There are at least five upsides to organizing the items in your refrigerator. You may be able to think of more.
- Organizing helps to easily and quickly find the food you want
- Organizing helps keep your food fresh as long as possible
- Organizing your fridge to create neatness and order looks nice
- Organizing using appropriate containers and making food more visible makes cleanup easy because food is less likely to spill or leak
- Organizing food in your fridge will save you money
The Big Clean
To really get a grip on what’s happening in your refrigerator, you will need to take everything out. Spot checking will work after you do the big sort-out, but at the beginning, you’ll need to do a big old-fashioned cleanup.
- To keep your items cold, place your perishable food in a cooler with some ice.
- Take out all the drawers in your fridge. Let them soak in hot, soapy water.
- Wipe down all the surfaces with disinfecting wipes or spray. Dry all the drawers and replace. Place an open box of baking soda in the back of the fridge as a deodorizer.
Toss or Keep?
- Leftovers: generally, if they’re more than a few days old, toss them. Use up fresh leftovers as soon as possible. Label the leftovers you’re going to keep with the date of refrigeration.
- Jars of food or condiments: if you find mold, please toss. If the food or condiment seems viable, check the expiry date. Add a label with the expiry date in big numbers facing you so that you can easily tell how quickly you need to use them.
- Wipe down all your jars, bottles, and containers to remove any moisture, oils or food before putting them back in the fridge.
Line Your Shelves and Drawers
Before placing any food back into the fridge, consider lining shelves, drawers and door shelving with liners or even something as simple as several layers of paper towels. This can be especially important in your vegetable and fruit drawers where, over time, bits of vegetables can fall off and even rot if they’re not removed quickly enough. Any spillage of liquid will be easier to clean with a bit of protection. In the door shelves, salad dressing or other oils or sticky liquid spills can be difficult to completely clean if not done immediately.
Location, Location, Location
Here’s a guide to placing certain foods in the best part of the fridge to retain freshness for as long as possible. Nothing is written in stone and you may need to experiment, but here are a few things to consider:
- Refrigerator door shelves: this is the warmest part of the fridge. Put long-lasting condiments, salad dressing, and small amounts of butter and cheese that you will use up quickly here.
- Top shelf: is also a warmer part of the fridge. Put berries and fresh herbs here along with snacks that you will eat that day and leftovers that have a short shelf life. The top shelf is also a good spot for items like olives and hummus.
- Middle shelf: is where the temperature is most even. Keep containerized eggs here rather than the egg containers on some refrigerator doors. Deli meats that don’t need cooking can be stored here as well. Top shelf items already mentioned are fine here as well.
- Bottom shelf: this is the coldest part of your fridge. Large containers of yogurt, cheese, butter and meats go here. Freshly made juice, milk and cream should be here too. The back of the bottom shelf is the coldest spot in the fridge so you may decide to put some items at the back as well.
- Crispers: most refrigerators have a couple of crisper drawers designed for fruits and vegetables. It’s important to keep fruit in one drawer and vegetables in another. Heart.org has an excellent guide for fruit and vegetable storage.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A big part of organizing is making sure that nothing disappears into the Bermuda triangle of your fridge. Okay, so your fridge doesn’t really have a Bermuda triangle, but it is easy to forget leftovers and come across them weeks (?) later.
One way to avoid this is to go by the two-thirds rule. Fill your refrigerator about two-thirds full rather than chock-full of items piled on top of each other. This is also helpful because your fridge needs some empty areas for air circulation to keep temperatures evenly distributed.
Keep Foods About to Expire and Foods Consumed Everyday Up Front
Foods with nearer expiry dates should be grouped together in containers at the front of your fridge so you won’t forget them. Use a big label like “eat me first”.
Food and drink consumed daily should be placed in front as well for easy access.
Invest in Refrigerator Space Savers
There are many kitchen accessories stores that sell handy containers that save space and help to organize your fridge.
Try buying see-through stackable containers for leftovers. Label the side of them with the date of refrigeration.
A lazy Susan is a popular item and can keep food from disappearing into the back. Opened jars, lemons, condiments are just a few of the items you may want to put here for easy access.
Small baskets that stick to the side of your fridge are great for individualized packs of cheese or hummus or lunch meats.
If it seems like a bit of work to organize your fridge, just imagine the time and money you and your family will save afterwards. Whoever made up the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place”, must have been thinking about refrigerators.