No kitchen would be complete without a refrigerator and freezer. Fridges and freezers can lead to a lot of unwanted costs in maintenance, wasted energy, and more. According to Direct Energy, it will cost about $200 per year to keep a refrigerator running. In order to cut down on costs, people need to try out some money-saving alternatives. Cleaning the coils, moving the position of the fridge, and adjusting the temperature are just a few ways to stop those energy bills from piling up. Now, read on to see the best fridge and freezer hacks that can save anyone time and money.
Clean The Condenser Coils
Condenser coils can either be found underneath or behind the refrigerator unit. In order for the refrigerator to keep a steady temperature, the coils need to be clean. Often times, they will get clogged with dirt, debris, dust, and other substances.
It’s important to regularly dust or vacuum the condenser coils to prevent them from clogging up. When the coils are clean, the refrigerator will use less energy to keep a steady temperature. Before starting the cleaning process, refer to the manual that came with the refrigerator in case there are special steps involved.
According to The Atlantic, American refrigerators are the biggest in the world. On average, American refrigerators have about 17.5 cubic feet of storage and they are only getting bigger. The size of these huge refrigerators are tricking people into buying more food than they will actually eat.
It’s almost impossible for a family of four to eat 17.5 cubic feet of perishable food within one week. Also, The New York Times found that over 25 percent of Americans have a second refrigerator in their home. Filling two refrigerators with food, plus the cost of energy can be wasteful when not needed.
Keep It Moving
It’s quite common to see refrigerators and freezers pushed as far back into the wall as they possibly can in order to save space. What people should really be doing is moving their refrigerators up about one to three inches from the wall.
The Simple Dollar states that moving the fridge forward by at least one inch can reduce the energy usage of the unit by as much as 40 percent. Moving the fridge forward helps regulate the circulation of airflow and prevents the coils from gathering dirt and dust.
Keep The Freezer Full
Food will likely last longer when it’s kept in the freezer, but you may not want to get rid of older food items just yet. Zen of Zada found that it’s actually best to keep your freezer stocked with as much food as possible.
“A freezer that’s full will reduce the energy needed to keep the items in it frozen.” If you’d rather not buy a bunch of food to put in the freezer, it may help to use jugs of water, ice packs, or bags of ice to keep it feeling full.
Keep A Frozen Vegetable Container
Including a side of vegetables with lunch or dinner can be a great way to stay healthy. Sometimes the serving size is just an estimate and people may end up making more than they intend to eat. Instead of throwing out the leftovers, there is a money-saving alternative.
The Simple Dollar recommends creating a leftover vegetable container and storing it in the freezer. Once the container becomes full, people can boil them in some water, add any spices they like, and include them in a recipe for chicken or soup.
Store Leftovers In Clear Containers
Having an organized fridge and freezer is actually a smart way to keep people from spending more than they need. Food should be stored in a way where someone is able to see everything that’s in the fridge in one look.
The best way to do this is to store leftovers in clear containers. This allows people to see all the food that needs to be used up without having to undo the lids. Another helpful tip is writing the date it was stored somewhere on the container. Once you’re able to see all the food at once, it will prevent it from going to waste.
Keep The Temperature Stable
Maintaining a steady temperature in both the refrigerator and freezer is crucial. Personal finance writer Max Wong says that refrigerators should always be kept at or below 40 degrees and freezers should always be kept below zero degrees. Buying an appliance thermometer can help tell the temperature.
Most fridges and freezers have spots that will tend to be hotter or colder, so move the appliance thermometer to check those out. It’s important to keep in mind that the higher the temperature, the faster the food will spoil. The door tends to be the warmest spot, top shelves are right in the middle of hot and cold, and the lower shelves are the coldest.
Check The Door Seals
One of the most important parts of a refrigerator are its seals. These keep warm air from getting inside and prevent cold air from escaping. When the seals aren’t strong, this causes the unit to work a lot harder to regulate the temperature inside.
Reviewed suggests regularly checking the strength of the seals to make sure if they need to be replaced. Having seals that work can save anyone money by not having to get a replacement fridge or use up unnecessary amounts of energy.
Don’t Leave The Door Open
Some may remember their parents telling them not to stand with the refrigerator door open for too long when looking for something to eat. This is because leaving the refrigerator door open warms up the inside of the unit while letting the cold air escape.
Messing with the internal temperature of the refrigerator causes it to work harder to stabilize its temperature, thus using up large amounts of energy. Instead, try writing a list of what’s inside your fridge, so you won’t have to spend a long time looking.
Defrost The Freezer
Depending on the make and model of the freezer you own, it can either be defrosted automatically or manually. Reviewed states that freezers need to be regularly defrosted. One way to check if it’s time to defrost the freezer is if there’s more than a quarter-inch of frost built up.
When there’s too much frost inside the freezer it restricts air circulation and keeps too much moisture. If this happens, the freezer will be harder to cool down and won’t keep food at the right temperature.
Take A Photo Of Your Fridge Before Grocery Shopping
Going to the grocery store usually requires a bit of planning. Sometimes people may forget what they already have and buy food or drinks that they don’t need. Instead of writing out an entire list of what’s already in the refrigerator, there’s a simple solution.
Before leaving the house take a photo of what’s already inside to make sure that you’re not buying duplicates of the same items. Store them on a phone or smartwatch that you’ll have on hand while you’re grocery shopping.
Don’t Put Hot Food In The Fridge
While trying to keep the kitchen mess-free, it can be tempting to always keep everything in its place. When there’s a lot of hot leftovers, people should not immediately put them in the fridge or freezer.
Food journalist Amanda Harding says that food should never be warmer than room temperature before being put away in the refrigerator. “Putting hot foods directly into cold raises the temperature on everything inside the fridge, which makes the appliance work harder to cool it back down again,” said Harding.
Learn The Meaning Behind Best By Dates
While keeping the fridge stocked can add up in cost, it’s important to know the correct time to throw out unwanted food items. Most of these items will have some sort of date telling the consumer how long it will stay fresh. Not all of these have the same meaning.
“Sell by” means that the store cannot sell the item after the date posted. The item will likely be okay to eat after that date. “Best if used by” is simply a recommendation for when the food will taste the best. “Use by” is the strictest date that tells the consumer it’s not safe to eat the item after the date listed.
Don’t Mix Fruits And Vegetables
Saving space in the refrigerator can be a high priority, so it may cause some people to not organize their food in the smartest way. One mistake that can happen is storing fruit and vegetables together. According to personal finance writer Max Wong, “Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which is a ripening agent that can cause other produce to spoil prematurely.”
Some fruits that produce this gas include tomatoes, avocados, kiwis, bananas, cantaloupes, apricots, mangoes, nectarines, plums, pears, papayas, and pears. The foods that will rot if exposed to the gas include watermelon, apples, squash, asparagus, lettuce, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, green beans, eggplant, and cucumbers.
Don’t Stuff Food In The Fridge
Something that people shouldn’t get confused by is the difference between storing food in the refrigerator and in the freezer. While freezers should be packed to the brim, that isn’t the same in the fridge. Refrigerators require a lot of air circulation to keep the food at a steady temperature.
In order to not let food get too piled up in the fridge, it’s recommended that people regularly clean out the items they won’t eat such as expired condiments or forgotten leftovers. Most of the food that’s kept in the fridge should be things that will be eaten within one to two weeks.
Always Keep Food Covered
Most homes will often have different containers with tight seals that are great for various types of food. Not only do containers prevent food from spoiling, but they are a smart money-saving refrigerator hack. Zen of Zada found that keeping food in containers is one way to save energy.
Letting food be exposed creates a ton of moisture. When food is kept in containers, it reduces the moisture inside the fridge and stops the unit from working too hard to regulate the internal temperature.
Turn Off The Ice Maker
One of the most convenient things about a refrigerator is that it has the capability of making ice. Whether it be crushed or cubed, it’s right there at your fingertips. Although it’s a fast and easy device, it doesn’t always need to be turned on.
Reviewed found that leaving the ice maker on can use up a lot of energy, so people should only leave it on when they know they’re going to use it. The box usually fills up with ice, so once it’s full consider turning it off until the box is empty again.
Know How Long Leftovers Last
Leftovers can be a great way to save money by not wasting food. Knowing the right way to store leftovers is crucial to make sure they do not spoil. While some may think it’s best to keep them in the refrigerator, that isn’t always the case.
Life can get busy and people don’t always think about the timing of when to eat food that’s kept in the fridge. If you know that it will be longer than four days until you get to eat your leftovers, stick them in the freezer instead.
Produce Doesn’t Always Need To Be Washed
Most probably don’t know where their produce has been after bringing it home from a grocery store or farmer’s market. It may seem like a good idea to wash it immediately to get any germs or pesticides off, but that may be a bad idea.
Personal finance writer Max Wong says it’s actually better to store fruits and vegetables as they are. Washing produce usually adds moisture, which will speed up the rotting process. This is because the water allows bacteria and other microorganisms the chance to thrive.
Don’t Place The Fridge Around Heat
Fridge placement is extremely important. Having it in a cool place in the kitchen can save people from having to get a replacement or from spending too much on maintenance and energy costs. According to Reviewed, refrigerators should never be placed near heat sources such as ovens or stoves.
Also, it’s recommended to keep them out of direct sunlight. Keeping a refrigerator close to a heat source causes it to heat up and use a lot of energy to cool back down.
Build Your Own Fridge At Home
If the cost of buying a new refrigerator or keeping it running seems too high there are a few alternative options. Adventurous builders may want to try crafting their own DIY chest refrigerator or freezer. The Simple Dollar says these can cut energy usage by over 90 percent.
These can be stored anywhere and you can be the person who decides how they will look both on the inside and out. The easiest layout will most likely be a horizontal-shaped chest refrigerator that can be rolled to other parts of the house.
How To Prevent Freezer Burn
According to food science writer Emma Christensen, when foods are frozen for extended periods of time or frozen improperly, it can cause freezer burn. This happens when moisture on the outer layers of the food evaporates, which leave behind dry pockets of tissue in the food.
In order to prevent freezer burn, you have to reduce the amount of air that’s exposed to the food. This can be done by wrapping them tightly in double layers of plastic wrap or aluminum foil or storing them in an air-tight container or bag. It’s best to always be rotating the food out, so it doesn’t develop freezer burn.
Make Sure To Label Everything
It can be quite the guessing game trying to maneuver which foods are inside your refrigerator and freezer. Even if something is in a container, you may not remember what exactly is inside. One way to make organization a breeze is to stick a label on your food before placing it in the fridge.
Not only should the label include what’s inside the container, but should also have a date of when it was placed in the fridge. Also, this will make grocery shopping a lot easier by not having to buy what is already at home.
These Vegetables Need To Be Chopped
Vegetables have the potential to turn rotten quickly if they aren’t stored properly in the refrigerator. Personal finance writer Max Wong suggests trimming the green tops from root vegetables such as beets, radishes, carrots, and turnips before placing them in the fridge.
The greens on root vegetables remove their moisture, which causes them to be inedible, limp, and chewy. Instead of throwing out the greens, Wong claims that they are actually edible and tasty. If you would rather not eat them, save them for a pet rabbit or compost bin.
Arrangement Is Key
Having an organized fridge and freezer can save people a lot of money. Food placement is key because it’s best to have some sort of system that won’t allow food to go to waste. One great way to do this is to arrange the shelves to have older items in the front and newer items in the back.
This lets people know which foods to use up first, so they put the older food at a higher priority. Personal finance writer Max Wong believes this is especially important for perishable food including meat, produce, and dairy items.
Try Out A Lazy Susan
One of the worst ways to drain the energy from your unit is to leave the door open. This lets all the cold air out and causes the fridge to work a lot harder to regulate the temperature. Organizing the fridge can prevent this from happening.
A unique way to keep an organized fridge is to place a lazy Susan inside. It allows you to see a bunch of items at once and it spins to let you grab whichever one you want with ease. This prevents having to take items from the front out to get to the ones in the back.
Know Which Foods Go In The Fridge And Freezer
It can be tricky knowing whether or not certain foods should be placed in the refrigerator. There are quite a few times where people put food in the fridge that should stay at room temperature and vice versa. This can spoil the food and cause it to become inedible, which adds up in cost fast.
There are so many foods that actually don’t need to go in the refrigerator such as tomatoes, apples, avocados, bananas, and chocolate. According to The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food that needs to be kept colder than room temperature can’t be sitting out longer than two hours.
Store Lettuce And Leafy Greens With Paper Towels
Knowing how to store perishable food in the refrigerator can take some practice and having a bit of food science knowledge helps. Lettuce and other leafy greens are usually some of the first foods to spoil, especially if they aren’t stored properly. There’s one simple hack to prevent this from happening.
Lettuce usually has a lot of moisture, so make sure to always keep a paper towel wrapped around it when placed in the refrigerator. The paper towel will absorb any excess moisture, which prevents the lettuce and leafy greens from wilting.