I have a little problem. I keep EVERYTHING. I’m such a packrat. When my sister and I moved out of my parents’ house, we left all our high school memories and mementos behind. One night, my dad said “enough” (actually, I think he said “get your shit out of my house”) and told us to throw it all away. I found notebooks I scribbled on in high school, notes I passed to my friends in junior high, and plays I’d written in elementary school. I found gum wrappers, candy canes, and magazine picture cutouts. As hard as it was, I was finally able to let go of a lot of it.
Anyway, I digress.
What I’m trying to say is, even though I left all those things behind, I still took my bad habits with me. I’ve lived in three houses and four different apartments (counting Saturday’s move), and I’ve accumulated so much crap it’s not even funny. This packrattiness follows me to the bathroom (I’ve got four half-empty bottles of shampoo in my shower right now) and the kitchen (which is what brings me to my next point).
My dad raised me not to waste anything, especially food. At restaurants, leftovers were always boxed up to take home (if there were any—my dad would discourage from ordering huge portions), napkins and such followed us home from fast-food joints (please see blog “reduce, reuse, recycle”), and any food that remained on the table from breakfast, lunch or dinner went directly into the nearest Tupperware (or Cool Whip container) and into the fridge where “someone would surely eat it.”
In a house of four with the occasional dog or cat, this makes sense. If we didn’t heat up leftovers for lunch the next day, my dad would take them in his lunch while working third shift at the steel mill, scraps would go to the dogs, or my mother would “dispose” of them—this consisted of her going out to the back porch and carport area and flinging the leftovers into the woods. After all, woodland creatures like week-old macaroni and cheese, too.
However, when you live by yourself, or even with a roommate, this isn’t always as economical. I mean, sure, you think you’re going to eat the rest of that chicken Rice-a-Roni, but it quickly gets shoved to the back behind old milk and fresh beer.
Which brings me to now. Last night, I was trying to finish packing up the last of my kitchen stuff. I opened up the fridge and realized there was so much stuff crammed in there that the light was growing dim from the items blocking its feeble glow. I tend to put off discarding leftovers until I absolutely know I’m going to take the trash out, so as not to forget I did so and let the food continue to spoil in my garbage can (learned that lesson the hard way). I decided that it was time.
The next time you decide to purge your fridge of forgotten foods, here are some handy guidelines on what to look for:
1. If your food has been in the fridge long enough to knit its own fuzzy sweater in order to protect it from the harsh climate of 35 degrees or so, it’s probably time to let go. I found a container of Uncle Ben’s J and I made a while back that was enrobed in a mass of green fur. It was such a shame…it was really good.
2. When your jarred goods have managed to reseal themselves completely, take it as a sign that you shouldn’t open them again anyway. I lost a jar of salsa and one of roasted red peppers last night. Farewell.
3. The refrigerator has this incredible ability to liquefy solids and congeal liquids like you wouldn’t believe. If you could eat your milk with a fork or cut gravy with a knife, go ahead and chuck them. I did.
4. If you open your crisper drawer and it looks a production of Honey, I Shrunk the Produce, I’d dispose of those. I found a box of blueberries that looked as if they’d been placed inside the RonCo Food Dehydrator.
5. When sandwich meats and yogurts begin producing their own gases and their containers plump out like a blister just begging to be popped, resist the urge and lead them over to the trash. Maybe even put something heavy on them so that they don’t float up, up and away.
I would recommend printing out this helpful guide for future reference. Maybe even stick it to your fridge. If you’re like me, there’s a good chance it’ll never make its way to the trashcan.
No need to thank me. Just consider it a public service.
P.S. Why is it “fridge” but not “refridgerator”?