Very early on after I started cooking my own food, I realized I can’t just leave vegetables and fruits lying around. They rot, smell disgusting and attract flies. Also, you’ll have to waste all the rotten produce and shop more often. So I got a fridge and life’s way better after that. I’ve started purchasing produce once a week and stocking up on my produce so that I feel more encouraged to cook as-well-as have less frequent shopping trips.
Some pointers if you’re just getting started –
1. Don’t buy for more than a week
This is not easy or straight-forward, and I don’t think I still do this accurately. This is just something you have to keep in mind while shopping. Don’t buy anything that you plan on not using within a week. Somethings might stay over a week or you might run out of something during the week. But even so, this is a great rule to keep in mind. It will keep things rotting/drying-up in the fridge to a minimum. And you won’t have to clean very frequently.
2. Remove Dirt from the Produce
I don’t usually wash produce before putting it in fridge but I do lightly wipe it down with a soft cloth or a kitchen tissue. Only if something is heavily soiled – like ginger or coriander I wash it and dry it. I prefer to wash my vegetables and fruits just before I use them. It’s way more convenient than washing and drying all your produce after you buy it. But if you do decide to wash after purchase, make sure they are mostly dry before putting in the fridge. Wet veggies aren’t a good thing in the fridge. Exception is greens (spinach etc.). I always pluck leaves, wash them thoroughly, dry them under a fan and then put in the fridge.
3. Use Airtight Containers and Bags
I put coriander leaves, curry leaves, ginger, chilies etc. – washed clean and dried – in airtight Tupperware boxes. The vegetables and fruits in Ziploc bags – keep a bunch of medium size and large size Ziploc bags in stock. But be responsible – I wash and re-use the Ziploc bags as many times as possible. Greens (leafy vegetables) should be washed and dried well before putting in zip-lock bags. A lot of people leave lemons and eggs in those trays in the fridge but I don’t. It dries up if left just like that. Treat them just like other fruits and vegetables and make sure they are in an airtight packing. Also Ziploc is fancy – you can also just re-purpose any old plastic cover and fold them neat enough that they are airtight.
4. Throw Away Old Food
Do not hesitate to throw away your produce / cooked food if it doesn’t look / smell good. Especially if you’re just getting started you’ll come across situations where you bought too much of something, or you forgot something and it went bad. It’s normal to feel guilty about throwing away food but it’s also normal to not eat food that goes bad. Dump it. Learn from experience and buy lesser next time (.. or eat what you bought, sooner). Check for expiry dates on sauces and spreads if you keep them – don’t put it back if it’s past. Throw it away immediately – or at least keep it outside the fridge so that you’ll be reminded to dump it.
5. Things Will Rot in the Fridge
I used to think nothing goes bad in the fridge. But nope. Things rot but just very slowly. If you give enough time, most vegetables can turn just as bad as if you had left them outside. So the previous tips are even more important. Keep each produce in it’s own airtight pack so that it doesn’t spoil the others when it rots. Use them soon and buy only what you can use soon.
That’s it. Those are the only 5 things I’ve been following and I almost never have to have a “fridge-cleaning-day”. The fridge stays almost always fresh and clean. I always have something fresh and healthy to eat. All without taking much of my time at all. Including the shopping trip, my produce buying/stocking time is less than 3 hours a week.