2020 has been the year of the full fridge. First, with two cartons of eggs and a dozen sticks of butter and other quarantine bulk buys. Soon, with the holidays right around the corner, an endless amount of leftovers. Don’t start January off by opening the door only to have precariously stacked Tupperware rain down on you. We turned to our favorite organizing and food-focused creatives to get their go-to tips on how to clean out—and make the most of—your space for merrymaking, never mind 2021. Here’s what they said.
“Holiday food clutter, like most clutter, is the result of buying too much,” says organizer Faith Roberson. “Be mindful of how much food you are purchasing, how many servings each recipe yields, and whether or not it’s enough or too much. Waste is not cute.”
For intersectional environmentalist Leah Thomas, food waste simply isn’t an option, which makes the holidays extra tricky. She’s turned to meal-delivery services to ensure she only has what she truly needs (and, in turn, supports her local restaurants). “Everything is portioned out and has specific healthy and sustainably sourced options that are easy to cook! This has really helped me not overbuy,” she notes.
X Marks the Spot
If you do happen to overdo it at the grocery store (we’re only human), Corrie Jackson of Maison Haven suggests dedicating one section of your fridge to leftovers. She uses a labeled container to force herself to be disciplined—if it doesn’t fit inside, it goes: “No more discovering moldy food horror shows at the back of your fridge in March!” Sierra Tishgart, cofounder and CEO of Great Jones, does the same with her holiday must-have. “I make sure all the cheeses are labeled so they don’t overtake my entire fridge. And once the drawer is full (which is always), I cannot buy any more cheese until I eat it,” she says.
Live by FIFO
Listen closely to Insta-famous chef Molly Baz: FIFO. “FIFO stands for First In, First Out and is a common practice in restaurants,” notes Baz. “It should also be common practice in your home kitchen.” Organize your fridge based on the shelf life of your ingredients, placing the newest items in the back and the soonest-to-expire items in the front. You’ll end up wasting less and spending less.
Remember the 3 C’s
Clear, compact compartments. Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, cofounders of organizing giant Neat Method, recommend creating an out-of-the-way spot in your refrigerator (ideally on a higher shelf) for ingredients for special recipes. This way everyone knows what’s off-limits (unless they want an eggnog-free Christmas). Like Home Sort, they swear by containers with divided compartments, which let you store multiple things together. Additionally, use the same stackable bins in the freezer so you “actually eat the leftovers before the next holiday season rolls around,” says the duo.
Tracy Bowers has two words to say when it comes to any organization project: vertical space. If you use it wisely, she claims you can actually store 36 eggs comfortably, taking up only 4 inches of width. All you need is a long acrylic container. When it comes to storing bulkier things like multiple casserole dishes, “stack a couple by putting a large cookie sheet in between the two dishes,” she says.
Scrutinize Your Leftovers
Cookbook author, chef, and Domino columnist Julia Sherman puts her holiday leftovers to the test. Before any food goes into a storage container, envision what you might do with it later (those leftover turkey slices could make a great next-day sandwich, say). If you can’t think of at least two ways to reimagine the extras, “toss them or feed them to the dog,” says Sherman. “And for God’s sake, label everything with a Sharpie and masking tape.”
Share With Your Community
“I’m all for freezing leftovers, but sometimes there’s just too much,” says environmental activist Sustainable Sabs. To start with a clean slate come January, she suggests a quick Google search to see if there’s a community fridge in your area. Or join the Buy Nothing Project on Facebook (there are local groups in cities everywhere). “It’s a great way to prevent food waste and spread the love to your neighbors this holiday season,” says Sabs.
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