Clean Spoon Rule of the Galley

Sailors’ Tip: Free Up Space in Your Refrigerator

The Clean Spoon Rule


Dorm sized frig on our sailboat

Sailors call it provisioning, others know it as stockpiling. Into the shopping cart goes two, three, four or more items of a food you really enjoy, preparing for a long ocean passage and knowing you won’t find it for any price in the islands.

Storage was always an issue on our sailboat, especially with a dorm-sized galley refrigerator. If refrigerator space is an issue for you, here’s the biggest tip I picked up from other sailors, and still use today. However, I ask that you follow the rules to make sure no one gets sick.  Some of these techniques might be scary to try, but once enrolled you will never go back.  Okay, here goes.

You don’t have to refrigerate condiments.  There, I said it.  That includes mayonnaise, salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, steak sauce, hot sauce… Shocking but true.

I know what you’re thinking…, trust me, I know.  It requires a big leap in thinking and goes against our training. But in eight years of live aboard sailing, bringing food to beach pot lucks and entertaining in the cockpit, no one ever got sick from eating on our boat. NEVER. However, there are some simple rules you must follow to make it safe.

The Clean Spoon Rule

Live aboard sailors don’t refrigerate mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  Instead they practice  the “clean spoon rule.” Basically, you never, ever (not even once) put anything other than a perfectly clean spoon in the jar of mayo. No wiping a knife on a slice of bread then putting it back in the jar for a second dip. No using the spoon you used to first scoop the tuna out of the can. And no using a knife that you just sort of wiped off on a sponge. It has to be clean.

Use Squeeze Bottles

An alternative that I prefer is to use squeeze bottles and never, ever touch the opening with anything – fingers, food, rags, anything. I’m talking about manufacturer squeeze bottles, not ones that you transfer the mayo into. The manufacturer squeeze bottles are germ-free to start with, so as long as you don’t introduce bacteria there won’t be any – and commercial mayonnaise and Miracle Whip have a number of preservatives in them, too.

One Teensy Caution

While I don’t refrigerate the mayonnaise container, I still do refrigerate any dishes made with mayonnaise such as potato salad since in those the mayo has come in contact with other foods and mixed with other things which might have bacteria that would grow in the mayo.

If not refrigerating mayonnaise sounds too scary for you, ease into it with your other condiments that have never had a spoon contaminate them. Your refrigerator will suddenly seem a lot larger with all the new shelf room.