The top 5 myths about my refrigerator that I totally believe are true

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by KathyRo
By: Nestor LacleCC BY 2.0

My mother's fridge was SPOTLESS when I was growing up. BOTH of them! (She kept an older one in the garage that she only turned on when entertaining.) My stepmother's is spotless too, as are my aunts'.

If I asked any of these women how they do it, they would just blink in confusion. It would be like asking them how they keep their assholes clean. You just don't want to admit you're having a problem in this area and yet I marvel at their abilities.

Instead of having a spotless fridge, I just cling to these five myths that I believe are true about my refrigerator…

Myth #5: Anything below the waist doesn't require cleaning

The crisper in particular has magical properties of perpetual cleanliness, and besides: all the veggies are in plastic bags anyway.

Myth #4: Condiments never go bad

Corollary: you absolutely cannot throw out that old Worcestershire sauce because there's only a tablespoon left at the bottom of the bottle. You can however buy another bottle and use that until there's a tablespoon left and keep doing that until there's a small forest of Worcestershire sauces taking up precious door space. The only way to reclaim this space is if your mother comes to your house and removes all the bottles when you're not looking.

Also, for the purposes of this discussion, salad dressing, small yogurt containers, leftover penicillin prescriptions and that terrible "pumpkin" beer you bought last year all fall into the category of "condiments." Basically anything that can fit in the door space is a condiment.

Myth #3: The refrigerator doesn't smell

But if it did smell, it would only be because there's something benign like an old juice box hiding somewhere and not because there's something toxic like three-month-old Tupperware with decomposing animal parts in it. So there's no reason to launch a full scale search and destroy mission.

Equally there's no reason to doubt the sanitation of the fridge. Continue to place raw foodstuffs in it.

Myth #2: The freezer is an infinity box

Everything you put in it will last forever so there's no reason to throw anything out — not even that frozen turkey from the "buy-one-get-one-free" Thanksgiving sale back in 2002. Yes, it's completely white with possible freezer burn and yes, you've probably dropped it on your foot a few times. But you can't just throw it out. Both it and the failed popsicle experiment from 2004 must stay until, again, your mother throws them out when you're not looking.

Myth #1: The refrigerator has regenerative powers

That green onion that's a little wilty? That will be fine a couple days. As will the bread with just a speck of mold. That leftover tomato paste with the fuzz growing on it will be okay. Give them a chance to bounce back. They're just resting.

What do you think, Homies? What are the myths you know to be absolutely true about your refrigerator?

    • Really? Mine says "refrigerate after opening" on the bottle… Also considering the ingredients, I prefer to keep it refrigerated.

      • Haha, your peanut butter (and jam) probably says refrigerate after opening too, but neither need to be in the fridge. Everything seems to be labelled refrigerate…….probably more for legality than anything else.

  1. Ok, I giggled guiltily through all of this, but do you really mean to suggest that the scary melting lettuce in the back under the beer is not gonna bounce back? I was gonna eat that maybe someday when it got better. I can't throw it away, we are friends now! – I really am gonna go clean out my fridge this weekend. Probably.

  2. This is extra funny because I just cleaned out my freezer and dropped frozen stewing beef on my toe, breaking it.
    I have a constant reminder that I can do better every time I look down!

    • It's extra funny to me because I read this comment and thought, "Hey my friend just did the exact same thing!" Then I realized that friend is you!

    • A frozen chicken totally severed the first joint of my cousin's toe when we were kids and she had to get it reattached. "Beware of falling chickens!" is now a family joke.

  3. My #1 Fridge Myth is "I'm going to eat those leftovers eventually". My husband just went through our fridge and pulled out a tupperware container of sauteed green beans that I made well over a month ago. I don't know why I protested so much as he threw them out. We have purchased and cooked even more green beans since then. Maybe one day I might have felt like old, soggy vegetables and reheated them for a snack.

    • This. All the time. My husband has started trying to stop me before I put shit we both know I am never going to eat again in the fridge. I always tell myself I will. I never do.

    • I have issues letting go of things that aren't overtly bad, so in other words, unless it smells bad, is fuzzy or is otherwise putting off an obvious "I'mma make you sick!" vibe. (I've had enough experience with food poisoning.) We instituted a leftovers board – a whiteboard on the fridge that lists all the leftovers contained inside and the day it was cooked. Then, we are not allowed to cook anything substantially similar to anything that is still leftover inside the fridge – prompting us to either eat it or get rid of it if we won't eat it before we make anything more. Our fridge thanks us for this policy by no longer smelling so bad.

      • That's a GREAT idea. I may have to institute something similar to this. I usually won't eat leftovers when they're more than 3 days old, so having it listed on the fridge what day it was cooked would prompt me to get rid of the item by eating or trashing when the 3-day mark approaches.

    • "Maybe one day I might have felt like old, soggy vegetables and reheated them for a snack."

      I think I peed my pants at that line.

      My myth is that I have to be knee deep in final papers to write before I'd even think about cleaning the fridge. And I haven't been in college since 2005 🙂

      • I have to be expecting important visitors. Boyfriend? Nope, he contributes to the mess more than I do. Friends from work? No, no need to stand up. I'll open the fridge. Parents? Fridge gets cleaned. This only goes for the total take-everything-out-and-wash-shelves clean, though. I also go through and take out the oldest food about once every three months, though, so I don't have a ton of smells.

    • Oh my gosh, this is my husband and me reversed. And, it never fails, i will wait for almost a month before I cave and dump all the leftovers only to have him ask, "what? Where's my leftovers?!"
      He also seems to think that condiments in the fridge means a magical, never-ending supply. "What do you mean we are out of mustard? We just bought that!"uh, we just bought that. Yeah. Four months ago.

  4. I love the fact that we are all so optimistic about our fridge and especially freezer contents!

    Will I ever get my shit together? Nooo, never, I'm doomed!

    Will I eat the rest of that veggie mix I made that wasn't that great the first time? Oh yeah, most definitely – veggies are good for you! Just give me another week or 10…

    • I'm pretty good about my fridge, but the freezer, well…most of the contents, I wish to believe, will be edible forever. Never mind that I have no intention of consuming that container of frozen butternut squash soup that I made last fall, I just *can't* throw it out since I *made* it.

      Still, I totally get this post, as I grew up with a refrigerator that largely resembled everyone's descriptions of theirs. Actually, I think that's why I am so obsessive about using up the almost-borderline contents before they pass over to the dark side. I, too, hate throwing stuff out. Of course, this could explain how so much goes into my freezer, since all that frozen stuff will *never* go bad…

  5. Oh yes. All of that.

    I really need to clean out my freezer. It's pretty big but full to bursting with ends of loaves of bread. There might be some raspberries in there somewhere.

  6. It is vitally important to have, at all times, a frozen turkey in the freezer. You never know when you might need it.
    True story: it was 2005 (or so), I was living at home during undergrad with my dad, who had started to get a bit eccentric. He decided to disappear off to British Columbia over Spring Break with little advance warning, leaving me alone with the dog. "Okay," I said, "but please leave me your car. I think mine is dying." It had decided not to start if not driven for increasingly short periods of time.
    Of course he didn't leave me his car.
    Or any dog food.
    That night, it started snowing.
    It stopped late the next day, at which point I couldn't even find my little white car, and it certainly wouldn't have started. So I pulled on my snow boots and the dog and I plodded/bounded to the nearest store two miles away, which was, of course, closed due to the storm. By the time we got back home, we were cold and ravenously hungry, so I started digging through the cupboards and fridge for anything mildly nutritious.
    We lived off that damn bird for three days.

  7. Anything pickled will last forever. And ever. And ever. Also, pickle jars breed at night and multiply like tribbles.

  8. While this article makes me feel better that I am not an absurd slob who can't seem to keep this clean thing clean, I was really hoping for some fridge cleaning tips. Because you're right it's like asking how one wipes. The rubber seal between the door and the fridge always gets icky and gunky, and I never have seen my mother clean that on her fridge however hers is spotless???? HOW???

  9. I hate cleaning my fridge so much that I try to never let anything spoil in it ever- I clean it out before most grocery shopping trips. I am also motivated by my hatred of packing stuff into a full fridge.

    I do remember my mom cleaning out the fridge and being enlisted to help. The kids were in charge of taking the drawers and shelves outside and and washing them with the hose. We'd then then them "sun bleach" to disinfect them. I think you can clean the gasket around the door with a toothbrush? I try to get away with using white vinegar to wipe down the surfaces because… food.

    Anyway, this post really made me laugh. Thanks, KathyRo! I feel like I have my own "myths" concerning my overstuffed and unorganized closet…

  10. My boyfriend's myth: "Stuffing it with veggies will make us eat more veggies!"
    Me (whispering): "So why am I the only one eating the veggies, and even then there's more than I can eat."

    My myth: "Since I can't see the top of the fridge, it must be clean. Ignore the dust cows flying off when the ceiling fan is on."

  11. Who is buying cream cheeses and hiding them all in my fridge? Why do I have five half-eaten containers in there? Someone is playing a practical joke on me, because I WOULD NEVER buy another one with a row of their brethren still lurking in the back of the fridge…..

    • Ok here's my thing: sour cream tubs are too large. I never need 8oz of sour cream , and thus have many half-empty tubs of sour cream that is past it's expiration.

      BRING ON THE 40z TUBS OF SOUR CREAM

      • I can assure you, the phrase "sour cream tubs are too large" has never crossed my lips.
        True story: When I was a kid I went to sleep-away camp for 3.5 weeks every summer. One year, Mom made my favorite dish, tacos, for dinner just before I was to get on the bus for camp. At the last moment it was discovered we had no sour cream. I burst into tears. Oh, how I cried! "What a ridiculous thing to cry about!" my parents told me. I have been teased about it ever since, which I richly deserve. But I have to say, after that they have never forgotten the sour cream.

      • We never finish sour cream tubs either. Then I discovered that plain greek yogurt is a very reasonable substitute and now we just keep that in the fridge. We do occasionally wind up throwing some out but it's a lot easier to use up yogurt since you can just eat it straight.

    • My parents have the same problem. That and bottles of corn syrup. Not even sure in what they have used all that corn syrup, either.

  12. Our trash picks up on Monday, so every other Sunday my husband goes through the fridge and throws out all the old stuff. And I get annoyed, because he asks before he throws anything of mine out and then I have to admit that I never did eat that thing I swore I was going to eat. Even if I know I will never eat it, if it's still good I won't let him throw it out because I don't want to acknowledge that I'm never actually going to eat that celery for a snack when there are cookies around.

    • I feel like I'm having an affair when I clean out the fridge. I do it when I know there's no way he'll catch me throwing out all the food I never even thought about eating. I'd prefer to do it while he's out of town, but he doesn't travel for business.

  13. AAAHAHAHAHAA! This is amazing. And I definitely agree with some of these points…especially the points about the freezer being an infinity box, condiments not going bad and the produce drawers being FOR-EVAH CLEEEEAN! Here are mine:

    – Cheese doesn't go bad. It's cheese.

    – Anything at the back of the fridge doesn't exist, and therefore, it's perfectly acceptable to buy new items. Mine include jars of pickles and salsa.

    But I do clean my fridge every once and a while. Rarely…but I do! I clean it once a year…or more if a spill happens. But even then sometimes I just spot clean. It's like because a fridge is cold inside, it automatically slows/stops any sort of unclean-ness/bacteria/gross-ness…or at least in my mind this is how it works. Kind of like how a freezer can store anything for forever.

  14. You speak truth. Especially about condiments, as I showed in my post yesterday some of what I've found in my fridges (my roommates and I have an extra one in the garage because otherwise there's no way) during a rare bout of motivation. The strongest motivator in my house is running out of tupperware, and even then a certain roommate will just buy more rather than clean, but for all of us it's far easier to throw away other people's gross leftovers than your own.

    My undergrad dorm, which had weekly cooking duties and monthly cleaning duties, used that to great effect to clear out our 5 fridges that were shared between roughly 25 people. Here was the procedure: compel people to sign up and actually follow through by having the vice president inspect and fine them if it wasn't done. When it's your turn to clean a fridge, set aside a good chunk of time on Sunday night. Take everything out, take out the shelves and drawers and clean those in the sink, then use cleaning wipes or a soapy sponge to scrub the whole inside. Only put back the things that are labelled with someone's initials and a date less than a week old (also keep multiple sharpies and masking tape by the fridge for labeling). Use your judgment on condiments, I guess. If there are 25 people using the fridge, make sure that gets done every week; for a small average household, you've bought yourself a few months of calling the fridge clean, or until you run out of tupperware, whichever comes first.

  15. I lived in staff housing once at an outdoor education camp and the fridge was something to behold. Every year, at least 3 of the 7 housemates changed, and it all completely changed during summer camp, so the house was full of things from previous occupants, but we were all afraid to clean it all out in case something belonged to someone who still lived there (or who worked there but lived in different housing, now).

    One day my housemate had enough of the gross-ass fridge. It was so full that our 7 housemates couldn't fit their stuff, so she cleaned it out and found:

    -5 bottles of ketchup (one of which EXPIRED four years previous)
    -Countless bottles of salad dressing and condiments, many of which were long expired
    -Apple sauce that a housemate made in a cast iron pot, giving it a green tinge and a really irony taste…no one would eat it, but for some reason no one wanted to get rid of it, either.
    -And she yelled when she opened an opaque tupperware container in the freezer to find three frozen mice. Turns out someone who had moved out a while ago had had a pet snake, but left some of its food when she left.

    • OH MY GOD. Officially worst thing I've ever heard of cleaning out of the fridge. Mice?? MICE???

      (I understand the context, but I'm still recovering just from reading this)

  16. If it's in a bowl on the top shelf that's taller than me, it doesn't exist. This may account for the occasional exclamations of "OH GOD!!!" that have been known to come out of the mouth of the tall inhabitant of my house.

    • I know there is a giant pickle jar full of sourdough starter on the top of our dresser, but since I can't see it, it doesn't exist…

  17. Due to some stubborn gene, I managed to pump over 1500 oz of breastmilk for my son (who stubbornly refused to drink, cause he's a straight-from-the-tap kinda guy…I see kegstands in his future). So all of that milk was frozen in baggies in the freezer. I figured I'd probably donate it AND THEN the worst thing happened…freezer door was left slightly ajar and everything melted. The person who coined the 'don't cry over spilt milk' does NOT know the pain of pumping.

    Rationally I knew that the freezer wouldn't turn spoiled milk into fresh again…but didn't keep me from storing it for another 2 years anyway…

    • You win. Seriously. That's just about the most precious leftover I can think of and at the same time the target audience is the one you would never want to take a chance with spoilage. I think 2 years would be the minimum to get over that kind of refrigerator guilt.

  18. Between my Junior and Senior years in high school I went to Boston to visit some friends of our family, whose daughter was (and still is!) one of my closest friends. One day I was in their kitchen getting myself a glass of milk. The milk was on the bottom shelf, behind the juice. So, I took out the juice, then the milk, put the juice back in the fridge, and after I poured the milk, put it back, in front of the juice.

    Later that evening my friend's mom, looked in the fridge and loudly exclaimed, "Who put the juice back in the *wrong* spot?!?!" I instantly confessed my sin, and tried to explain that in my house the milk and juice didn't have designated "spots", we put them wherever there was room. I was forgiven, and politely asked to try to put things back where I had found them.

    When I got home from the trip I told the story at the dinner table. My mother, without missing a beat said, "Oh, I have a system too. I store the rotten stuff in the back."
    Oh Mom, I love you!

  19. Ok, so I admit this is part of my anxiety problem, but THE FRIDGE MUST BE CLEAN. Fridges in other people's houses universally stress me out. Even imagining food with mould on stresses me out. Argh.

    I'm not sure now if it's better to have a dirty fridge or a mental health problem… Surely there must be a third way?!

    For those asking for tips – I wipe down my fridge every week. It never gets particularly gross in between. My food delivery comes on a Wednesday, so by Wednesday morning it's pretty much empty and gets a wipe down. That's all I do. Is that weirdly obsessive though?

    • Maybe a little bit obsessive but I get it. Every time my mother comes over to my house she comments on how clean my fridge is and all I can think is "That's because your fridge* is so full of garbage that it traumatized me as a child". My sister and I are in our 30's and we still sneak over to their house and throw stuff out when they go on extended vacations.

      *she also has an additional fridge and full size freezer in her garage which are both full to the point where she routinely asks me to store stuff of hers in mine. *headdesk*

    • Right? So one purchases the correct number of grocery items, which are then consumed before new grocery items are purchased? I don't…

    • The children in our house deem the fridge "empty" when there is no milk. Period. It could be so full as to not have room for milk (which means it's time to clean out all the "dead" leftovers), but in their eyes it is empty; their plaintive cries merely echoing back at them from the yawning abyss.

  20. Mine:
    – that jar of sundried tomatoes cannot be thrown out. It doesn't matter that you don't like sundried tomatoes. It's been there for long enough that it's now an integral part of the fridge.
    – Putting lots of fresh vegetables into the fridge is just the same as eating them, and just as good for you.

  21. By virtue of living a student lifestyle and moving every year to a place with a new fridge, OF COURSE my fridge gets cleaned ! (…when I move out… in order to get my deposit back.)

  22. ok I just really need to make this annoying obligatory RN comment right now: there should never be any "leftover penicillin prescriptions" (unless for some reason you've been directed to do so by your provider)!! You're supposed to take the entire course of antibiotic therapy, even if your symptoms are gone and you feel better. Not taking all of the prescribed antibiotic can contribute to antibiotic-resitant strains of bacteria. Ahhh! ok sorry bye

  23. If you put it in your fridge, you'll eat it. Even if it's produce you don't like without the fancy dips you only see at Christmas parties.

  24. The bottom shelf of my fridge holds the booze cemetery in my house. My husband and I are really, really occasional drinkers, but we get a lot of booze gifts. So now we have this cache of liquor, micro-brew, and wine that is never opened. (We also know none of this really needs to be refridgerated , but it just migrates there, for some reason.) We keep swearing we will totally drink them one day. At least we'll have something to trade with if the zombie apocalypse hits, right?

    • I have a lot of homebrewers in my family, and I do like to drink beer. But somehow I only ever finish half of a six-pack of microbrews. I think I have 3 6-pack holders in my tiny apartment fridge.
      I have discovered that the empty slots are just the right size for little baggies of fresh herbs, so at least *some* of that space isn't going to waste… but still.

  25. Oh, I hear you, sweetheart. Two rules and two rules only do you need to follow. Well, maybe three.

    1) When you go grocery shopping, before you load things into the fridge, load things out of the fridge. Leftovers that don't have a plan to be eaten get tossed, half empty sodas get recycled, and anything that was replaced in this grocery run is… well, replaced.

    2) When you peek at your leftovers and the tiny voice inside you whispers, "uhmmm, is this still good?" listen to that whisper. And the next time you see the leftovers, even if you are much hungrier, remember that little whisper and remember that it hasn't gotten any fresher, and when you thought it looked a bit dodgy, that was…. uhhm, how long ago? When you get into a habit of remembering "I thought this was going bad before!" and tossing, you start tossing once you see it the first time.

    3) Yeah, sometimes you have to clean it. I don't know, just sometimes.

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