How to Organize Your Refrigerator

OK, so do we really need to get so organized that you need to organize your refrigerator? I hadn’t thought so until recently. But here are a couple reasons to tidy up the fridge:

  • Find items in the fridge quickly and easily
  • Prevent foods from spoiling
  • More easily plan your weekly menu using foods you already have

I really hate throwing away spoiled food, especially since I’ve been working hard at couponing and trying to cut our grocery bill. So I decided that my refrigerator did indeed need some better organizing. Go figure.

Basics to Organize Your Refrigerator

There are some instructions out there on how to organize your refrigerator based on safety and how restaurants organize their refrigerators. One basic safety rule is to put meats on the bottom so if they drip, they don’t drip onto other foods. This just hasn’t been a big issue for me because I don’t keep meat in the fridge for very long. I have learned though, that if you’re thawing some meat in the fridge, be sure to put it in a bowl or plate with high edges so if anything should leak (and it has) that it won’t make a mess of your refrigerator and contaminate your other food.

That said, the rest is mostly common sense and what works best for your family’s needs and the configuration of your fridge.

  • Keep like items together
  • Condiments go on the door along with other items that won’t be affected by the temperature change from the doors opening and closing.
  • Put taller items to the rear of the fridge and shorter items near the front so you can more easily see everything in there
  • Keep your fruits and vegetables in a crisping drawer
  • Use see through storage containers so you can easily see what you have. Square or rectangular and stackable are even better if you have them.
  • Label leftovers with the date you put them in there with masking tape and a marker, or at least note it on your calendar. (My dinner menu is on my calendar, so that helps me a lot in remembering when something was put in there.)
  • Write an “opened on” date on anything that you open and need to use within 7 – 10 days. Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you opened a jar of sauce or salsa that didn’t get fully used.
  • Use a soda can dispenser to help organize cans and save space. Consider other fridge organizers to help store your food if needed.
  • Put food that your children eat at their level so they can be more independent (with your discretion)
  • Do your menu planning around items you have in your fridge already. Make a list of items that need to be used asap and post it on the fridge as a reminder.

Tip: Reading your refrigerator manual might give you information on where certain items will fare best. Or, it could just confuse you, like my manual, which doesn’t clearly label the drawers in the manual to match the ones in my fridge. (Who writes these things?!)

Maintaining Your Organized Refrigerator

Here are a few things you can do to keep your refrigerator tidy and clean.

  • Go through your refrigerator weekly, preferably the day you walk your garbage out to the road. Be sure to toss anything that has expired, spoiled or you know you’re not going to use.
  • Wipe fridge shelves down when there isn’t much food in there to get in your way. For me, this is usually the day before I go grocery shopping. Give any empty-ish shelves a quick wipe down. For areas like the door that never seem to be empty, pick a 15 minute time once a month to take items out and wipe it down.
  • Don’t overstuff your refrigerator. It works most efficiently when only about ¾ full. Freezers on the other hand, work more efficiently when they’re full, but be careful not to block the air vents (I speak from experience).
  • Keep the outside of your fridge free of too many pictures, papers, magnets, etc. You don’t want it to look cluttered. Find designated areas for school papers, coupons, recipes, etc.

For some more detailed information regarding refrigeration and food safety, you can check out the USDA webpage.

Tip: One more way to free up extra space while you organize your refrigerator is to not put food in there that doesn't belong. I'm no chef and no one ever told me to not put my onions in the fridge! I found this article very helpful:
Food storage guidelines.

I hope this information on how to organize your refrigerator will help you to keep your refrigerator clean, safe and help prevent you from tossing too much spoiled food.

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