An organized refrigerator makes it faster and easier to make your grocery list, plan your meals, put groceries away, and do your meal prep. It will even help you save money! Keep reading to find out how!
Marybeth here, from Alarm Clock Wars and AgriCultured. I am constantly fighting with my refrigerator – I never know what’s in there, or how old it is. I’m making a commitment this month to get my refrigerator organized.
How to Organize Your Refrigerator
The first step to getting your refrigerator organized is to take inventory of what you have. This is also a good time to give your refrigerator a serious cleaning and get rid of food that’s past its prime. Be sure to keep food safety in mind while you’re doing your inventory and cleaning. If you think that you might have food out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours, use coolers as temporary storage. Any food left out longer than two hours should be thrown away. If you find anything that has visible mold, smells bad, or is past the expiration date on the package, throw it away. If there’s something in there that you just aren’t going to use, throw it away.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of all the “extra” stuff in your refrigerator, it’s time to get down to organizing!
My friend Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101 has great ideas for keeping things organized in there. One of her tips is to think in zones. Your “zones” might be in different parts of your refrigerator depending on the layout and space. Let’s talk about what should go in each of those zones.
- Zone 1 – Leftovers. Do you forget about leftovers until they’re too old to use? No, me neither. (Right.) A good way to remember about those tasty leftovers is to always keep them in the same place in your refrigerator. Have a dedicated space to store them, so you always know what’s available.
- Zone 2 – Store, thaw, or marinate meats. Any raw meat should always be on the lowest level of your refrigerator. It’s best to keep raw, thawing, or marinading meats inside a lipped container to hold any spills. Keeping this on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator makes sure that any spills won’t drip down onto other foods, contaminating them.
- Zone 3 – Milk and other drinks. We go through milk so fast in our house! Keep milk and your other drinks together. Since these containers tend to be tall, it’s easy to group them in the same area.
- Zone 4 – Other dairy products. Yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, whatever other dairy products you have (we’ll cover cheese in another zone). Collect these together in the same area of the refrigerator so they are easy to find.
- Zone 5 – Eggs. Most refrigerators don’t come with the little egg shelf on the door anymore. If yours has the built-in egg shelf, please don’t use it. The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator, and your eggs won’t stay fresh as long. Store eggs in their original carton, somewhere near the middle of the refrigerator where they’ll stay coldest.
- Zone 6 – Fresh fruits and vegetables. Stash fresh fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawers in your refrigerator. Some fruits and vegetables are best stored at room temperature. Not sure how to set the drawers, or which goes where? Check out this article on AgriCultured.
- Zone 7 – Meats and cheeses. Raw meats should be kept in a lipped container on the lowest part of your refrigerator (see zone 1). Lunch meats, sliced cheese, or block cheeses can be kept in the deli drawer of your refrigerator. If you’ll be making a lunch supply zone, you may want to keep some lunch meat and sliced cheese in that zone (see zone 9).
- Zone 8 – Condiments. Corral those bottles of ketchup, mustard, pickles, and soy sauce together. If you have space on the door, that’s a great spot for them. Otherwise, consider a plastic bin on an inside shelf to keep them together.
- Zone 9 – Lunch supplies. If you have school-age kids, you know that making lunch can be a hassle. Make this a little easier on yourself by keeping all the lunch supplies together in one area of your refrigerator. A plastic bin can be great to keep lunch meat, sliced cheese, small condiment bottles, and lunchbox snacks together so it’s easy to grab and go. When everything is together like this, it’s easy for your kids to help make their own lunches, when they are old enough.
- Zone 10 – Snacks. Don’t need to make lunches to go, but still need some handy snacks? Put together a snack bin. Add things like wrapped cheese sticks, clementines, washed and sliced fruits and veggies, and yogurt. Put this bin on a lower shelf so little hands can help themselves!
Extra Refrigerator Organization Tips
- Don’t forget to tell your family what you’re doing, so they can find things with the new system – and so they can remember to put things back in the right spot!
- If your refrigerator has adjustable shelves, use them. Figure out where you want to put each of your zones, and adjust the shelves to fit.
- Use bins or baskets to hold smaller items together. These are perfect for setting up a portable lunch station or to hold different types of snacks.
- Use square containers instead of round ones, especially for your leftovers. Square containers fit together better, and take up less space.
- Label shelves or bins so everyone knows where things go. This can be especially helpful as everyone is getting used to your new system.
Once your refrigerator is organized, it can be easy to keep it up. When you know where things belong, it’s easier to see what you have and what you are out of. This will help you use up your leftovers and fresh foods before they go bad – meaning you save money at the grocery store! Keeping your refrigerator organized also helps to keep your food safe. Find out why the right refrigerator temperature and organization is important for food safety.
What’s your best tip for an organized refrigerator? Share with us in the comments!