Most of us take for granted how important our fridges are for keeping food fresh and our bodies healthy. But are you really refrigerating your food the right way? Here are eight mistakes you could be making with your fridge, and how to change those common habits.
1. You're not making the most of the space
It can be a nightmare when you can't cram everything into your fridge. But rather than putting it down to the fact you need a bigger one, it may just be time for a clearout. Before you do a new food shop, empty your fridge and throw out all the half-used jars of pasta sauce and baked beans, as well as that rotting bit of lettuce that's been at the back for too long.The Food Standards Agency also recommends getting into the habit of checking what you already have in your fridge or freezer before you go shopping, to avoid food waste.
2. You're not putting the correct foods in the correct places
'Knowing the right places in the fridge to store food means it will last up to three times longer,' says German chef Ludwig Maurer. 'The problem is that most people don't know where to put what. They open the door and throw everything in.' Rather than stuffing in food wherever it'll fit, it's important to stack your fridge in a way that helps the longevity of the produce. For example, eggs do better on the middle shelf (as it has a more consistent temperature), while butter and soft cheeses can go in the fridge door, as they don't need to be in the coldest part. Fish, meat and leafy veg should go at the bottom, while ripe fruit and other veg should be stored at the top.
3. You're not cleaning it often enough
It's really important to give the shelves, drawers and walls of your fridge a good clean every so often. Verity Mann, Head of Testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute, tells us that we should ideally spot clean our fridge every week, with a deep clean once a month.Not only will this keep your fridge free from any nasty bacteria lingering from gone-off food, it also eliminates any chances of smelly odours.
4. You're not sealing and storing your food well enough
Both leftover food, and open packages of food, should be stored in a way that keeps potentially contaminating bacteria and smells in. The Food Standards Agency recommends storing food in airtight containers or wrapping it in clingfilm. Top tip: Glass storage containers are a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic.
5. Your fridge isn't at the right temperature
Often, your fridge may not be at the right temperature, so it's always important that the monitor or dial is showing the optimum temperature for food freshness. For fridges, this is 3-5°C (freezers should display a temperature of between -18 and -20°C).
6. You could be contaminating other foods
It's especially important to keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from other foods to avoid contamination. Ensure packaging is always tightly sealed, and that you store uncooked meat/seafood on the lowest shelf of your fridge to prevent the juices from leaking and dripping on to other foods.
7. You're not washing your hands before and after using your fridge
This may seem like common sense, but we bet you've gone to your fridge in the middle of preparing food? If you've been touching foods such as raw meat or fish, it's incredibly important to wash your hands before touching your fridge door or contents to avoid contamination. Just think about all the unsafe bacteria that might linger on your fridge door handle...
8. You keep your fruit and veg in the same compartment Produce can be tricky to store, and according to the Vegetarian Times, keeping 'gas releasers' such as avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes out of the fridge can prevent veggies from spoiling prematurely.