Or­ga­nize your fridge for max­i­mum fresh­ness

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - To learn more, visit Con­sumerRe­ports.org.

Af­ter schlep­ping to the su­per­mar­ket and back, you might be tempted to un­load your haul as quickly as pos­si­ble so that you can kick back and re­lax -- or at least move on to other house­hold chores. But care­fully stock­ing your fridge will help cut down on food waste, not to men­tion the risk of food­borne ill­ness.

Smart food stor­age takes into ac­count the fact that cli­mate con­di­tions vary through­out a re­frig­er­a­tor. Con­sumer Re­ports of­fers this step-by-step guide to or­ga­niz­ing your re­frig­er­a­tor.

Step 1: The door

In Con­sumer Re­ports’ tem­per­a­ture per­for­mance tests, which oc­cur in cli­mate-con­trolled cham­bers where testers crank the heat up to 110 de­grees Fahren­heit, tem­per­a­tures on the door climb a cou­ple de­grees higher than the main com­part­ment. That’s too warm for milk and eggs, de­spite the fact that many re­frig­er­a­tors have gal­lon­size door bins and egg-shaped com­part­ments that seem like ideal places for these items.

In­stead, re­serve the door for items that can han­dle warmer con­di­tions, in­clud­ing but­ter,

condi­ments, juice, cook­ing oils, soda and wa­ter.

Step 2: The meat/deli bin

This stor­age op­tion is most com­mon on French­door bot­tom-freez­ers, where it typ­i­cally sits be­neath the crisper draw­ers. It’s a help­ful fea­ture, es­pe­cially if the tem­per­a­ture can be ad­justed to best ac­com­mo­date a range of foods -- cooler for cured meats, for ex­am­ple, and warmer for a plat­ter of hors d’oeu­vres. Items that be­long in the bin in­clude ba­con, cheeses, deli meats and hot dogs.

Step 3: The crisper draw­ers

Crisper draw­ers are de­signed for pro­duce. On many re­frig­er­a­tors, the hu­mid­ity can be ad­justed from high, ideal for most wilt­ing veg­eta­bles, to low, best for a lot of fruits, plus some veg­eta­bles with thin skins that like the air a bit dryer.

In the low-hu­mid­ity drawer, store ap­ples; av­o­ca­dos (once ripe); grapes; mush­rooms; ripened peaches, pears and plums; pep­pers; ripened melon; and sum­mer squash.

In the high-hu­mid­ity drawer, store broccoli, car­rots, cau­li­flower, green onions and leafy greens.

Step 4: The lower shelf

The lower shelf, usu­ally lo­cated in the mid­dle of the fridge, tends to be the cold­est part of the re­frig­er­a­tor. This makes it ideal for stor­age of items that are more sus­cep­ti­ble to de­vel­op­ing harmful bac­te­ria, in­clud­ing eggs (in their orig­i­nal car­ton), milk and raw fish, meat and poul­try (on trays to catch drip­pings so as not to con­tam­i­nate other foods).

Step 5: The up­per shelf

The up­per shelves, con­versely, are the warm­est part, with tem­per­a­tures often reach­ing up around 40 de­grees. That’s too warm for milk and eggs, though yo­gurt is OK be­cause it’s fer­mented. On the top shelf, store jam and jelly, left­overs, peanut but­ter, yo­gurt, and snacks like hum­mus and fruit cups.

Re­frig­er­a­tor no-nos

Know­ing what goes where in the fridge can pre­vent spoil­ing, Con­sumer Re­ports notes. You also need to know which foods don’t be­long in the fridge in the first place. That list in­cludes ba­nanas; bread (freezer is OK); cof­fee; gar­lic; onions (keep away from pota­toes); pota­toes (keep away from onions); and toma­toes.

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