Updated: Sep 29, 2019
About a month ago we noticed that one of our two freezers was iced up to the point of not closing correctly. So it became rather urgent to defrost it. This seems to be something that I procrastinate on, because not only do I need to empty the freezers one at a time and defrost them individually, but when I defrost, I also go through all of the food in them both, decluttering and organizing them, and then I make a list of everything currently in both freezers so that I can use the foods in upcoming meals. And so it really does become an all-day event.
This cleaning out of the freezers in turn inspired me to clean the refrigerator, and I love the way it looks now, plus the convenience of not having to rummage through it to find anything. And, to top it off, it just smells better. Another great advantage was that when our 23 guests arrived for Thanksgiving, I was graciously and gracefully able to place their cold items into the frig without doing a balancing act to make it all fit.
I’m certainly not advising you to start such an extensive project with Christmas just weeks away. But what I am going to give you is a QUICK list of how to easily ready your freezer and refrigerator for the Christmas baking and entertaining that is just around the corner. First let’s look at the advantages of doing this:
Extra room in your refrigerator for holiday baking and cooking.
Space for guests to store any items they bring that need to stay cold.
If you are looking to save a little money at Christmastime this is a sure way to save at the grocery store- by using what you (didn’t know you) have.
The feeling of accomplishing something each time you open the frig door.
Pre-planned meals for the busiest time of the year.
And now for the eleven tips I promised you:
First, get out the old, outdated, stale, (or even moldy) foods. Throw them away. Yes, it’s a waste. American families throw out around 120# of food each month.
Take a pad of paper and just a few minutes to jot down a list of what’s in your cold storage now.
Try to place like items together as you do your little inventory (but don’t sweat it if you can’t).
Wipe out the shelves with a hot, lightly soapy rag. Even if you don’t want to remove everything, you can still wipe up spills for safety and better looks.
Surveying your inventory, write down some meal ideas that use the ingredients you have on the ist. Using up these items will make more space for incoming holiday foods, and help you save money by not spending (that waste thing again).
While you’re at it, check the temperature of the freezer and refrigerator. According to the FDA,he refrigerator should be above freezing but below 40 degrees (F), and the freezer should be right around 0 degrees (F).
Most refrigerators have digital temperature controls, but just in case you have an appliance with a dial - when adjusting a temperature knob marked with numbers, remember that the higher the number, the more you are telling the appliance to work, so turning the dial from “3” to “5” would mean you want the fridge to run more, which in turn would bring the temperature down. So, in short, up means down and down means up (if you want a higher temp (warmer), turn the knob down and tell the fridge to run less. For some reason I have to think this through every time...
When storing cold or frozen foods, make very sure you separate flavors. Nobody wants to eat a peanut butter cookie that is tainted with peppermint flavor because they were frozen together. Or a fruit smoothie that tastes like onions. At the very least, place in separate sealed containers or ziploc bags.
This brings up one of my favorite food storage tools, the vacuum sealer. If you have one, get it out in plain sight where it’s convenient to use. Most vacuum sealers can even seal delicate foods by allowing you to stop the vacuum and start the sealing before the fragile food is crushed.
After a holiday meal, or any of our family’s once a month dinner get-togethers, I love to use my vacuum sealer to seal up leftovers from the meal into smaller portions for guests to take home. At least you can offer, and then the little thing just does it’s thing and your leftovers are quickly out of your way.
Christmas cookies can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3-4 weeks, so go ahead and start some baking now. Once cool, loosely wrap the cookies in plastic wrap and seal in an airtight container. Make sure you thaw them thoroughly before sharing them. And enjoy without the last-minute mess or rush.