Refrigerator Interior rice leftovers Shutterstock Adrian Luca

Clean Out Your Refrigerator

There is no time like the 9th day of the 30-day decluttering challenge to clean out your refrigerator. When I set myself this task yesterday, I realized that the holidays could still be felt inside my refrigerator. If you suspect this is the case for you, it is time for a clear-out. This way, you can get a real sense of what you need and what you don’t, which always helps keep the food budget in check.

Tip #1 Clean Out Your Refrigerator Before A Shop

If you are about to do a big grocery run, plan to do a refrigerator decluttering before you go. Not only will tossing old leftovers open up space in your refrigerator for fresh food, but it will also signal to you what you need (and already have). For instance, we could have sworn we had plenty of ketchup – nope. Yesterday’s clean-out revealed that we had gone through the last of it, and it was not, in fact, simply hidden behind the lettuce.

Tip #2 Get Rid of Holiday Leftovers

When you set off to clean out your refrigerator, you may be surprised to find some long-dead leftovers lurking in the back. Or maybe that is just me. I just found plastic containers with some scraps from Thanksgiving that truly surprised me. Our refrigerator is small, so I’ll never know how they managed to stay hidden. Happily, we didn’t have a lot of spoiled leftovers to toss, but I’m glad I did the clean-out now.

Tip #3 Take an Inventory

Do you have three jars of pickles that are all the same? Don’t get me wrong – I love pickles. But unless you are about to make a recipe with a ton of pickles, you probably don’t need to buy more. When you clean out your refrigerator, taking inventory helps you direct your food dollars to what you need instead.

Tip #4 Time to Deep Clean

While pulling stuff out, tossing old produce, and taking inventory, consider taking some time to give your refrigerator a deep cleaning. Even when I have been good about cleaning up spills, there still seems to be a collection of crumbs on the door shelves and in the bottom drawers. Since most of the stuff is out anyway, it makes it easy to get in there and make your refrigerator sparkle. And if there were old spills, set aside time now to handle them. You’ll be happy that you did.

Tip #5 Restock by Categories

I’m a fan of restocking a cleared refrigerator by category. Produce routinely goes on one shelf. Dairy goes on another. I try to group ingredients by type so that they are easy to find when we are in mid-meal prep. It sounds silly, but you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep track of what you have bought when you keep similar items stored together.

Bonus Tip:

After you clean out your refrigerator, it might be a good time to get started on any of your new year’s resolutions about meal planning or other food-related goals. Meal plans help guarantee that you won’t buy ingredients that will rot before you use them and save you money.

Here in LA, this is also a great time of year to do “crop” swaps with neighbors (lemons are in season!), hit up the farmers’ markets, or try the new co-op. Experimentation is key in January. It’s a time when we are all more open to change and trying new things. Plus, it’s a way to keep about the sometimes grim mood that can set in with all the gray, cold days. Have fun!

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