Recently we were sitting around a dining table with friends talking about life, and, as we picked at our food, the topic of living science experiments in our refrigerators came up. The means by which our collective minds GOT to that topic is probably way too complicated to try to recount at this point. Suffice to say somehow we landed here and I was astonished to find out that we are not alone in having difficulty with our ‘refrigerator management’ skills. (That term was used by one of my close friends and I thought it appropriate to share.)
I think its best to start by acknowledging refrigerators have a life of their own. There they sit in an auspicious place of adoration in someone’s kitchen, holding the life affirming nutrients we all need to survive. Or at least. they provide us with something to open every 10 minutes when we are hungry, whether or not it has food worth eating in it. You would think we, as a species, would try to name the thing, like a pet. After all we feed it, stroke it hoping something wonderfully delicious would just pop into our stomachs when we are starving, and talk to it constantly as we are gazing into its contents. (At least I do……….am I the only one? Oh God!)
Having acknowledged refrigerators actually live, it is important for their ongoing good health and odor they be cleaned and organized. When I looked at ours recently it became clear to me my wife is a fanatic. In her mind we MUST save any size of uneaten food left over from our meals. If there is a sliver of meat, I can’t throw it to the dog as a treat!!! Oh no, as I have been scolded many times, you must NOT throw away anything edible. (For the life of me I’m not sure why, as the food would be rotten by the time it got to all those starving children in foreign locations I generally can’t pronounce. But for the sake of harmony in your home, I would advise you stock up on tin foil and plastic wrap.)
Refrigerator organization is more complicated than first expected. There is often no room for tall things on the already over-crowded shelf supposedly MADE for tall things, and tilting them sideways turned out to be a disaster…..trust me on this. Small bits of miscellaneous food in a variety of wrappings are impossible to find on those smaller shelves meant for everything else you need to keep cold. And those little drawers at the bottom meant for vegetables??? Please…they are angled like a pyramid and, therefore, should only hold heavy stuff. Putting leafy things in these boxes leaves you with icky, sticky green stuff that is smashed together when you close the drawer.
So today I sat in front of my refrigerator and approached its organizational problem with the same corporate acumen I’ve used in my career. Survey the situation, make a plan, resource the effort, track the progress, and measure the results. Sounded good when I started. I surveyed the refrigerator and noted two primary issues right off the bat. One, we tend to place everything toward the front of each shelf; and two, we have stuff in there we bought over a year ago! That can’t be good. The first plan, then, was to replace things on the shelves so we could see what we had when we opened the refrigerator door. That proved tricky as you still end up with things in the back that could quite easily stay there forever unbeknown to anyone. They hide out in the corners of your box, impossible to reach without crawling on your hands and knees, and bumping your head on the shelves to get to them. Then, I’m convinced, those tricky little devils sit there laughing at you while dodging every attempt to grab them as you are looking up at the ceiling to stretch your arm to the back of the box. I have declared war on the back of my refrigerator, but I’m not proud of it.
Next I gathered all the individually wrapped bits of food and tried to organize them into types – you know, meats, veggies, carbs, etc.. I ran into some issues here as I couldn’t recognize some of the packages and ended up just tossing them. Don’t tell my wife. I did make a donation, as an amends, to the starving children in foreign places I couldn’t pronounce out of guilt for tossing that moldy piece of pizza.
Finally, when I got to the refrigerator door stuff, OMG!!! I think some people could live on our condiments for at least 5 years. These things never get eaten up and some have actually been moved from refrigerator to refrigerator. Its not a good thing, I am sure. I couldn’t decide what to do, as I don’t know what some of those bottles really are nor when we will need them for what kind of food. When did we, as a nation, start making stuff to eat with other stuff to eat and not be clear on the lable when to combine this bottle of stuff with those other things to eat. I get catsup and mustard………but I found other things for which I have no clue how to tell if they are good or bad. Foregoing my corporate acumen, I resorted to exclusively smelling stuff, and making the “keep” or “go” decision for the organizational phase of my effort based solely on whether I flinched when I took a whif or not.
When it comes to cleanliness, I found some things actually start to chrystalize when you try to wipe off a refrigerator shelf with it. Cold is a phenomenal state. It spreads smells around, but clumps up liquid stuff with just as much stealth. Amazing. So I put away the spray bottles of cleaning fluid and resorted to good old hot water and dish soap. Seems to work out pretty well so I’m sticking with that.
Butch Wife Tip #4
When approaching refrigerator management, be ready for a surprising adventure when you open your door. If you can’t determine a cold package’s contents from sight or smell, throw it away. If something has fuzz on it, don’t just scrape off the fuzz and eat it, throw it away. And if something has been in the refrigerator for more than six months, send it to the National Institute of Health for possible scientific testing just in case you’ve discovered the next penicillin for our generation.
Julie Butch Wife Extraordinaire-in-Training