Organize the Refrigerator

Once you organize the refrigerator it will save you a lot of time because you know where to find food items. It also helps food from going bad too quickly because you put them in the right place in the refrigerator, thus saving money.

Organizing your refrigerator works best if you take everything out of the refrigerator and put them on the countertop or kitchen table. If you think items are going to stay outside for a long time because it may take you a long time to organize the refrigerator, you can clear a couple of shelves at a time.

Discard items that are spoiled, expired or has been cross-contaminated.

Clean your refrigerator shelves and drawers with manufacturer approved cleaner if they're dirty.

Sort the contents into groups like fruits, vegetables, meats, condiments, dairy products etc.

Put items that are not in original containers and left overs in clear containers and label them. Also write the expiration date or the day the food was cooked on the label.

Most refrigerators have special compartments/drawers for butter, vegetables and meat so that they are stored at optimum temperature. Storing items in the appropriate spaces will maximize their shel life.

Store dairy products (like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese etc.) and meats in the bottom shelves of the refrigerator, where it is the coldest.

When you organize the refrigerator, arrange large/tall items in the back of each shelf and smaller/shorter items in the front so that you can easily see them without having to move things around.

Store fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawers designed to provide the right humidity and temperature for them. Only wash vegetables and fruits right before use. Otherwise, if they are not thoroughly dried, water can promote mold and bacteria growth.

Store raw meats on the bottom level crisper drawer to avoid dripping and cross contamination. If you don’t have a meat drawer, put meat in a pan/basket and store on the bottom shelf which is the coldest. Clean the meat drawer/basket regularly.

As you organize the refrigerator, group like items together and designate shelves for each group.

Group yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese on one shelf. Assign another shelf for left overs. Assign a shelf for pre-cut, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables.

You can also cut vegetables that can be eaten raw (like carrots and celery), put them in clear plastic/glass containers or food storage bags and store them on the shelves. This will provide space in the crisper drawer for perishable vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, salad greens etc.

If you don’t have enough shelves to assign to each group, split the shelves for items that go together (like dairy) - Store yogurt on one side of the shelf, cottage cheese on the other side and separate them by putting eggs (eggs will stay fresh longer in their original cartons) in the middle of the same shelf. Similarly keep leftovers on the left side and and pre-cut, ready-to-eat fruits in the middle and pre-cut, ready-to-eat vegetables on the right side of the same shelf.

If you are splitting the shelves for multiple items, put small items like yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese etc. in small baskets. You can store milk towards the back and put the basket(s) with small items in front of milk. This will make it easier to get to the milk as you can take the entire basket out instead of taking or moving all the small things in front.

Organize refrigerator door shelves too by grouping like items together and designate shelves for each group.

Butter and soft cheeses can be stored in the dairy compartment on the door. Put cheeses in air-tight food storage bags or containers after opening them.

Assign shelves for condiments (ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, salsa, pickles etc.), salad dressings, sauces, jams, jelly and syrups, icing/frosting jars, juices and other beverages and so on. Always put shorter jars and bottles in the the front and taller ones in the back.

Similarly group like items and assign shelves for them in the freezer. For example, keep meats, vegetables and leftovers in different sections of the freezer. You can sub-divide meats (chicken, beef, pork), fish (shrimp, salmon), vegetables (peas, carrots, corn) and fruits. Use separate baskets for each if you have a lot of different items.

As in the case of milk, using baskets will help to get to the items in the back easily as you can take the entire basket out instead of taking everything in the front.

You can use different colored baskets for each category like red for meat, green for vegetables and blue for fish. You can stack the baskets to optimize the available space.

When you buy new items, move the old ones to the front or top and put the new ones in the back or bottom so that you use items before they go bad.

Clean your refrigerator on a weekly basis before you go grocery shopping and throw away any bad or expired items.

You can put an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to eliminate unpleasant odors.

Maintain the organization. Always keep items in the same location in the refrigerator and freezer when you put new groceries away. This will make it easier to find what you are looking for. Another advantage is that you only need to look in one section/location when you make your grocery list.

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