February 25, 2013
IS IT SCIENCE FAIR TIME YET?
Because if it is then I think I may have a few experiments for you… It’s that time of year again to really cull the refrigerator. I know you should do it more than 2 or 3 times a year and I do mini cleanouts almost weekly. But now it’s time to pull EVERYTHING out from top to bottom, scrub it down and really get after it. BLEH!
But there is a method to my madness, in fact there are a few reasons this is happening now. So here’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Like the title says “It all started with a book.” As I read the book “Friendship Bread” by Darien Gee I found myself wanting to try this Amish Friendship Bread that the book spoke so highly of, but alas I had no starter and further more did not know anyone that did. Luckily enough the book had a recipe for the starter right in the book. Along with a few recipes and a reference to the website developed specifically for recipes for this in all sorts of versions including gluten and dairy free.
A visit to the website linked me up to the facebook group for it as well. So I was off and running.
While reading the book I decided to start a sixth blog to my writings that was for book reviews and book quotes. It is titled “Outside a Dog.” So I wrote a review on Ms. Gee’s book and then started in on creating the bread.
Which of course segued to other starters for other things including Refrigerator Potato Bread and Artisan Breads. These last few starters require being kept in the refrigerator. Which of course was suffering from “over stuffeditis.”
Secondly it was nearing a major grocery shopping time and I needed to know what we did and didn’t have on hand, because while I do stockpile food to some extent I have limited cold storage space and didn’t want to purchase items that I wouldn’t have space for.
The third reason goes hand in hand with a new ap I have for my phone called Grocery Tracker and my desire to be more organized. This one will require a blog post all its own to sing its praises, but the features I had in mind for this particular project were the inventory and grocery list sections on the ap.
So that is a long winded explanation as to why this post for the Princess Plan is about cleaning your fridge.
Cleaning a fridge is relatively simple right? You empty it, you wipe it down and you put stuff back right? Well sort of. I’m talking about the once a year grandios scrub that sucker out cleaning here.
So let’s start. I have two fridges to deal with one in the main house and one in the sunroom, three if you count the camper one, but it generally isn’t running unless we are leaving on a trip soon, or just got back from one. Right now I’m home bound so for this organizational project it will not be included. Besides I cleaned it out good when we came home from our Secret Getaway to Las Vegas in December.
I highly recommend starting with your kitchen tidy and an empty trash container, and/or a compost bucket, because you are momentarily going to destroy your kitchen and if you are brutal enough fill your trash or compost container up as you go.
I also make certain my dishwasher is empty when I start because of all the containers I know I’m going to find once I really dig in. In conjunction with this I also have a sink full of hot soapy dishwater and later on a bucket of hot water mixed with baking soda. For this project I recommend a vacuum with a hose attachment be used as well. Another “tool” I gather up before I start is a permanent marker for putting dates on the outside of packages where they will be easy to see and read.
Now that you have your tools all ready let’s start with the refrigerator section of the unit. I tend to start at the top and work my way down. The top is a bit of a challenge for me because I have a tall side by side unit in my house and quite frankly I can neither see or reach the back of the top shelf without using my step stool. So I do the top shelf first before I tire or have things so cluttered I don’t have room for the step stool in my long narrow kitchen.
Starting at the top I am merciless. I check expiration dates, look for science experiments gone wild AND ask myself if we are ever REALLY going to use that item in the future, no matter how much it cost us. I also ask “How long has that been there?”
My motto, “when in doubt, throw it out!”
Containers I want to keep are emptied either into the garbage disposal, the compost bucket or the trash depending on what they are and how far south they’ve gone as I go, no stacking for later. They are then loaded immediately either into the dishwasher or a sink of hot soapy water (being careful to not put cold glass containers into the hot water without a warm up time). This helps avoid getting a bunch of stuff drug out and life happening and you ending up with a horrific mess in your kitchen as you rush out the door to save little Johnny from whatever mischief he is getting into.
As disposal units fill up they are hauled outside to their designated location as soon as possible to avoid noxious odors and fruit flies forming in the house.
The few things like pickle jars that are to be returned to the refrigerator are wiped off and set aside for later return and organized as I empty the refrigerator. If they don’t already have their expiration date boldly written on the front label I do so with a permanent marker at this point as well. This makes it far easier to put things back when I am finished in an orderly manner. Especially if I have to quit swiftly to rush off to save some baby gosling from being separated from it’s mother.
Since I am using Grocery Tracker to keep track of our groceries to help avoid food loss and discovering too late that I am short something to fix dinner I scan any empty or near empty containers of items I need to purchase and add them to the grocery list as I go. Why this makes taking out some what slow it really speeds up putting back when you are tired and trying to keep the house or farm from falling down around you.
Once I get everything out of the refrigerator I carefully remove my shelves and refrigerator drawers. Since mine are glass I set them to the side to allow them to come to room temperature before washing them.
While the refrigerator side is totally empty I take advantage of the soaking capabilities of a good hot soapy dish cloth to lay it in the bottom of the refrigerator to soften anything that may have formed under the crisper drawers as I work on the other steps I am about to list. This saves me time and scrubbing strength as the project goes on. If there is a really bad spill under that drawer I will occasionally put a small amount of hot soapy water on it to help speed up the process.
I also take advantage of the refrigerator being considerably lighter to pull it out and check for any problems and vacuum the model that has the coils on the back to remove all dust bunnies. This will help improve your cooling.
It is also a good time to clean the floor under the fridge and head off “surprises” later on in the year.
Also if your refrigerator is one with an evaporation pan under it, now is the time to clean that well and disinfect it per your manufacturer’s instructions.
Once the refrigerator is back in place and I am certain it is once again level—this is very important for a refrigerator to run properly—I proceed to scrub out the interior of the refrigerator. Starting at the top and working my way down. I do this first with hot soapy dishwater, and then rinse well and wash again with baking soda dissolved in water. This helps eliminate odors. While you can put a box of baking soda in your refrigerator to also control odors I often end up with a spilled box when I do this. So I just make certain I wash the entire inside with baking soda water and it works well.
By now the refrigerator drawers and shelves are generally warm enough to put in the dishwater and be scrubbed clean, rinsed, dried and replaced in the refrigerator.
Then it is a simple matter of putting the few things I had decided to keep back into the fridge section and I do so by putting all like things together. Pickles with pickles, jellies with jellies and jams, cheeses in the proper drawer etc. By checking the dates on the front of the jars and containers I can be certain to put the oldest products where they will be used first if by some chance there is more than one jar or container opened of the same product.—Nahhh, never happens right? I’ll be honest, it happens more than I’d like to admit at my house.
Now that I am using Grocery Tracker, I inventory the few foods I am putting back in as I go using the scanner in the ap whenever possible. I also include the expiration dates, a handy feature in this ap, of the items in there so I can make certain they are used up before they become the science experiment du jour.
Once the refrigerator side is finished I repeat the process with the freezer side/compartment. If I feel it is going to take me any length of time to do this part I drag in an ice chest into the house and dump the ice from the icemaker in zippered bags to pack around the frozen foods to keep them frozen in the ice chest.
This round I am not only looking for expired items, but freezer burned ones as well. While the things I vacuum seal don’t get freezer burn the items quickly put in via zipper bag or plastic container often are.
Omit pulling the fridge out again because that step is already completed. Be certain to let your glass shelves warm thoroughly before putting them in the hot dishwater because if you don’t you could crack or shatter your shelves, especially the freezer ones.
The sorting for this section is generally beef with beef, chicken with chicken etc. While you are there pull something out for dinner. Preferably something quick and easy to cook because you are going to be tired. Also date them as you go if they aren’t already dated.
While cleaning the inside of your unit it is a good time to check to see if you need to replace your water filter and do so if it is needed.
Just for general information, we have found that we can purchase our filters far cheaper on amazon.com than anywhere else. For years I never thought to check amazon and spent over $30 each for my filters at the local home improvement stores for a single filter. I can sometimes get two for that price on amazon. Hmmm maybe I need to write a blog over on Mind Your Pennies about using amazon.com for such items. This blogging thing is starting to take on a life of its own!
Once the inside is all clean I start on the outside.
My house unit has a vent on the front of it that is always collecting dust bunnies and cat fur, so I vacuum this thoroughly at this point. I want to get those fuzzies before any liquid might get on them.
If you have a ceiling fan near your refrigerator I recommend vacuuming it off before starting this scrub down of the outside of the unit. How do ceiling fans get so dirty? Anyway, you don’t want that yech on your nice clean refrigerator now do you? So take the few minutes it will take to clean the fan while you have the vacuum in the kitchen and change any dead light bulbs in it while you are there too.
I clean top to bottom again. No that isn’t a new cat on top of your refrigerator, it’s dust bunnies and they need to runaway now. I myself generally use Dr. Bonner’s Castile Soap that I have mixed in a10 water to 1 Dr. Bonner’s ratio in a spray bottle and clean the entire outer surface of the refrigerator with it. Then rinse with clear water in a clean rag. Then dry it off and viola’ you are finished!
Unless you are like me and have a second fridge to do. Bleh!
Jan who usually breaks this whole chore down over a couple of days to get it done properly in OK