Some people (kids) think that the refrigerator is a magical place that keeps food fresh forever (or at least until mold forms). Other people (moms) fanatically toss things out after a day. Who is on the right track? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Essentially no food benefits from storage. You want everything as fresh as possible.
Since we can't all tromp out to the garden to harvest produce for each meal, here are some guidelines for making your fridge function at its best and keep food from spoiling before its time.
To keep food from spoiling in the refrigerator, the recommended refrigerator temperature setting is between 34 and 40 degrees F. You can't depend on the little gauge (1-5) in the refrigerator. Get a refrigerator thermometer to confirm the interior temperature is safe.
Storing food safely requires a bit of knowledge about the different areas your refrigerator. The fridge temp in some parts of your refrigerator are colder than others.
The meat compartment at the bottom is designed to store meat - so put meat there. Not only is this the coldest area, but if the package leaks, it won't contaminate other foods.
The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. This is the best place for non-perishables (sodas), not perishables (eggs).
Don't put hot food in the refrigerator. Bring warm food to room temperature before refrigerating it. Hot food can cause the refrigerator temperature range to fluctuate forcing it to work harder to maintain a safe refrigerator temperature for the foods already inside.
On the other hand, don't leave food out too long, either. Refrigerate prepared food within two hours of cooking (one hour in the summer).
Don't overload the refrigerator. Parties are a dangerous time because we tend to stash a lot of food in the refrigerator, and we're continually opening the door.
Try to keep repeated opening of the fridge to a minimum. Turn the refrigerator temp down during these occasions to keep the food cold.
Cover foods tightly. Leave meats in their original packaging to prevent spreading bacteria.
Don't store breads, cookies, or most types of cakes in the refrigerator; they will become stale.
If you lose power, don't open your refrigerator or freezer. If the door is not opened, food should keep 8 hours in the refrigerator and 48 hours in the freezer. Best advice: When in doubt, throw it away. A little thriftiness is not worth a tummy ache, or worse.
Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for refrigerator food storage products and supplies designed to keep your food safe.