The Frugal Fridge – or how to use a refrigerator economically
The fridge has become such an everyday part of our kitchen that we sometimes forget how to use it safely and efficiently. We all think that we know how to use a refrigerator, but in fact most of us forget the basics! Read on to learn the secrets of the Frugal Fridge.
The History of the Refrigerator:
Before we learn How To Use a Refrigerator it is good to remind ourselves about the history….when was it invented and how was it developed.
The earliest commercial refrigerators were invented in the late 1800′s and used toxic ammonia or sulfur dioxide gas as the refrigerant. The first domestic refrigerator was invented in the USA in 1915, but they did not gain wide acceptance until the 1930′s when mass production enabled the price to be brought down. At the same time non-toxic refrigerants like Freon where developed which made fridges and freezers safe to use in the home. However, these same chemicals have since been replaced in 1994 due to the harmful effect they were found to have on the ozone layer.
The difference between a Fridge and a Freezer:
A fridge keeps food fresh by slowing down the growth of bacteria. This is achieved by keeping the food below 5C and ideally at around 3C. A freezer, on the other hand, stops bacterial growth completely by freezing them solid. A temperature of -18C is best for storing food and -23C for freezing it. A faster freezing process produces smaller ice crystals inside the food and so gives an improved texture when defrosted.
In order to use a refrigerator safely it is important to understand the star rating system. Frozen food and freezers carry a star rating as a guide to how long food can be kept and at what temperature. Typically the little freezer compartment in a normal refrigerator is only suitable for storing frozen food (either in transit from your main freezer or pre-frozen food from a shop) rather than actually freezing it because it will not achieve the -23C required.
* : min temperature = −6 °C (21.2 °F). Maximum storage time 1 week ** : min temperature = −12 °C (10.4 °F). Maximum storage time 1 month *** : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage time 3 months *(***) : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage 12 months
Temperature Profile inside a Refrigerator:
The temperature inside your fridge is not even….there are warmer and colder places. It is really important to understand this temperature profile so that food can be stored safely. For example, it is not a good idea to put fresh meat in the rack on the door as this is a warm place and the meat will warm up even further every time the door is opened.
The Bottom Drawer: designed to be not so cold (8 to 10 C ) and so is best for vegetables and salads which are damaged by the lower temperatures
The Coldest place: The shelf at bottom just above the drawer…this is where to put your meat and fish at around 2C
The Middle: Typically 4-5C for and ideal for“refrigerate after opening” products
The Top Shelf: Typically a bit warmer at around 8C and suitable for butter and jam
Door Shelves: These are the warmest place at around 10 to 15C and warm up every time door is opened so use only for drinks, eggs and butter
Guidelines for How to use a Refrigerator:
You probably all know these things but it is always useful to have a reminder!
Don’t overfill the fridge as it needs air to circulate to be efficient
Only open the door when necessary…close as quickly as possible
If you put warm things in the fridge then the whole temperature rises….
Keep the freezer compartment as full as possible in order to be most efficient (ditto for your freezer)
NEVER let ice build up inside your fridge or freezer. This will reduce the efficiency and use more energy
Defrost your fridge regularly if it is not automatic. Never let ice build up inside.
Buy a Fridge Thermometer:
Buy a fridge thermometer to help reduce running costs and keep your food fresh
A posh modern fridge will already be fitted with an external digital thermometer so you can easily keep an eye on the temperature.
Most domestic fridges are not that good at regulating their temperature according to the seasons since the adjustment is by a dial with numbers rather than a thermostat. Due to this it is a good idea to buy a little fridge thermometer for a couple of $’s or €’s. Use the fridge thermometer to learn about the temperature profile inside your fridge and also use it to help you regulate the temperature. There is a tendency to turn the dial right up in the summer in order to keep things cool….but the thermometer will show you when it is too cold. If you make the fridge too cold then perishable food like salads can freeze and spoil, and of course you will also use more electricity. If the temperature is too warm the the food can go off more quickly and pose a health risk. The thermometer will really help you to learn how to use your refrigerator most efficiently while at the same time keeping your food safe and fresh.
The Last Word on How to Use a Refrigerator:
Take a Frugal Tip from the MeanyGoat: Learn how to use a refrigerator so that you save money in the running costs and store your food safely. If you do not store your food at the recommended temperatures then you can expose you and your family to serious health problems. The Fridge Magnets, however, are optional!!
The Fridge Magnets are Optional !
Loads more history and technical details about refrigerators can be found in the Wikipedia……