As long as it's cold – just stuff everything in. Not a good idea. A refrigerator has different “climate zones”, which is why it’s a good idea to have a system. There are a few other things to keep in mind when refrigerating food, too.
Show me the inside of your refrigerator and I’ll tell you who you are. There is something to that. Some people fill their refrigerator haphazardly. Others keep it so organised that you’re afraid to touch anything. Everything is vacuum-packed and the date is marked in water-proof pen.
No matter which type you are, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at this small space in which we store our fresh produce. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, the Swiss throw away around 300 kilogrammes of food per person every year. Some of this waste comes from private refrigerators. What a shame, for if you fill your refrigerator properly, food will last longer. This avoids food waste and saves money, too.
Dairy products in the middle
It’s important to know that if you set your refrigerator to five degrees, this does not mean it’s exactly that temperature everywhere. There are different “climate zones” – three, to be precise: the lower, middle and upper zones. Because cold air sinks, the bottom is the coldest. The temperature can vary by up to five degrees between the lower and upper areas. This difference can have a significant impact on the shelf life of groceries. You should store the things that require the coldest temperature at the bottom: fish, meat and sausage. The temperature of the middle zone is around five degrees – perfect for dairy products. This is where you should store milk, yoghurt, cheese and cream. The top, where it is the warmest, is ideal for mustard, ketchup, jams and cooked food.
The vegetable drawer is usually at the very bottom, but because it is closed, the temperature there is not as cold. It’s perfect for broccoli, leek and the like. The door compartment usually houses opened milk – a mistake, as it’s not cold enough there for this easily perishable product. The door is better suited for juices and the top part for butter and eggs, which can be easily stored at eight or nine degrees.
Yogurt keeps longer than fresh milk
By the way, not all dairy products have the same shelf life. All products that undergo fermentation – yogurt, cream cheese and quark – are better protected against the bacteria that are found everywhere in the air, including in the refrigerator. “During the production of yogurt, the pH value is lowered from 6.6 to 4.5, which curbs the growth of harmful bacteria,” explains Andreas Schnider, project manager for Dairy Product Development at Emmi. In contrast, fresh milk, mozzarella and desserts are trickier. “These should be placed in the refrigerator soon after shopping, especially in the warmer seasons.”
Cold is not always good: Some foods have no place in the refrigerator, for example bananas, mangos, apples and pears. It’s also a shame to store tomatoes there, as they lose much of their aroma. The same is true for chocolate, although an exception may be made on hot summer days. Or better yet, switch to chocolate ice cream.