Remember that huge harvest of raspberries three years ago? Or that Strawberry-Cumin-Chive Jelly you thought sounded interesting up until the first spoon full? How about those cheese cubes leftover from a party tray that you swore would make fabulous macaroni and cheese one cold winter day? That’s pretty much all they should be right now…a memory. But chances are you have a few “Ghosts of Bumper-Crops Past” lurking in your freezer, and jars of Condiment Remorse hiding behind the ketchup in your refrigerator door.

As children, we remember our mothers and grandmothers completely emptying out the refrigerator and freezer to let them “defrost.” Being forced to empty the contents of them twice a year was a great way to keep track of one’s inventory, and also gave one a chance to thoroughly clean the units. But since the advent of “Frost Free” refrigerators and freezers, there are no more mandatory deadlines for giving your refrigerator and freezer the once-over.

Martha Stewart recommends deep cleaning your refrigerator and freezer four times a year. We’re not that ambitious, but we never let a spill set unattended, try to give the shelves and drawers a good wipe-down at least three times a year, and schedule one big deep cleaning for our two freezers and refrigerator sometime between New Years and Easter. (Since it’s cold outside during this period, we can place foodstuffs outside during cleaning so we don’t have to worry about spoilage.)

Watch the slide show for handy refrigerator/freezer cleaning tips. And in the comment section, tell us the one food item you know you’ve had in your fridge for too long, and vow to throw out today!


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  • By: Johny Barker

    Hi everybody!
    My name is Johny Barker, i am an engineer. I like high-tech, with the best designed refrigerator for my house. Thank for this article, so helpful!

  • By: jean sluka

    I just love the Beekman emails. The only thing I love more is Josh’s book – The Bucolic Plague. Just finished it and highy recommend it to everyone.

  • By: Elizabeth Clauson

    Regarding refrig cleaning….when visited my single brother,I went to get something cold to drink and couldn’t shut the door fast enough. He explained he was doing a science project to see what would happen to a head of lettuce left in the refrigerator.Rest of the store…after turning to liquid mush it takes about three months to turn to powder!

  • By: Diane Travers

    Thanks for that tutorial. Cleaning our refrigerator is so overdue. Today I vow to throwout a jar of Trader Joe’s All Natural Cling Peaches. I’ve been staring at them at the back of the fridge for well, I have no idea how long. (We’re talking at least ayear.)

  • By: Wendy

    Seriously: Get a new refrigerator and/or freezer that are ENERGY effective—this will help everyone and the environment as well. Also, they are easier to clean because you can see everything so well…thanks!

  • By: Kristine

    I don’t clean as frequently as Martha but I am thorough! 🙂

  • By: Yvette Terplak

    I clean my refrigerator in stages…..every week a different section right while I’m cleaning up from dinner. 1 shelf area can be done in about 15 minutes. It’s really easy that way and the “inventory” doesn’t get too much of a chance to hide.

  • By: Magdalen

    Quite a lot of things are still fine long after the “best before” or even the “use by” date.Cheese, for example, often improves. Unopened cans and jars keep for ages..

  • By: Bev Redmond

    Long ago I began to make a point of wiping down every item that’s returned to the fridge or the pantry every time it’s used. It’s so easy to overlook something that’s greasy or sticky, and end up with a mess. It takes a few seconds longer, but wiping down each item pays off in the long run. It’s become a habit for me, something I do without even thinking.

  • By: Jane

    Oh by the way….does Martha ever have to clean her frig. Somehow I can’t picture that:)

  • By: Jane

    When I was at one of the “festivals” ” downtown” in beautiful Sharon Springs, one of the vendors had honey. That is where I learned that honey never spoils. You can keep it indefinitely. You don’t need a ” frig” . Be like Winnie the Pooh and just enjoy your honey! But if you like a variety of food you will have to take care…….but not for the honey! Think I will have a cup of cinnamon tea that I bought at the Black Cat and sweeten it with my honey……which I won’t have to check the expiration date! Stay warm and healthy during this very cold spell!

  • By: Sparklegirl

    This chore has been on my to do list for a week or more. Going to use some of your helpful hints and promise to get it done this week! I’m kind of afraid to see what’s in there, in the dark corners behind the yogurts…. pray for me.

  • By: vilma carcamo-jaffe

    well, I finally gave up on my giant jar of capers that I bought from Costco 2 years ago!!! I must say, that your comments encouraged me to take on the difficult task of cleaning out our fridge!!! thank you : )

  • By: Cleaning Services Plymouth

    Creating a schedule is so true – it’s so easy to forget what the heck is in that freezer or fridge.

    For me it’s jars of pickles – they come in at Christmas and stay the whole year invariably.

  • By: Cathy

    Well, you shamed me into cleaning my freezer and refrig. There were some nasty things in there, including a dead earwig that must have crawled out of a bag of greens I cut in the garden this fall. Obviously, this was a job that was long overdue! Thank you for the inspiration!

  • By: Janet M

    I use the outdated peas and corn as cold packs for boo-boos and injured joints.

  • By: Lodema Jenkins

    The hood of the Olds in Schoharie served as second fridge. Now we live in Florida and had to buy another fridge for the the overflow. Every holiday we have the “maybe we should move back” conversation.

  • By: Danielle Batog

    I love the phrase ‘condiment remorse’…..I generally have three or four of those. I like to wipe down and throw out before each major grocery trip….outdated cheese is usually my biggest foe.

  • By: Princess Penelope Poopalatte

    The moment I open a jar or package of something I write a new “expiry date” on it before putting it in the fridge or cupboard. I use the shelf life guidelines on STILLTASTY.COM. That way I don’t have to remember when I opened what or take chances with freshness.

  • By: Michele

    Just finished the refrigeteator, throwing out the last bits of leftovers from Christmas (not much left) have to make room for all the new leftovers for New Years, Love you both, Happy New Year to all of Beekman 1802.

    • By: Mary Lynne

      And I bet they don’t offer to come over and do that now, either! Ha ha. Happy New Year, Jackie, you raised a great kid, regardless.

  • By: nlforst

    You sure you guys don’t want to start a side business of cleaning other people’s fridges? It seems like you’d be very successful at it 🙂

    But when I get back to my apartment, I’m pretty sure I’ll be going through and tossing a lot more items out. Especially old jars of stuff that I don’t remember the last time I used.

  • By: Liz

    I cleaned out my fridge before Christmas so I’d be ready for holiday entertaining, and was glad I did because way in back of a bottom shelf I found a bottle of champagne. (Now I’m set for New Years!) Your tips are great, so I’ll bookmark them for next time.

  • By: Jeanie Neville

    I love the idea of setting my frozen stuff outside while I clean the freezer! Thanks guys!

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