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inside refrigerator

It's tempting to load up every inch of your fridge with a haul of groceries from the supermarket and farmers' market. Right now, we're all trying to avoid trips out of the house and skip interactions with other people and shared surfaces, so if you can buy a whole lot at once, you're better off, right?

Not so fast. Overcrowding your fridge may end up costing you.

"If the fridge or freezer is overflowing, it blocks the air flow and takes longer to cool the food items," says Nasser Yazdani, DVM, MPH, assistant teaching professor at the University of Missouri - Columbia. "Don't buy more than two weeks of groceries at one time."

If you fill your bins, drawers, and shelves with all the food you can squeeze in them, you could cut off air flow inside the fridge interior. This could create hot spots and cold spots throughout the appliance. The warmer temps will encourage bacteria growth. The chilly temps could freeze foods that don't fare well when made icy, like some fruits and vegetables, dairy, and leftovers.

If your family is opening and closing the fridge regularly (because they're staring at it in hopes something new will show up), turn down the temperature a few degrees. Yazdani recommends fridges be set to 41 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it should be 40°F or cooler. Kicking it down a few degrees will help the fridge maintain a lower temp for all the foods you've got stored in there despite it being opened many more times per day than usual.

Not sure how cold your fridge is or don't trust the thermometer on your fridge door? Order a fridge thermometer ($15; wayfair.com). It can stay in your fridge at all times so you can check temps regularly. Place your fridge thermometer in the center of the middle shelf. This will give you the best reading on the temp inside the appliance. After a few hours, check your fridge's temperature reading with the thermometer's reading to see if it's accurate.

And if nothing else, an overcrowded fridge is bad news if you're trying to use up everything you've purchased in an orderly fashion. With crammed drawers and packed shelves, you can't easily see what you've got in there hiding horribly moldy secrets.