Eating healthy and staying within your grocery budget is 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 searching for ingredients. You might even find yourself inspired to try new recipes.
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 you’re organizing the fridge. 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
For food safety and to maximize your refrigerator’s efficiency, 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. So here are some solutions to help your family stop tearing up the fridge every time they want a snack.
Overcome Leftover Blindness
Use clear food storage containers to make finding — and remembering — leftovers easier. Portioning leftovers into single-serving containers is a great way to encourage your family to eat them. They’re more convenient to grab as a lunch to-go, too. I use these containers.*
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. Clear containers filled with healthy, parent-approved snacks will stop that. Stash them at eye level at the front of the fridge so kids can find them. I even do this for myself when I’m dieting because it encourages good food choices.
Learn to Love Labels
When things have a designated spot and are where they’re supposed to be, it’s easier to cook and to make a grocery list, too. You don’t have to go 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. Simply labeling the shelves lets everyone know where the milk goes, so they don’t keep rummaging around.
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.