As fridges across the UK are being prepared for their busiest time of year, I want to share my tips on how households can stay 'fridgilant' and keep festive foods fresh whilst ultimately saving money.
As you stock up your fridge with everything from turkeys and sprouts to a good supply of fizz, it's also important to be mindful of food waste. New research from Sainsbury's identified Christmas as the time of year when we bin the most food, contributing to the 7m tonnes of food that is wasted by UK households every year.
However, you can waste less and save more money this festive season, just by using a little 'fridgilance' when it comes to fridge management! Simple changes to planning, packing and running the fridge can make all the difference.
My work on our Waste less, Save more initiative has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about food. I've learned a huge amount leading Sainsbury's year-long trial in the market town of Swadlincote, where I worked with families to try all sorts of innovative ways to cut food waste and save money.
Christmas is such a busy time and many of us will see our fridges packed full. Getting the logistics right is essential when there's lots of movement and a lot of people in your kitchen, so follow these rules, be 'fridgilant' and save food and money this Christmas!
GET PREPPED FOR SUCCESS:
• Have a clear out: Before your big shop arrives, give your fridge a clear out to optimise space. Is there anything in the fridge that can be stored in a cupboard instead? Have the kids put the Marmite in there unnecessarily, or left a half-filled container that's taking up room?
If you have jars containing a scraping of lemon curd, a couple of gherkins or a dollop of mayonnaise, dedicate a few days before the 'Big Shop' lands to using up the bits that face the risk of ending up in the bin. It's a great excuse for trying some new recipes for any pre-Christmas get-togethers!
• Get the temperature just right: For perishable food like smoked salmon, fresh turkey and brandy cream, fridge temperate can play a key role in extending the life of your Christmas essentials. The optimum temperature for getting the most out of your food is between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius, so check the dial before packing in all the festive treats. A fridge thermometer is also a great way to ensure the temperature stays right for the duration.
• Appoint a Festive Fridge Boss: One person needs to be responsible for all fridge-related decisions to ensure efficient running during the festive season. Once your Fridge Boss is appointed, let everyone in the house know so there's no room for confusion. To make it fun and official, get the kids to create a fridge boss badge.
- Recent Sainsbury's research showed that 72% of women think they are in charge of fridge management day-to-day, compared with 41% of men. Only 32% of people said they share the responsibility.
• An air-tight plan: Put a five pound note between the fridge and door seal when you close it. If it falls out or isn't held tightly, replace the seal to stop cool air escaping. If your seal is good, it's equally important to make sure it's clean - give it a wipe with some warm, soapy water.
• Store for glory: While Tupperware might not be top of your Christmas list, having the right storage tools will make your leftovers last longer and help save space in the fridge. Stock up on a variety of sizes to ensure you've got everything covered. Also ensure you've got a good supply of cling film and tin foil!
HIGH PERFORMANCE PACKING:
• Label love: Always pack your fridge by the use-by dates. Those with the longest time until the use-by date should be placed behind those with the shortest, so when you're preparing the Boxing Day meal you'll know which items to use as a priority.
- What do the different dates on labels mean? Foods can be eaten (and most can be frozen) up until the 'use by' date, but not after. When it comes to 'best before dates' food is most likely safe to eat after this date, but it might not be at its best in terms of flavour and texture.
• Stack it up: The fridge is warmer at the top, so different shelves will suit different items. Your Christmas veg - sprouts included - will keep best in the chiller drawer, while the bottom shelf should be reserved for your uncooked meats like turkey, gammon or pigs in blankets. The middle of the fridge is ideal for cooked meats and leftovers, like all that turkey, while the top is made for dairy, as well as preserves like open or fresh cranberry sauce.
• Store raw meat carefully: Make sure your turkey stays low before it's cooked. Raw meat and seafood should always be stored in sealed bags or containers on the bottom shelf. This will eliminate any harmful drips contaminating other food below it. If you can, it's a good idea to store meat in the freezer, which will also free-up even more fridge space.
• Don't overload: Not everything needs to be stored in your fridge. Roast potatoes are a Christmas essential, but there's no need to store your spuds in the fridge. They can stay in a cool, dark and dry area and save precious space in the fridge. Other items that don't have to be chilled include Christmas puddings, bread and onions, while unopened jars like cranberry sauce will also keep well outside of the fridge. Find a dry, cool cupboard for these items instead.
RUN A TIGHT SHIP:
• Take stock: When the fridge is more crowded than usual, it's easy to forget what's in there, and this could lead to waste. So take inventory - keep a list of snacks written in dry marker on your fridge door and rub them out when they've been used, or take a fridge 'shelfie' with your phone so you can see what's in stock!
You should also have a timetable of what main meals you'll be creating every day. Each evening, check that you have everything for the coming day and think of ways to use any leftovers. Also take the opportunity to replenish any drinks that have been used with fresh ones to chill overnight.
• Stay chilled: Christmas is the perfect excuse to crack out the bubbly, but it takes approximately 45 minutes to chill a bottle of fizz to the perfect drinking temperature of 7 or 8 degrees Celsius in the fridge, but the best way is to use an ice bucket (of saucepan or bowl if you don't have one) filled with a mixture of ice and water. However, when the fizz is going down well you may need to use both methods in a chilling production line!
If you need to take emergency measures, pop a couple of bottles in the fridge-freezer, wrapped in a damp tea-towel and set a timer for 45 minutes to remind you to take them out.
Also make sure to use a suction stopper to save undrunk fizz for the next day.
• Know your space: if space is at a premium in your kitchen, don't be tempted to store wine or bread on top of the fridge. To keep the inside cool, your fridge's condenser pumps out warm air, which is like Kryptonite for bread and wine, and will unnecessarily spoil it.
Following these 12 tips of Christmas will not only keep your kitchen running efficiently over the festive season, it will also help you avoid wasting perfectly good food and in turn, save money to spend in the January sales instead!
Why not get into the spirit and share pictures of your perfectly packed fridge along with any tips you've found useful in managing a busy fridge. Use #FridgeGoals and tag @SainsburysNews.