A young girl looks into an open refrigerator full of food. There is a refrigerator organization checklist superimposed on the corner.

Refrigerator Organization Tips: No More Food Jenga!

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Does your family rummage through the fridge because they can’t find things? I used to feel like I was playing Jenga with ours, moving containers around just so I could grab what I needed to make dinner. That all changed when I began using these refrigerator organization tips. 

I’m not even exaggerating when I say these tips turned cooking time from chaos to calm. We can find what we need when we need it, so no more rummaging. Plus, we don’t waste money throwing out leftovers that got lost or things that weren’t kept at proper temperatures. 

Start with a Clean Fridge

It’s easiest to organize your refrigerator when you’re cleaning it, since you’ve got to pull everything out anyway. Every time I deep clean mine, I follow these tips as I put things back inside and it always seems twice as spacious. 

Group Like with Like

One of the best organizing tips I ever learned I learned from Sesame Street. Anyone who’s hummed along with “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong” knows what I mean. 

So, my refrigerator organizing tip is to group similar things in your fridge together—cheese in one spot, bottles of water in another, and so on. This lets you find things quicker but also keeps you from buying what you already have, like three different blocks of cheddar. (What? I like cheese.) 

Did You Know?

The warmest spot in your fridge is typically the door, while the coldest is usually the lower shelves. Keeping this in mind can help you store food in the smartest spots! 

Use Clear Food Storage

I grew up with a fridge full of random margarine, whipped topping, and sour cream containers which may or may not actually contain leftovers. The idea was not to waste money on fancy food storage, but we wasted a lot of food. (Trust me, opening a container of month-old leftover spaghetti once is all it takes to make you afraid to open others.)

Using clear food storage containers definitely improved our refrigerator organization. But after a month of Mason jars taking over my fridge, switching to stackable rectangular ones, which take up so much less space, had even more impact. I’ll never go back.

Label, Label, Label

I can’t stress this enough. Label your containers with dates and even the contents. It’s easy to forget when you made that chicken curry or how long the homemade ranch dressing has been sitting in there. 

To label food storage containers, I use liquid chalk markers, which wash off glass surfaces easily. An erasable label and a dry erase marker, or even masking tape and a Sharpie would work, too. 

Don’t Ignore the Door

Things stored in the fridge door don’t stay very cold, especially in my home where someone leaves the door open for minutes at a time while he’s making a snack. That makes the fridge door an awful place for milk or anything else that should stay constantly chilled.

On the other hand, the fridge door is the perfect spot for soft drinks, those reusable water bottles, even cooking oils or vinegar-based condiments like mustard and ketchup. It’s where I stash my homemade chili garlic sauce, too.

Keep the Kids in Mind

If you have kids, you know how they’ll shove everything around in the fridge in their search for a quick, convenient snack. Even my 23-year-old son does it! To encourage good choices and protect my refrigerator organization, I group healthy snacks in a clear refrigerator bin that permanently lives at the front of the lowest shelf where we can’t help seeing it.

Zone Your Fridge

Refrigerator organization doesn’t just maximize the use of space, it also maximizes efficiency. By understanding the temperature zones in your fridge, you can store things in their ideal spot.

• Upper shelves are slightly warmer: Since heat rises, even inside a fridge, this zone is safest for cooked items. It’s where I keep our leftovers.

• Lower shelves are coolest: Foods that need to stay constantly chilled do best on lower shelves, so this is where I stash dairy items. 

• Crisper drawers: Some refrigerators have one crisper drawer for produce while others, including mine, have two drawers with adjustable humidity settings. Stashing produce in a drawer keeps it fresh much longer.

Pro Tip

If your fridge doesn’t have a specific drawer for raw meats, it’s best to store them on the lowest shelf so any drips won’t cross-contaminate other foods.

Regular Touch Ups

Check up on your refrigerator organizing when you’re cleaning the kitchen to make sure things are where they belong. That’s also a great time to wipe up spills and the rubber door seal. I like to do a quick inventory while I’m at it, so I know what we need to use up.

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