Extreme Fridge Makeover
Learning and Development Specialist Natalie Papini shares some strategies to keep in mind as we freshen up our fridge on National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.
November 15 is “National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.” Typically, clean out your refrigerator day entails rummaging through nearly empty bottles of salad dressing and tupperware full of things that used to be food to make space for the upcoming holiday season. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when tossing out food as well as strategies to reorganize your refrigerator in a way that simplifies your life and helps you stay on track:
1. Buying in Bulk
People who buy in bulk tend to eat half of the food they purchased in the first week. Not only does buying in bulk influence portion control, but according to the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year. For an American family of four, the average value of discarded produce is around $1,600 annually. That adds up to roughly 60 million tons (or $160 billion) of produce annually thrown in the trash. Globally, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that around 30% of all food grown is lost or wasted, an amount valued at nearly $3 trillion.
Solution: Be particular about which items you purchase in bulk. Start purchasing nutritious options in bulk (such as vegetables) to ensure your precious refrigerator space is filled with Profile-friendly options. Repackage the items you purchase into pre-portioned snack bags to avoid over-consumption. Americans tend to throw away 16% of the food they purchase, so do a quick scan of your cart before checkout to determine which items are absolutely necessary and which items aren’t. Finally, consider donating your throw-aways. Around 42 million Americans live in food-insecure households. Your food donation helps those in need and simultaneously creates refrigerator space: a win-win.
2. Organization Hacks
The way you store food can influence your eating patterns. Research shows that both visibility and convenience impact the amount of food you consume. You are three times as likely to pick up the first thing you see when you open your refrigerator door. On average, women who had breakfast cereal sitting on their counters weighed 20 pounds more than women who didn’t and those with soft drinks sitting out in the open weighed 24 to 26 pounds more.
Solution: What’s at eye level in your refrigerator? Move nutritious foods to eye-level shelves and relocate the less nutritious items in a drawer that is out of plain sight and store them in opaque containers to eliminate constant temptation. Be mindful of what needs to be stored in your refrigerator and what can be stored elsewhere. Identify if any vegetables that you store in your refrigerator can go without refrigeration and conveniently place them in plain sight on a counter. This will free up space in your refrigerator and ensure your most nutritional options are visible and easy to grab when hunger arises.
3. Ugly Food
Ask yourself if you’re throwing something out because it’s rotten or because it’s ugly. We live in the ‘social media era’ and there’s undue pressure on food to be pretty. This cultural shift in favor of “camera cuisine,” a consumer mandate that food must be visually appealing, leads to more food waste and lost money.
Solution: Embrace ugly food. You’ve probably heard the age-old adage that It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The same thing can be said for your food. Don’t let a few dents in your bell pepper keep you from getting your vitamin A on! Rather than throwing out the asparagus that is “too white” or “not green enough,” eat it, cook it into a recipe or donate it to your local food pantry. Call ahead to your local pantry to determine what foods are accepted as well as if they can accept foods that require refrigeration.
So, what are you waiting for? Scan your fridge and create a plan of action. Get out your Profile Grocery Guide and make a list for your next trip to the supermarket. Last but not least, be mindful of what you’re throwing away: that rusted lettuce or bruised bunch of bananas could feed someone in need.
Painter, J. E., Wansink, B., & Hieggelke, J. B. (2002). How visibility and convenience influence candy consumption. Appetite, 38(3), 237-238. doi:10.1006/appe.2002.0485
Wansink, B., Hanks, A. S., & Kaipainen, K. (2016). Slim by Design. Health Education & Behavior, 43(5), 552-558. doi:10.1177/1090198115610571