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!

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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!

Reply
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.

Reply
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!

Reply
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.)

Reply
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!

Reply
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.

Reply
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..

Reply
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.

Reply
Jane

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

Reply
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!

Reply
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.

Reply
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 : )

Reply
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.

Reply
Linda Schnell- Leonardi

I do this for Passover too, sometimes I have to put the really large glass shelves in the tub.

Reply
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!

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
Jeanie Neville

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

Reply