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Keeping Your Refrigerator Clean, Sanitary, and Safe


In nearly every home in America there is a refrigerator. Every fifteen min¬utes the motor turns on and it magically keeps things cold. However, without routine maintenance and sanitation, this appliance can be a hazard.

There are several steps to keeping a refrigerator running safely.

1. Routine Maintenance:

Vacuum condenser coils: For most refrigerators, the heat exchanger coils are underneath the refrigerator. There is an access at the front of the refrigerator at the bottom. This panel pops off and allows you to clean the coils using one of your vacuum cleaner attachments. When the coils become dust covered, the dust acts as insulation which makes heat exchange more difficult. Your refrigerator has to work harder which increases the cost of operation.

Clean drain hole and drip pan: Refrigerators typically have a drain hole and a drip pan to catch water condensation. Clean any food particles or deposits out of the drain hole. Clean the drip pan in soapy water to prevent bad odors.

Change water filter (if applicable): If your refrigerator has an automatic ice-maker or chilled water dispenser, then you may also have a water filter in the water supply line. The filter in this line should be changed out in accordance with your manufacturer’s recommendation.

Keeping a refrigerator clean and sanitary on the inside is just as important as the routine maintenance. The refrigerator can be one of the most bacteria-ridden places in your home.

2. Sanitation:

Start by removing everything from the refrigerator. Throw away any wilted produce or old leftovers. Check the expiration dates on all products, throwing away anything outdated.

De-frost/clean freezer and ice-maker: Never let frost in freezer build-up more than ¼ inch. Do not use metal or sharp instruments to scrape off frost, as this could cause damage to the inside of the freezer. After frost has melted, clean the inside with a solution of baking soda and water. Clean any mineral deposits from the automatic ice-maker, if applicable. Defrosting helps improve the energy efficiency.

Then carefully remove all of the shelves, racks, drawers and supports and put them in your bathtub. Spray them with a bleach/water solution or a commercial disinfectant spray cleaner. Let them sit in the tub while you direct your attention to the refrigerator.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves. Use any cleaning spray containing bleach or a bowl of warm bleach water. Use a kitchen sponge soaked in the solution to scrub down the interior, from top to bottom, including door seal. Allow debris to collect at the bottom, then soak up excess water and debris from bottom with paper towels and throw into the trash. The bleach/water mixture will kill mold and its spores that you cannot see.

After the interior is cleaned to your satisfaction, use an old toothbrush to reach into the crevices, around screws and support hardware. Also clean the outside of the door and the handles.

Dump the dirty water and replace with warm clean water and a clean cloth. Rinse the inside of the refrigerator to remove the bleach. Rinse your cloth regularly during this process. Make sure that you thoroughly rinse all the bleach from any gaskets or other soft plastic on the inside. Then dry thoroughly with a clean soft, lint-free, absorbent cloth.

Now back to the racks shelves and other items that are soaking in your bath tub.

You may need to rewet these items then give them a good scrubbing with a household sponge that has a scrubber side to remove all dried on spills. Rinse well with clear warm water and allow draining. Then dry thoroughly with a clean, soft absorbent, lint-free cloth and place them back into the refrigerator. Line the vegetable drawer with paper towels.

Place all products that did not get thrown away, neatly back into the refrigerator. Open a new box of baking soda and place in the refrigerator door to absorb any odors that may build up over time. Replace the box of baking soda once per month.

Cleaning spills as they happen is the best way to keep your refrigerator sanitized. A deep cleaning as described above should be done at least once a month, or more if needed.






When it comes to saving time in the kitchen, having everything you need within reach is probably one of the most important things you can do. If you’ve set up different areas in your kitchen, one for prep work, one for cooking, one for cleaning, and one for planning, you know how much easier it is to find things.

However, inside those centers lurks a hidden clutter – the pantry. Yes, behind that door is an accumulation of hundreds, if not thousands, of trips to the grocery store, ending in a hurried stashing of all your supplies. The result is a mess.

You can close your eyes to this mess by closing the door, but it comes back to haunt you every time you try to make a quick meal. The moment you open that door and start hunting and digging for supplies, precious time starts ticking away. That’s why organizing your pantry is so important to the overall success of your mealtime streamlining process. Let’s take a look at a few suggestions for tackling this area of the kitchen to organize it properly.

Clear the Decks

Trying to sort through every little packet, jar, box, and envelope while it sits on the pantry shelves is going to just frustrate you. There’s no way around this task; you must completely clear out your pantry.

Get out boxes and start taking everything out of the pantry. You may want to keep a trash can or box handy for items you know are either outdated or that you will never use. Once the entire pantry is empty, you can wipe down the shelves and get ready to organize.

Rethink the Space

If you put the stuff back into your pantry in exactly the same way it came out, chances are you will fall into the same clutter trap in no time. You need to redesign your pantry space to make better sense. That doesn’t mean you need to invest in expensive storage units or completely rebuild your pantry. It does mean you need to rethink the area you have and look at empty space with a critical eye.

Does your pantry have a door? If so, attach narrow shelves to the door, or hang a ‘shoe bag’ over the door. That little extra space can add up to a whole lot of storage. Also, because the spot is small, it can corral some of those tiny little packets that keep getting pushed to the back of the pantry.

Install ‘step shelves’ so the items in the back are lifted up and you can see them. Invest in inexpensive ‘lazy Susan’ type units so you can spin items to the front where you can get a hold of them. If you have space on the floor, think of the space more like a drawer, putting plastic bins down that you can pull out, rather than rummaging around trying to unearth items that are buried behind other items.

Think in Groups

The most efficient way to organize items in a pantry is by use, not by size. If you rarely use that bottle of sesame oil, then why keep it up front? I know it’s small, but it makes more sense to put it in the back on your ‘step shelf’ than in the front where you are constantly moving it to get at bigger products you use every day.

Keep the items you use most frequently up front and at eye level. Organize them by type so you know without even looking where you will need to reach for the canned tomatoes, the spaghetti noodles, or the breadcrumbs. If you have seasonings, spices, and herbs you use almost every meal, keep those in one bin right in front, and put the remaining spices on a ‘lazy Susan’ in the back of the pantry.

If you buy in bulk, you will obviously have large bags and boxes of food items you use often. You can put small amounts in reusable containers and keep the items in the ‘grab and use’ area of the pantry or you can keep the items in bulk and put them in plastic bins on the lower level or on the floor. Using plastic bins allows for sliding them out from the pantry, like a drawer, keeping the products more accessible. Either method gets the products you use most often up front, making mealtime preparation faster and easier.

Put it Where it Belongs

Once you have your pantry organized in easy to grab groups, you need to keep it that way. You may wish to label bins, either with words or pictures, to help the family put things where they belong. Even the youngest child will understand that the rice goes in a bin with a picture of rice on it. This is one way to eliminate the “I don’t know where it goes” cry.

The trickiest part of this whole organizing task is keeping things where they belong. Constantly nagging the family to “put it back where it belongs” gets tiring for everyone. You may have to monitor things for a while and come up with some teaching method for those who carelessly ignore your efforts. Of course, the consequences are simple and evident when dinner is delayed because somebody didn’t put the beans back where they belong.

Getting dinner on the table fast, and with less effort, is a goal we all have. None of us wants to spend all day or night in the kitchen. When time is at a premium, mealtime preparations can be given a time-saving boost by giving your pantry a make-over. As simple as it sounds, that little space in your kitchen can cost you a lot of time or save you a lot of time. You choose!




Batch Cooking to Save Money

by Home Heart Strings

Batch Cooking to Save Money

Batch cooking is becoming very popular. It’s a great way to have healthy meals when you’re short on time during the week because of work. It also means you don’t have to eat out all the time, which saves you money. But cooking in large batches in and of itself is a great money saver. So if you’re looking for more ways to save on your food budget, then here’s how to do it with batch cooking.

What Is Batch Cooking?

You might be wondering what batch cooking actually is. Basically it’s cooking large amounts of food at once to store and freeze for use at a later date. You can do it many different ways depending on what works best for you. If you have a deep freezer and a whole weekend, you could cook up food for the entire month. If you don’t want to spend that much time or don’t have the storage needed for that kind of batch cooking, then cooking in advance for the week might be a better alternative for you.

How to Cook in Batches

Cooking large amount of food to freeze can seem overwhelming. If you set aside a whole day it’s doable. Just double, triple, or quadruple your recipes and place in freezer bags to save room in your freezer.

You can also cook up large batches of sauce to freeze, or roast a chicken and cut it up to freeze to use in meals throughout the week. You don’t have to make a whole meal to have throughout the week.

Cooking up the basics that you will use in a meal will not only make meals easier to make, but it also saves you money. Jar sauce is convenient to use in recipes because you don’t want to spend the time cooking sauce every time you need it, but if you have some made and frozen in your freezer it can be cheaper – especially if you have used in season ingredients. When you end up with a whole bunch of tomatoes at the end of the summer you can cook up a large batch of sauce that could last you all winter long.

Whole chickens can generally be bought cheaper than chicken pieces. So cooking up large batches of chicken, shredding it, and freezing it to add to meals as needed is a huge money saver – not to mention the time saver.

Tips So You Aren’t Wasteful

If your major goal in bulk cooking is to save money, then the one thing you do not want to happen is for the food that you worked so hard to cook to go bad. To keep this from happening, here are some tips:

* Properly wrap your food to prevent freezer burn. Make sure you use a wrap that is meant for the freezer and that as much air as possible has been removed and it’s sealed tight.

* Label the item with what it is as well as the date it was prepared. Foods can last 6-9 months in the freezer, but you need to label it with how long it has been in there.

* Do not place piping hot food directly into the freezer. Allow it to cool some before freezing.

* When reheating, to keep food from drying out reheat at a slightly lower temperature than what you normally cook it on.

Following these tips will ensure that you make the most use out of the food and that it tastes its best. This way you aren’t throwing away the food you worked so hard on.

Batch cooking can be a real great money saver. You won’t be eating out as much because meals on busy days will be so fast and easy. You’ll also save money by buying in-season items in bulk. Batch cooking might not be for everyone, but give it a try to see how much money you can save.