We all have one, it’s often the heaviest thing in our home, and it’s always buzzing, but we love it anyway. That’s the fridge. Before the 1920s, people really struggled to keep fresh food at home, and now that it’s effortless, our refrigerators are a mess.
How to organize your fridge? That’s an excellent question, and there are several things to consider. From what stuff goes in the refrigerator to things we have in there that we should keep in the pantry. And then we have all those mysterious compartments and drawers. How to use them?
Here’s all you need to know about how to organize your fridge and a few other tips, including meal planning and food safety issues. Let’s get started because our fridge won’t organize itself. A clean and tidy refrigerator is a synonym for peace of mind, so let’s do it!
It’s Not Only About Organization but Safety
Why organize your fridge? Because storing food properly is more than organization, it’s a safety issue as well. Although the refrigerator’s temperature keeps harmful bacteria at bay, at least for a while, food in the fridge eventually goes bad, and it can cause you some health problems.
When it comes to organization, you want to label everything you store in the fridge, and you can do it with a fancy label maker or a sharpie. This is particularly useful for those mysterious plastic containers we use for leftovers. You might find them in the back of the fridge a few months later, and you don’t even know what’s in them! Label everything! Besides, it’s kinda fun.
The other critical thing to consider is storing everything in plastic containers with a lid. Don’t store your leftovers on a plate or in the same pot you used to cook your meal. And make sure you always keep cooked food on the top shelves. Leave the bottom shelves for raw and potentially hazardous food, but we’ll get there in a second.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
Organizing stuff is fun. So much it’s addictive, especially if you have OCD. And the secret is assigning a place for everything. Your fridge already helps with that — you have the bottom drawer for fruit and veggies and that tiny drawer for your ham, cheese and wieners.
What you store on each shelf matters, and the same goes for the fridge’s doors, compartments and freezer. That’s where the philosophy “A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place” comes in. And make sure your roommates and family know these rules as well. Keeping your fridge organized is a team effort.
Now, your fridge isn’t always right. You might have an egg compartment in the fridge’s door, but as you’ll soon discover, that’s no place for eggs, so do your own research and make your own choices. Here’s how to do it.
What to Store in Each Shelf
The top shelves are reserved for cooked food, leftovers and everything that you already sterilized with heat, meaning cooked. The bottom shelves are for raw meat, eggs, dairy, raw sausages and other stuff that could drip, contaminating whatever you store below it.
There’re bacteria in your food, even when cooked, and although they remain somewhat dormant at the fridge’s 40º F (4.4º C), they’re still there, and they love to jump from one food to the other.
No matter what shelf you use, store the food in the back, where temperatures are a bit colder and more stable. And don’t overcrowd the fridge! If you find yourself over-packing your fridge every time you do groceries, consider buying a more prominent fridge or buying less stuff.
Also, consider that potatoes, onions, garlic, avocados, bread, melons, oil, stone fruit and tomatoes need not be refrigerated. Save some space and store these items on a basket over the counter or in the pantry.
Let’s Talk About the Drawers
All refrigerators are different, and the new ones are pretty fancy. Still, a standard fridge usually comes with two main drawers, a bottom drawer or crisper and a dairy drawer, which is often small and found around the middle.
The bottom drawer is definitely suitable for fruits and veggies, and you should try the keep them separated. And although it’s not a bad idea to rinse and disinfect fruits and veggies before storing them, you’re better off washing them right before use if not consuming them soon.
Fridge engineers designed the dairy drawer to keep dairy separated and safe, but you can also use the drawer for cooked, processed meats, like wieners and ham as well. Not all sausages are pre-cooked, though, the raw kind, for example, most breakfast sausages, should be stored with the raw meat on the bottom shelf. And please, don’t place your half onion in the dairy drawer. Remember, everything in its place!
What to Store in the Fridge’s Door
The fridge’s door is convenient but dangerous; it’s the warmest part of the fridge, so most of the food stored there is never at the same temperature. This is no place for eggs — even if your fridge’s door has a cute egg compartment.
Store opened jars of sauce, condiments, water bottles and soft drinks in the fridge door. Stuff that won’t go bad. Still, there’s always an exception. Keeping butter in the top part of your refrigerator’s door is not such a bad idea since it won’t be rock hard whenever you need it.
Remember, most condiments, from Worcestershire to ketchup, have exceptionally long shelf lives, and you can store them at room temperature. You can also store them in the fridge, and the doors are the perfect place for them. Don’t store honey in there, though, or it might crystalize.
How To Keep Your Freezer Organized
The freezer is always the messiest part of any fridge — we just throw things in there and forget about them. Well, that’s not the best idea — a meticulously organized freezer, together with a handy meal organizing app like Spiciko, will let you have a week’s worth of meals ready to go.
Store everything in plastic containers or freezer bags, again, labeling everything with cooking date and contents. And try to pack those containers tightly. For frozen food, the air is the enemy. The freezer bags, you can just flatten them before freezing.
Did you know you can freeze almost anything? That includes bread, aromatic herbs and vegetables. And everything lasts at least 2-3 months before losing some texture and flavor.
Finally, make sure you defrost the freezer at least once a year or whenever you have a thick frost layer; it takes up space and makes your freezer less efficient.
More Tips to Store Food in the Fridge
- Clean your fridge at least once every two weeks and throw away anything that looks funky.
- Don’t over-pack your fridge. You need good ventilation to guarantee a stable, safe temperature.
- When in doubt, place a thermometer inside the fridge for a few days, just to make sure it’s working properly. You should aim for 40º F (4.4º C) in the fridge and 0º F (-17.7º C) in the freezer.
- Store your fruit and veggies in the crisper drawer inside mesh bags, never plastic bags.
- Keep eggs in the fridge unless you bought them at room temperature — in that case, store them over the counter away from heat sources for up to a few weeks.
- Adjust the shelves to your needs; there’s no reason you should stick to their original setting; all refrigerators allow you to arrange the shelves and some drawers. Make it your own!
Plan Your Meals and Stay Organized
If you’re overcrowding your fridge every time you come back from the supermarket, spend too much money on groceries or have nothing to eat in the middle of the week, chances are you’re not planning your meals. You’re not making the most out of the refrigerator storage space either.
Plan your meals every week. Design a menu with a balanced diet that includes everything your family loves to eat (and some healthy foods they don’t like to eat that much) and make a grocery list based on your menu.
Stick to the list! Buy only what you need, especially when it comes to food, and stick to the plan. You’ll save money, find it easier to keep the fridge organized and eat better. Adding some organization to your life feels good!
Organizing Your Fridge is the First Step to Organize Your Life
Organize your fridge and have your family help. Put together a plan and stick to it. Assign a place for every type of food and set in place some food safety rules. The refrigerator is your friend, and it’s there to help, so keep it clean and organized — you’ll feel better already.
Once you have that fridge all clean and tidy, let’s organize that sock drawer! Having a neatly organized home is not easy, that’s a fact, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Why not the fridge?