How the Right Refrigerator Can Reduce Wasteful Food Spoilage
Your refrigerator could be a friend or foe in the kitchen, depending on the quality of food preservation it provides. Choose the right one, and you’ll cut back on wasteful food spoilage and needless trips to the grocery store.
Here’s how to cool down on the unnecessary surplus of food costs.
Spoiled Food Spoils Your Budget
American families throw away about 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. That’s up to $2,275 each year, wasted, for the average family of four. On a macro scale, that’s 40 percent of food (or $165 billion) in the United States, uneaten.
Fresh fruits and vegetables account for the largest waste, followed closely by dairy, and proteins like meat, poultry and fish. The primary causes of food spoilage are poor refrigeration storage, low interior visibility to see all contents available to eat, partially used ingredients and misjudged food needs.
The Cold Facts: How to Keep Food Fresh, Longer
Refrigeration has been a part of our culture for 125 years or more, and became essential in American kitchens before the end of World War II. However, most Americans today still are unaware of what it takes to keep foods safe in the fridge, nor how to prolong storage life.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that most consumers do not understand the consequences of storing foods at the wrong temperature. And, only 4 in 10 are aware that eating food stored higher than 40°F will increase the likelihood of foodborne illness.
Food preservation is a science of the proper storage environment. The key to how long food will last is directly related to the cooling performance of your refrigerator. Storing food at 40°F or below will delay bacterial growth and freezing below 32°F places bacteria in a dormant state, inhibiting growth.
Let’s take a look at one of the most delicate items to store: fruit. Refrigeration is proven to control the ripening process. For example, fruits that ripen on the plant need to be preserved after picking to delay deterioration. These include strawberries, grapes, cherries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, tangerines, oranges, limes and blackberries.
Most fruits that continue to ripen after harvest can be stored at room temperature until they reach peak ripeness, then placed in the refrigerator to preserve it and prevent early spoilage. These kinds of fruits are avocados, pears, plum and tomatoes. Cut fruit always requires refrigeration, as it exposes more of the fruit to microbes and bacterial contamination, accelerating the ripening process.
Buyer Beware: Not All Refrigerators Cool the Same
Stay clear of refrigerators with fluctuating temperature swings and stratified cooling within the compartment. This kind of erratic cooling environment can release moisture, which leads to mold and microbe growth and inevitably premature spoilage.
And, setting the control to 40°F doesn’t necessarily mean the compartment is 40°F throughout. In competitive product testing conducted by Marvel Refrigeration, certain models from other brands were unable to maintain a consistent compartment temperature like Marvel products can. In some cases, the top shelf area was 12°F warmer than the bottom shelf, an unstable storage environment that is not ideal for perishables.
Considered a premium refrigeration option, Marvel’s line of full-size and undercounter refrigerators rapidly cool down food to preservation temperature and maintain an even temperature and stable environment. This minimizes the moisture evaporation that can lead to mold growth and degraded food quality. Some models include a moisture-control evaporator to remove excess humidity and ion air purifier to eliminate airborne bacteria, mold spores and odors.
Look for Models with Specialty Storage Bins for Specific Foods
Some full size refrigerator brands like Marvel Refrigeration offer dedicated storage such as dairy compartments, deli drawers for meats and cheeses and humidity-adjustable drawers for vegetables and fruit.
More than just a convenient feature, these specialized compartments are engineered to provide the ideal environment for specific food items, ultimately prolonging shelf life.
The Importance of Good Lighting
Poor interior visibility is also a big factor in food spoilage. Simply by being able to see all your food options, you can prioritize the stored food you eat by its expiration date and expected shelf life.
We’ve all probably experienced this personally on more than one occasion, when leftovers are hiding in a dark corner and forgotten about until a horrific rotting smell alerts you of their presence. Well-distributed refrigeration lighting helps you determine what’s there and also what needs to be eaten sooner than later.
Consider models with well-dispersed bright white LED lighting that fill the interior with light from corner to corner, leaving no area overlooked.
Buying a New Refrigerator? Look For These Qualities.
When it comes time to replace your full size refrigerator, be sure to look at these factors to know you’re choosing a model that will preserve your food longer and prevent wasteful food loss from early spoilage.
- Dynamic Cooling Technology or forced air cooling with precise temperature control
- Specific compartments for dedicated food storage (dairy, meats and cheese, produce)
- Ion air purifier
- Bright LED lighting
- ENERGY STAR® rating a plus, the indicator of energy-efficient performance
There are also plenty of undercounter options to expand your food preservation capabilities in the kitchen, like refrigerator drawers, beverage centers, all refrigerators, freezers and other built-in appliances that tuck in flush with your lower kitchen cabinets.
Invest in a top-performing refrigerator, and you’ll find it pays out in dividends over the years by reducing grocery bills and energy costs. After all, our parents were right: Food is meant to be eaten, not wasted. Especially when it hits our pocketbooks.