Eating healthy and staying within your grocery budget are easier when you know how to organize your refrigerator.
Why Bother Organizing Your Refrigerator?
Taking the time to organize your fridge keeps it looking tidy whether you’ve recently cleaned it or not. But there are better reasons than that to spend an afternoon on this task.
- Good refrigerator organization makes eating healthy easier. Making good food choices is easier when healthy foods are easily accessible, and the less healthy stuff is out of sight.
- A well-organized fridge saves you money. You’ll know what’s about to expire so that you can eat or cook with it soon. Plus, you won’t wind up buying duplicates because you’ll know at a glance what’s in your fridge.
- Organizing your refrigerator makes cooking at home easier. Getting a home-cooked meal on the table is easier when you don’t have to spend a lot of time rummaging around in search of ingredients. You might even find yourself inspired to try new recipes.
Sound good? Read on for steps to organize the contents of your refrigerator and tips to keep it organized once you’re done.
How to Organize Your Refrigerator
Don’t put off organizing your refrigerator just because you don’t have time to give it a deep cleaning. If you have to, you can organize one shelf or drawer at a time — just wipe it as you go. Once you’ve got everything organized, you’ll find it’s much easier to deep clean your refrigerator anyway.
Know the Coldest and Warmest Spots
There are two things you need to keep in mind when organizing foods within your refrigerator. First, remember that heat rises. So, the drawers or shelves at the bottom of your fridge are the coldest, and the top shelf is the warmest. Second, opening and closing the fridge door lets cold air out and warm air into the fridge. So, the farther back you store something in your refrigerator, the colder it will stay.
Where to Store Foods in Your Refrigerator
So, where do things belong in your fridge? Put foods where they’ll be kept at optimum temperatures.
- Upper shelves: This is where warm air rises inside your fridge, so it’s the best spot for cooked foods like leftovers or packaged, ready-to-eat items that don’t have to be kept at a constant cold temperature.
- Refrigerator door: This spot gets exposed to room temperature air every time someone opens the fridge. For food safety, don’t store eggs, milk, or other animal-based dairy products in the door. But, it’s a great place for bottled or canned drinks, pickled foods (like dills, capers, olives, etc.), and certain stable condiments (soy sauce, mustard, and ketchup).
- Lower shelves: The lower the spot in your fridge, the colder it is. The farther back foods are, the colder they’ll stay. It’s the spot for large, whole melons, tall jars, milk, and other items that need to stay cold. If your refrigerator does not have a drawer specifically for raw meats, keep them in a plastic container on the lowest shelf, so any drips don’t cross-contaminate other food.
- Crispers and drawers: Most refrigerators have one or more drawers. Vegetables do best in a refrigerator drawer since they need a slightly humid environment to maintain their crispness. If you have two drawers, use the second for either fruit or meat. If you’re fortunate enough to have three drawers, stash fruits in one, vegetables in another, and meats in whatever drawer is lowest.
Tips to Help Keep Your Fridge Organized
Once you’ve spent time organizing your refrigerator, you’ll want to keep it tidy, too. Chances are, you aren’t the one likely to mess it up, though, so here are some solutions to help your family stop tearing up the fridge every time they want a snack.
Overcome Leftover Blindness
We all know the frustration of having to throw out leftovers or ingredients because no one remembered to eat them in time. The money from such food waste adds up! Plus, it’s always sad to know you missed a chance to eat the last serving of your favorite food because you forgot about it. Use containers to put an end to that problem.
Keep single-size portions of leftovers on the top shelf of your fridge. I use these containers to hold ours* and put all of the containers in a bin labeled “Eat This Next!” Having them all together and easy to grab seems to overcome the “leftover blindness” that led to so much food waste. Now, when we get hungry, it’s easy to find something quick to reheat and eat.
Make Kids’ Snacking Simple
Every parent has watched their child walk over to the fridge in search of a snack, open the door and… stand there. You grit your teeth, knowing they’re letting cold air out and warm air into the fridge, which makes food spoil faster. And they get frustrated because they can’t find anything to eat — just “ingredients.” (Or is that just my son?)
Use containers to make healthy snacking easier for kids by filling them with healthy, parent-approved snacks. Then put them at eye-level at the front of the fridge where they’ll find them. If you have more than one child, fill and label a different container for each. I even do this for myself when I’m dieting because it encourages good food choices and keeps me from rummaging around in the fridge when I’m hungry.
Learn to Love Labels
You don’t have to go all Home Edit on the contents of your refrigerator (though I loved their book), but using labels in the fridge can help you and your family keep it organized. Something as simple as labeled shelves let everyone know where the milk goes, for instance, or that you’re keeping raw meat in the bottom drawer on the right. In a pinch, painter’s tape and a Sharpie work.
If your family eats salad often, consider storing salad dressing bottles together in a divided turntable that you can just move to the table or kitchen island at mealtime. (I use this one because the handle makes it so convenient.) Not salad eaters? Turntables are a great place to stash other frequently-used condiments, too.
Keep Track with a List
Once you’ve got the contents of your refrigerator organized, you can plan the week’s menu just by glancing at your tidy shelves and drawers. Posting the menu on your fridge is a great way to remind yourself to use groceries, and it stops everyone from interrupting you to ask what’s for dinner. It’s also a good idea to keep a shopping list on your fridge so family members can easily add things as needed.
Sure, you could do both things on your phone with the built-in reminders or list apps, but then you’re the only one taking responsibility for such things. And, now that the refrigerator is organized and labeled, you’re also not the only one who can keep it neat, either.