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Extreme Makeover - Your Refrigerator

Eating well doesn't have to be difficult. Follow these simple suggestions, and you'll have some of the freshest and healthiest food around.

1. Move fruits and vegetables out of the crisper to the top shelf. Americans waste millions of dollars every week on food that spoils before it can be eaten. Produce should be the first thing you see, not shoved in a drawer that rarely gets opened.

TIP: Put produce in plastic bags where they can stay slightly moist (not wet). Don't wash them until just before you eat because wet produce grows mold more easily.

2. Keep your eggs in a carton, not in the refrigerator door. Eggs kept in the door will go bad faster from the changing temperature every time you open and close the door.

TIP: To buy the freshest eggs, don't look at the "expiration" or "sell-by" date. Every carton has a number from 1 to 365 printed on the side. That number is the day of the year the eggs were packed. If one carton has the number 225 and the next has the number 240, the eggs with the number 240 are 15 days FRESHER.

3. Put healthy, single-serving snacks (like a sugar-free protein pudding or low-fat cottage cheese) at eye level. When you're hungry for a quick bite, these should be the easiest things to reach for.

4. Put lunchmeat in airtight containers, not the bags provided by the deli counter. Also, buy cold cuts freshly sliced, and you can choose brands that have less sodium than the pre-packaged brands.

TIP: Lunchmeat is bad if it smells sweet or has a slippery coating.

5. Keep plenty of milk on hand, but not whole milk. Milk is loaded with vitamin D and calcium. Skim has the fewest calories, but 1% is good too because it contains CLA, a good fat that can help your body burn calories more efficiently.

6. Make sugar free drinks (like Crystal Light or Wylers) and keep them easily accessible.

7. Store fresh meats on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator where there is no chance of them dripping onto other foods. Wrap them tightly to keep air out and juices in. If you haven't eaten it within 24 hours, put it in the freezer so it won't go bad.

8. Candy, soda, beer and other cheat foods should be kept in the crisper. If it's out of sight, you're less likely to think about or reach for it when you have a craving.

9. Go through your refrigerator door and replace the full-fat foods with healthier alternatives. Fat-free cream cheese, sugar-free syrup and, if you must have butter, choose a brand that doesn't have any trans-fats. Throw away anything that has passed its expiration date.


  • Put leftovers in clear, single-serving clear plastic containers. Never use foil because it doesn't seal as well, and you might forget what food you wrapped up. Don't put anything in that isn't covered because the smell can circulate and taint things like the ice in your freezer.

  • Keep healthier foods up front and less healthy options in the back.

  • Make healthy food more appealing. Store mixed nuts with low-fat yogurt or chocolate milk mix beside the skim milk. An indulgent topping (when used sparingly) can make healthier eating easier.

  • Freeze foods in individual portions to make thawing and preparing them easier. The recommended serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of playing cards). A standard serving of pasta is one cup, and vegetables is half a cup.

  • Freeze fruit for a treat. Frozen bananas, grapes and orange slices are great alternatives to ice cream.

  • Make sure your refrigerator is set at 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), and your freezer is set at zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or less. These temperatures help prevent the growth of microorganisms that can cause food to spoil.

  • Keep a running list of what you need on the refrigerator door, and take it with you when you go to the grocery store, so you know exactly what to buy.

  • Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Yes, it's more expensive, but if they're already cut up, you're more likely to eat them before they spoil, and that's certainly cheaper than throwing away rotten food every week.

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Updated 1/27/2021

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  • Things you Should NOT Refrigerate.

    Store these things at room temperature. Here's why.

    Tomatoes - Cold tends to break down the membranes in the fruit (yes it's a fruit) and their texture can turn from crisp to mushy. If yours are currently in the fridge, take them out and let them sit for a day at room temperature. Some of their enzymes will reactivate and bring back a little of the lost flavor.

    Potatoes - Cold turns the starch in potatoes to sugar. Then when you cook them they get discolored and can end up tasting too sweet. You also want to keep potatoes out of the light. The ideal environment is dark and about 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have a place in your home that's ideal, put the potatoes in a brown paper bag. Store the bag in a pantry or cupboard.

    Garlic and Onions - Cold can cause them to lose their crispness and the moisture in the refrigerator can make them moldy. If they're not kept in sealed containers their flavors can transfer to other foods in the refrigerator. Store them at room temperature, and keep them away from other root vegetables.