An organized fridge may not be at the top of your priority list, but it should be. It’s good for your sanity and the shelf life of your perishable goods. We put together 10 tricks to help get you started—from where to store certain items to how to fit everything more efficiently. Follow these suggestions, and opening your fridge to grab some OJ in the morning will become a much more pleasing experience.
Start From Scratch
Before diving right in, make sure you start with a clean slate. Empty out your refrigerator completely, and toss items that are expired or that you don’t use. Before restocking, take the opportunity to give your fridge a thorough cleaning. With all the hands going in and out and accidental spills, now’s the perfect time to put in some elbow grease and sanitize your fridge.
Avoid Cross Contamination
After a long trip to the supermarket the last thing on your mind is packing your fridge properly, but it’s important. You especially want to avoid cross contamination. One simple thing to remember is your raw meats should be placed at the lowest level to avoid dripping on other items. If there are veggie and fruit bins below your lowest shelf, make sure you keep your meat properly wrapped and placed on a plate or in a bin of its own.
The Top Shelf
Designate your upper shelves for leftovers, pre-cooked foods, drinks and packaged foods. These items are already cooked through so you don’t have to worry about a spill from one of these packages compromising the items below.
Storing Your Leftovers
Before sliding in your leftovers, take the extra time to transfer them from their delivery containers into glass or BPA-free plastic storage. It’s easy to forget what you have in your fridge if it’s all covered up. With clear storage you won’t forget about that leftover Chinese food.
Keep your lower shelves readily available for raw foods you intend on cooking in the near future. With timers going off and things needing to be flipped, nobody wants to rummage through a packed fridge looking for the bacon.
Fruit and Veggie Bins
Your fruits and vegetables should be kept in their designated bins in order to keep them fresh as long as possible. Although it may be tempting to prep ahead, you should put off chopping your ingredients until close to the time you’re going to use them. If you slice and dice those carrots too early, they may go bad. Store your fresh produce in its whole form and at the proper humidity level to keep them nice and crisp.
In terms of other everyday items, the door of your fridge is the warmest spot. Keep condiments there, but not your milk or fresh juices. These highly perishable drinks should be kept towards the bottom and in the back where the fridge is the coldest. Soft cheeses and butter can be kept in the door though because they don’t necessarily have to be kept very cold. Eggs should be kept where the temperature is the most consistent—the middle shelf of your fridge. Deli meats? Keep them in their designated shallow meat bin.
If you find yourself struggling to find space because of all the drinking bottles and containers in your fridge, we feel your pain. Stack your water bottles in a pyramid shape to make grabbing one easy. Transfer things like iced tea and juice to tall, slim, glass carafes to make more room and to make your fridge look neater.
Make sure your fridge isn’t too full. If your fridge is overstocked, it won’t be able to do its job of keeping your items cold and fresh. When it’s too packed, the cool air can’t circulate properly throughout the fridge, and things will spoil faster. Place a notepad or chalkboard nearby to keep a tally of what’s in your fridge so you don’t accidentally overbuy.
Rearranging Your Foods
Move the food that needs to be eaten sooner to the front of your fridge. Whether it’s leftovers or yogurt, you don’t want it to be tossed simply because you forgot about it. Take some time every other day to evaluate what’s in your fridge and scooch certain things to the front if you notice you need to consume them within the next few days. And if you open something on a certain day, mark that container with the date you opened it so you never have to question “is this still good?” when you go to use it again.