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Whose Kids Know How to Turn Off Lights? I got a good chuckle when I read today's first reader tip from "Dad." For a split second there, I could hear my own father asking the age-old parent/child question: Don't you know how to turn off the light when you leave the room? MOTION SENSOR …Read more. Of Pet Accidents and Malfunctioning Keurig Machines Dear Mary: I saw in your column a long while back an article about the carpet scrubber (was it Bissell?) and poo-pooed it at the time. Now I am ready to cry UNCLE since I discovered to my horror that one of my cats was shut in a bedroom and peed on …Read more. Solutions for Stains on Shirts and Windows, Too From time to time I reach into the proverbial EC mailbag and pull out a few of your questions to answer here. My goal is to select questions I believe the answers to which will have a wide appeal. But I can tell you for sure that when the question …Read more. The High Cost of My Bad Habit I did something really dumb that cost me $750. It's so dumb that I'm a little embarrassed to even tell you about it. That was the price tag on my fancy-schmancy progressive eyeglasses. I went for the pricey frame and all the bells and whistles …Read more.
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What Do I Do With My Refrigerator's Crisper Drawer?

You may think the main purpose of your refrigerator is to display things glued to magnets and children's art, but what's inside reflects your individual lifestyle even more than the clothes you wear or the cars you drive. I am grateful you cannot see inside my refrigerator because I believe there are a few science projects growing in the back.

The main purpose of a refrigerator is to produce low temperatures in order to slow down the process that spoils food.

There are two kinds of bacteria. Spoilage bacteria make food repulsive and inedible, but they won't make you sick. The illness-causing kind, pathogenic bacteria, may be completely undetectable by taste or appearance, but they are very dangerous. Low temperatures inhibit both kinds.

The freezer compartment is at the top of most refrigerators for a very good reason: Any cold air leakage will fall down (heat rises, remember?) and will help cool the lower parts of the fridge. The temperature of the freezer should be kept at zero or lower, and the refrigerator's temperature always should be lower than 40. To check, get an inexpensive refrigerator-freezer thermometer. First, stick it in the refrigerator. After six to eight hours, check the temperature, then adjust as necessary.

The crisper drawer is designed to control humidity rather than temperature.

Vegetables will dry out and get flabby unless the humidity is kept relatively high, so the crisper keeps water vapor in. Fruits require a lower humidity than vegetables, so some crispers have adjustable openings that you're supposed to readjust every time you change the contents. If you have two drawers, keep fruits in one and vegetables in the other, adjusting the humidity accordingly.

Your refrigerator also may have a meat keeper. It's the coldest part of the fridge, except for the freezer. Fresh fish shouldn't be kept more than a day, so freeze the fish if you are not going to eat it the same day you acquire it.

Those handy shelves and compartments in the refrigerator door are the warmest spot in the fridge. Every time you open the fridge, a blast of hot air hits that area first. So keep items there that are not sensitive to increased temperatures, such as bottled dressings. Do not store eggs there; they need to go deep inside the fridge to maintain a more even temperature.

Do you have tips and tricks you use to extend the useful life of refrigerated foods? Send them to We'll gather, compile and then share them in a future column. Thanks!

Mary Hunt is the founder of and author of 17 books, including "Debt-Proof Living." You can e-mail her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


2 Comments | Post Comment
Comment: #1
Posted by: Fraser
Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:43 PM
Thank you for writing such a helpful column about my refrigerator's vegetable drawer. I would like to add one small, tangential adjustment to your comments, however. You say that there are two types of bacteria: spoilage bacteria and illness-causing bacteria. This is true, but as a yogurt lover, I'd like to tip my hat to a third type of bacteria, those which are healthy and beneficial.
Comment: #2
Posted by: jeburlin
Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:43 AM
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