Nobody likes to waste food—it hits you right in the wallet or pocketbook. Researchers estimate the average family of four throws away $1,500 annually in food they don’t eat. That’s a lot to spend on brown bananas and leftover pizza.
Your refrigerator is a good place to begin your food consumption reality check. Here are nine money-saving tips and tricks that involve your fridge and freezer.
Think About a Smaller Refrigerator
Consider downsizing your fridge when it comes time to replace your current one. Americans have the biggest refrigerators in the world—containing 17.5 cubic feet of perishable food on average. A smaller fridge costs less to run, and it will also force you to spend less at the grocery store, encouraging you to only buy what you need.
Reduce the Amount of Energy You Use
Your fridge and freezer are one of the biggest energy consumers of all your appliances, running constantly 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Things like setting the temperature, checking seals and cleaning coils can reduce your electric bill by up to 30%.
Pull the Fridge Forward One Inch
Although your natural inclination might be to push the fridge as far back to the wall as possible to save floor space, you can reduce energy usage by up to 40% by pulling it forward one small inch.
Does it really matter where things go? It does if you want your food to taste better and stay fresher longer. Use this strategy to organize your refrigerator and save money:
Upper shelves: The top shelves are decently cold, so keep ready-made foods, leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt and cheese) there.
Lower shelves: These are the coldest spots of your fridge. Keep any dairy and raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes on the lower shelves. Place meat and seafood on the bottom shelf to prevent it from leaking on to other foods. Deli meats belong in the shallow meat drawer, which is slightly colder than the rest of the fridge, or (if there’s no such drawer) on the bottom shelf.
Door: The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the fridge, so only condiments or juice should go there. Don’t put eggs, milk or meats in the door.
First In, First Out (FIFO) is a system for storing and rotating food. When you FIFO, food that has been in storage longest should be the next food used. When you get new groceries, push them toward the back and move your old groceries to the front. This constant rotation keeps food fresher—helping prevent mold and pathogen growth.
Freeze More Food
There is no clear line dividing foods that freeze well and those that don’t. However, if you find that you can’t get to your leftovers in time, think about freezing them instead of tossing them out.
Use the Crisper Drawers Correctly
Use your refrigerator crisper drawer’s humidity controls to keep your fruits and vegetables at their best longer. Most refrigerators have two drawers with adjustable humidity airflow settings.
Choose a low-humidity setting drawer for things that tend to rot—including fruits and veggies that emit an ethylene gas, which promotes ripening.
Things that wilt go in the high-humidity drawer. Store citrus, asparagus, lettuces, and other leafy greens, like arugula, spinach, kale and herbs here.
Click here for a list of common fruits and vegetables that should be kept in each drawer.
Fill the Freezer Up
Unlike your refrigerator (which needs a lot of air circulation to keep food at an even temperature), a freezer is more efficient if kept full, packed tight. Tuck in some cold packs or extra ice into any open spaces. As an added bonus, a fully-stocked freezer keeps food frozen longer if you have a power outage.
Know What Not to Refrigerate
Randomly tossing all of your produce in the refrigerator can be a bad idea. Certain foods should be kept out of the fridge entirely. For example, some foods lose flavor inside of a refrigerator, and should be left out on the counter or put in dark, cool place like the pantry. Food Network says to keep these 15 foods out of your fridge.
Resources: CNET, Apartment Therapy, LLC., Wise Bread, The Kitchn, MoneyTalksNews, HuffPost, Threadneedle Press LLC, Television Food Network