If refrigerators and freezers could talk, they might be saying something like this. “It’s dark, dank, and smelly inside this fridge. I hope my owners don’t open the door, who knows what’s going to spill out.”
COVID-19 has afforded us more time to enjoy the art of cooking. Food storage and labeling have become necessary for everyone, especially those of us with limited or no vision. The sections below will provide some ideas for storing food items in your refrigerator, placing accessible labels on each item, and some special storage hints.
- Have at least one or two methods in place for labeling both food arriving from the grocery, as well as leftovers.
- Have a wide range of shapes and sizes of containers available.
- Have a clean and sanitized work area, refrigerator, and freezer, so you can separate and store food items.
- Clean and disinfect counter tops. A good practice is to cover your countertop with wax paper. When you complete working you will not have a major mess to clean up.
Not only is it important to label the content of containers, it is necessary to include the expiration date. Labels can be made from items you have around your house, or labeling systems can be purchased. Here are some examples to get you started and put your creativity to work:
- Puff paint can be used to paint labels on the inventory tag or index card. Stick on letters can also be purchased. Simply tear off the back of the letter and stick on the card. Now you have a label which can be read by touch.
- Dymo tape is often used for making both large print and braille labels.
- Tape and braille and large print label makers can be purchased from any of the specialty catalogues which sell products for blind and low vision.
- Magnetic tape can also be used to make braille labels which stick on canned goods.
- A tried and true method is to use index cards or inventory tags for creating labels in large print or braille. Inventory tags are tags which are used as price tags. They come in a variety of sizes and have a hole punched in the top with a string which enables you to attach to bottles etc. The inventory tags like index cards are a perfect thickness for making braille or tactile labels. Inventory tags can be purchased at office supply stores.
- A variety of voice activated labeling systems can be purchased such as: (a)The PenFriend is a voice activated labeling system through which you can use your own voice to produce labels. You can tailor your label for the item. These labels can also be used in the freezer. (b)“Way Around” is a labeling system which also allows you to create individualized labels. The Way Around can be downloaded for free from the Apple App store, and the labels can be purchased.
After using any of the above-mentioned labels save them in a container. Saving labels will help you compile the next grocery list; and you will not need to spend time designing labels over again.
Just like labeling, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to finding containers to organize your refrigerator and freezer. Below are a few ideas which may serve as a springboard as you plan your organization strategies.
- Save containers which are often thrown away such as old baby food jars, egg cartons, and margarine containers. It is less challenging for a person with a vision loss to dip into a container than to pour out of a bottle. Example: an accurate measurement can be obtained if spices are stored in a wide mouth container, such as a baby food jar. It is less difficult to measure cooking oil from an old margarine container.
- Containers which were once used for storing office supplies are good for storing similar items in the refrigerator.
- Small baskets with suction cups can be used on the walls of your refrigerator to store small items that could otherwise be hard to find.
- Seal-lock containers such as Rubbermaid or Tupperware are good for storing food in the freezer.
- Reusable disposable plastic containers of various sizes are handy for freezing leftovers, and for giving meals away.
Preparation for Storage
- Start with a clean and disinfected refrigerator and clean the refrigerator quarterly
- Line the shelves with plastic wrap. This makes it easy to clean spillage.
- Line crisper drawers with paper towels or newspapers.
Where to Store Your Food
- An open box of baking soda in the back of your fridge is a great deodorizer. You can put it in a hanging basket attached to the back wall.
- The top shelf of your refrigerator should be for drinks or food items with a short shelf life, such as yogurt, cheese, and lunch meats.
- Create a “Must Eat” container. This container should consist of food nearing expiration date.
- A lazy susan can be used on the top shelf.
- Small hanging containers can be hung on the walls to store string cheese, hummus etc.
- Use the bottom shelf to keep fresh meat in the fridge for a short time so that the contents will not drip down into other food items.
- The door is the warmest section of the refrigerator. Do not store milk and eggs there. The door should be only used for condiments, sauces or butter, items which have a long shelf life.
- Never store fruits and vegetables in the same crisper drawer. Use one drawer for fruit and another for vegies. Fruit contains a higher level of ethaline, which causes vegies to spoil quickly.
- Do not store onions or potatoes in the refrigerator; give each a separate shelf in the pantry.
- Old egg cartons can be used in the door of your fridge for bottles such as salad dressing. Store the bottle up-side-down; this will prevent the age-old problem of getting dressing out of the bottle.
Now your refrigerator may be saying something like this: “Welcome! It should be easy to find anything you want!”