; snip the bottom of the stems off, fill a jar with water and then place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar. Cover the herbs loosely with a plastic bag and they will stay fresh for at least a week. Cilantro loves cool temperatures and should be stored in the fridge, while basil is ideally stored at room temperature. Hardier, oil-based herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and layered into plastic bags.
Eating healthy starts by simply being connected to your food and having awareness.