By Nicci Micco , August 27, 2012 - 3:00pm
Food doesn’t have to come in shelf-stable packages to be convenient. And in the next few weeks, we’re going to continue to transform you into a fresh-food aficionado. Soon enough, you’ll be planning meals—and foraging snacks—from the healthy ingredients stashed in your fridge. It’s that simple. We’re taking it in steps, offering up a new focus each week. Last week, we encouraged you to Visit a Farm or Farmers’ Market ; the week before, we helped you Stock Your Fridge with Fresh Foods .
This Week’s Focus: Clean Out/Refresh Your Fridge
A clean fridge is important for good health and healthy meals. And though a thorough spring-cleaning of your kitchen is a good idea, you shouldn’t wait until spring to clean up your act inside the refrigerator. Follow these tips to keep your fridge fresh year-round.
1. Keep it cool. Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria, so it’s important to make sure that your refrigerator doesn’t rise above 40°F. Reduce your risk of foodborne illness by keeping tabs on your fridge temp with a thermometer. You can buy a “refrigerator/freezer thermometer” at appliance stores, home centers and online kitchen stores.
2. Check the date. Almost everything in a package in your fridge is likely tagged with a date and one of these phrases: “Use By,” “Best By” or “Use Before.” Ditch everything that is past its date.
3. Store Food Properly. Proper storage is key when it comes to making food last. Store raw meat in the meat drawer away from cooked food to avoid contamination and to keep the temperature consistently cold. Dairy items should be kept in the back of the fridge. And you might be surprised at some of the foods—such as nuts—that keep better if they’re stored in the fridge or freezer. What are the others? Click here to discover the surprising foods you could keep in the fridge. 
4. Keep tabs on what’s inside. Move your perishables into plain view so you know what you have. Check the fridge before you go to the grocery store so you don’t purchase something new that you already have. Pick a day of the week to go through your fridge and see what’s in there and try to plan your meals around the stuff that’s nearing its expiration date. Doing so will help you save money—you’ll also save cash with a little food-shopping savvy, so be sure to review our 12 secrets to spending less at the grocery shore .
For more Keep It Fresh tips and recipes, visit our Keep It Fresh page .