How to Revamp Your Fridge with Feng Shui and Eat More of Your Food – The Washington Post

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Your refrigerator is probably a fairly modern, efficient, and carefully designed machine. But Jiaying Zhao, a behavioral scientist at the University of British Columbia, says it has one glaring flaw.

When you organize your refrigerator the way the designers intended, you store your fruits and vegetables in crisper drawers and place your most perishable foods at the back, on the bottom shelf, where the temperatures are coolest. But that increases the chances of forgetting about these perishable foods until it’s too late.

“The refrigerator is not designed for human behavior,” she said. “The human mind is limited in its capacity, and a limitation is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ So if I don’t see something, I forget about it, and that leads to food waste.”

Zhao has a simple solution: Feng Shui for your refrigerator. As she explained in a TED talk this year, this means redirecting the flow of your attention by arranging your food so that the most perishable foods are most visible. It may seem like a small thing, she said, but “behavioral science shows that some of the smallest changes lead to the biggest impacts.”

According to ReFED, a nonprofit focused on reducing food waste, the United States throws away about a third of the food it produces. As food prices rise, food waste poses an increasingly costly burden on American households.

But it is also a major burden on the environment: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, food waste contributes eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it more than twice as harmful to the climate as the aviation industry.

If you place fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the doors of your refrigerator, you will be reminded to eat them every time you open the refrigerator. (Video: The Washington Post)

Zhao suggests turning the standard refrigerator organization system on its head: Put your perishable foods in the doors and hide your most shelf-stable foods—like ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard bottles—in the drawers.

“Whenever I open the refrigerator, I see fruits, vegetables and perishable foods and catch them before they go bad,” she said. “It’s a good visual reminder: Oh, hey, you have to eat these carrots, or you have to eat this salad.”

Since Zhao began spreading the gospel of refrigerator feng shui, she says she’s faced pushback from people who fear their vegetables will wilt faster in the door, away from the cool, protective embrace of the vegetable drawer. But she says it’s a trade-off between extending the life of your perishable foods or making you more likely to remember to eat them.

“They wilt a little [in the door]“But it’s better than rotting,” she said. “If you leave them in the drawer, you probably won’t see them again until they rot.”

Plus, she says, she’s started storing her vegetables in sealed containers that keep them as fresh — and free of ripening ethylene gases — as they would be in the vegetable drawer.

The drawers are the least visible places in your refrigerator. Save them for drinks and condiments that won’t spoil easily. (Video: The Washington Post)

The other organizing principle Zhao suggests is “first in, first out,” a warehouse strategy that companies and warehouses use to manage their inventory more efficiently.

She keeps all of the oldest items front and center in her refrigerator, rather than allowing them to gradually be pushed into forgotten and rancid corners at the back of the shelf. Instead, the newest food goes straight to the back and slowly works its way forward as she eats the older stuff first.

It’s especially important to prioritize raw meats, produce and dairy products that are aging, as they often only last a few days in the refrigerator. Long-lasting items such as drinks and spices may remain on the periphery for a little longer due to their longer shelf life.

This tactic has the added benefit of preventing a moldy buildup of forgotten food from building up at the back of shelves or at the bottom of drawers.