The school year is about to begin, and it’s the perfect time to give your refrigerator an organizational overhaul. If you’re dealing with a crowded fridge on a daily basis – do you even know what’s lurking at the back of the shelves? – you’re not alone. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy for your fridge to become a little chaotic-looking.
It’s time to get your fridge in order!
But have no fear – there are some genius yet easy ways you can revamp your refrigerator. Not only will it be more pleasant and convenient to use, but an organized fridge helps you see everything you have and cuts down on expired or uneaten food that gets tossed in the trash.
Here are 10 tips for organizing your refrigerator:
- Start with a clean slate
The easiest and most efficient way to tackle your fridge-cleanse is to take everything out of it so you can start with a clean slate. Go through all your food and drink items that are expired or that you aren’t sure are good anymore. Don’t be afraid to be brutal with your purging, since getting rid of no-longer needed items gives you more room for food and drinks you actually do need. Once all the items are out, wipe down all shelves and drawers with cleaning spray and some elbow grease.
- Be conscious of contamination
It’s best not to just put foods into your fridge willy-nilly – there’s a method to the madness. And part of that method has to do with protecting against potential contamination from raw meats. Best practice says to keep any and all raw meats on the bottom-most shelves in your fridge, and properly packaged. The idea behind this is that if any of the juices from the meat drip, they won’t drip onto any foods below them and contaminate them. There are some pretty scientific approaches to this that you can check out, too – The Kitchn details here how food safety informs the organization of restaurant kitchens and by extension home kitchens. The site also advises that you avoid putting raw meat in drawers or cripsers with fruit and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
- Use the door for condiments only
So many people store their milk and eggs on the inside door of the fridge, and who can blame them when so many refrigerators feature special shelving there for these items? However, contrary to popular belief, the door is actually the worst place to store milk and eggs. The reasoning is that the door area is warmer than the rest of the fridge and experiences greater fluctuations in temperature every time it’s opened and closed, making it unsafe for these two very temperature-sensitive items. Instead, keep your milk and eggs on one of the top shelves inside the fridge. However, more shelf-stable items like condiments, jams and other spreads are perfectly fine stored on the door shelves.
- Corral items in containers
Don’t settle for the drawers and shelving that your fridge came with – customize your organization! Adding in clear containers is a great way to make it easier to grab the foods you want as well as give foods greater visibility so you can keep track of expiration dates. Large clear bins can store anything and everything – have a container for fruit, one for vegetables and a small one for cheeses, for example.
- Stack containers
You can also stack multiple small, clear containers in your fridge for easy storage. They’re great for storing leftovers, salads and chopped fruits and veggies – check out the selection from Fit & Fresh here. As an added bonus, storing chopped fruits and veggies in these containers makes healthy snacking within easy reach!
- Transfer high-volume drinks into carafes
Juices and other drinks often come in bulky cardboard or plastic cartons that take up tons of space in your fridge. Instead, follow RealSimple magazine’s lead and transfer the liquids into tall glass carafes. They take up less horizontal space, giving you more room for other items. In RealSimple’s example, any leftovers in the cartons were stored in a fridge in the garage.
- Get crazy labeling
You may have your fridge’s organizational system memorized, but it’s likely your kids or spouse don’t. So, make things easier for everyone – and make it more likely that things actually end up going where you want them to go – by labeling shelves and drawers “Dairy,” “Deli meat,” “Condiments,” “Fruits,” “Vegetables” and etcetera. You could even make more specific labels, such as “Sandwich cheeses,” “Grab and go breakfasts” or “Healthy snacks.”
- Keep track of dates
One big reason refrigerators get so messy for so many people is that they just lose track of what’s in them. A clever way to keep the flow of new foods in and old foods out – and minimize waste in the process – is to keep a marker and pad of small peel-off labels near the fridge. Label each item with the date that it was bought. This is especially helpful for the freezer, where cuts of meat or leftovers can linger for months or years. And if you don’t want to label every item in your fridge, at least tag the most time-sensitive ones, such as meats, fish and dairy, as well as leftovers.
- Don’t go overboard
Once you’ve organized your fridge, stay committed to ensuring that only the foods your family absolutely needs are stored and that the amount of food that ends up being thrown in the trash is minimized. Just because you have more space, doesn’t mean you need to fill the fridge to the brim – that’s how you get in this mess in the first place!
- Have fun
Finally, a perfectly organized fridge may look nice, but that’s not the ultimate goal: The ultimate goal is making fresh, healthy meals easily accessible for your family everyday.