One time when I was housesitting, I decided to tidy up the fridge. It was about ready to explode, stuffed with too many jars, cartons, bottles and leftovers. Ironically, when I looked in there, it seemed as if there was nothing to eat. What an unappetizing mess it was! I was surprised about how many yucky unidentifiable things were living in the back of the fridge, covered with fuzzy, slimy, slithering stuff. I spontaneously coined the term “UFO”, meaning “Unidentified Food Object”. You can find these inhabitants in freezers, too.
I set out to fix the problem. I started by taking each item out one by one and checking the expiration dates. Many variables determine how long food lasts, therefore, expiration dates are estimates only. I used a common sense approach to determine whether to save or toss each thing. Unopened containers near or just recently past expiration dates were kept. For open containers, I used “organoleptic” testing, a fancy word that means “the sensory assessment of flavor, odor and appearance of a food product”, which is another way of saying just trust what your senses tell you. If an opened item smelled and tasted okay, it was kept even if it was just past the expiration date, especially if it was not rapidly perishable. For example, I kept sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, pickles and capers. Foods that were rapidly perishable such as meat and dairy got tossed when past the expiration date. All the discards filled a big black trash bag two-thirds full. The fridge was almost empty so I took the opportunity to take it apart and thoroughly clean it. I used a solution of four cups water, two cups white vinegar and one teaspoon liquid dish soap (I use Dawn) in a spray bottle.
Maybe your fridge is in a similar state and just opening the door raises the fur on the back of your neck, so many aliens! You may feel overwhelmed and wonder how do I start. Where you start is by doing one section at a time. Chances are, once you get going, you will feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. And maybe you would even do more than you had intended, and suddenly poof. You are finished!
If you need some inspiration, read the book “Fridge Love” by Kristin Hong. The book is full of lovely pictures. The author puts all her food in transparent food storage containers and that lends an orderly uniform appearance. The book has many handy tips, especially on how to store produce to extend shelf life.
To avoid future UFO’s, remember to date each item. How many UFOs do you have in your fridge? Truth and Confessions!