Hi everyone! My name is Jaime, I’m a registered dietitian and food blogger at Zest & Zeal.
You have all heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” Well, there is truth to this phrase even when you are talking about your refrigerator. Spring is all about new beginnings and cleaning up the clutter. Since spring has finally sprung, there is no better time than now to freshen up and stock your refrigerator with nutritious foods. Spring cleaning your refrigerator will not only help you feel more organized, it will also make it easier for you and your family to develop and maintain healthier eating habits. Here are a few of my tips:
Start by doing a thorough deep cleaning of the inside of your refrigerator. Take everything out of your refrigerator and wipe out the shelves and drawers with a non-toxic cleaner such as my simple DIY Citrus Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner. Empty and remove your produce drawers and clean those easily missed and forgotten surfaces behind the drawers and shelves.
Get rid of the clutter. Many of those condiments hiding in the back or on the side shelves may have expired. Read the expiration dates on all bottles and jars and pitch anything that is outdated. You might be surprised by how old some of those rarely used condiments are. It is also a good idea to read over the ingredients of those items you've had for a few months or years. Do they contain ingredients you are now trying to avoid? If so, you might want to pitch them or give them to a friend who you know still uses them.
Stock your refrigerator with nutritious and seasonal ingredients. It is so important to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and fill your cart with the whole foods you find in the produce, meat, seafood, and dairy sections. Seasonal produce typically contains more nutrients because it is picked at the peak of freshness and therefore offers a higher nutritional content than out-of-season produce. But, this is not just about nutrition: seasonal produce typically tastes better, too. Just think about that juicy bright red summer tomato in contrast to the dull, mealy winter tomato. There is no comparison! Buying seasonally is also easier on the wallet because when there is an abundance of certain fruits or vegetables, they tend to be on sale.
Wash and prep produce as soon as you get home from the grocery store. This is one of my all-time favorite kitchen time savers. If your family is like mine, they aren’t going to eat all those nutritious foods unless they require very little preparation and are visible (more on this next). In the past I was guilty of coming home from the grocery store and hurriedly unpacking my groceries, only to find some of those foods (especially produce) rotten a week later because I forgot it was buried at the bottom of my produce drawer. To avoid wasting food and to ensure my family is eating a nice variety of fruits and vegetables, I wash and prep all the produce I know we will be using for salads and snacks as soon as I get home from the grocery store (or very soon after).
Keep produce and healthy snacks visible. Another way I avoid wasting food and boost our intake of fruits and vegetables is storing them in glass Pyrex containers immediately after I wash and prep them. This way everyone in my family, including me, can see what is available for snacks and meals. I also store all of the glass Pyrex containers in the main part of the refrigerator and only store unprepared produce (for meals or items that can't be pre-cut) in the produce drawers. This has helped us to not only eat more fruits and veggies, but also to eat a wider variety of them. It is a bit more prep work when you get home from the store, but it will save you time (and money) in the long run.
Do a quick wipe down each week before you put new groceries in the refrigerator. Now that you have done all this work, you want to make sure you keep your refrigerator nice and organized! Every week before your grocery store run, make sure you do a quick wipe down of your shelves and drawers. Also, throw away any expired items or outdated leftovers. A quick weekly check-in makes these habits much easier to maintain and keeps your family healthier in the long run.