People usually go grocery shopping at least once or twice a week. This may vary depending on how much food you buy, how many people live in your home, and how large your fridge is, but it rarely happens more often than twice a week.
Regardless of how often you buy food, you probably find that there’s a lot of “stuff” in your fridge, but very little of it is edible. Stale leftovers, browning fruits, opened and spoiled condiments—everyone's fridge is chock-full of items that we don’t use, so much so that we hardly have space for the fresh food we buy.
If you want to avoid having cluttered shelves, then our article on how to organise your fridge might just be able to help you.
Clear It Out
Before we get to the actual organisation, the first thing we’d advise would be to take out all of the items you already have in your fridge and clean it a bit. The best time to do this would be before you go to the grocery store, and when your fridge looks so barren and empty that it might belong in a college student’s room. But in all seriousness, the fewer items you have, the easier it is to prep your fridge for reorganisation.
After you’ve taken out all the food, look at the expiration dates on all the items. Naturally, get rid of anything that’s gone bad, and you might also want to check those plastic containers full of leftovers to see if they’ve started sprouting their own ecosystem yet.
While the fridge is still empty, you might also want to get a sponge and do a quick once-over on the shelves and the inside walls of the fridge. This isn’t necessary, but since the fridge is empty, you might as well use the opportunity to wipe off any spill stains from the shelves or the condensation from the walls.
Old to New
The truth is that nobody bothers to sort their fridge by expiration date. Once we get the groceries in the kitchen, we open the fridge, shove aside a few items to make a bit of space, and load in the new batch of food. This is by far the easiest way to do things, but it’s often impractical.
Not only is the older food left in the back, but now it’s even more difficult to reach than it was before, almost ensuring that you ignore it and let it spoil. Sorting the food by the due date and making sure to put the older items in front of the longer-lasting ones would be a much better choice, but it’s unfortunately just a bit too cumbersome. However, there’s a much simpler solution.
Put your new groceries on one side of the shelf while keeping the old ones on the other. If you make a slight divide between them and leave enough space for your hand, then you should still be able to see to the back on both sides and be able to pick out the items from the back.
This system isn’t flawless, but we think that it’s at least better than the “just pile everything in” strategy.
Don’t Overfill Your Fridge
This sort of relates to the previous point, and while we’re not trying to say that you should keep your fridge empty, you should still try to keep it as uncluttered as possible.
People have a lot of leftovers, and not everyone uses the ingredients that they buy for a dish on the same day or even the same week. This naturally leads to your fridge being filled with plastic containers and vegetables that are slowly but surely going bad, just waiting for you to make that casserole.
If you want to stay on top of things a bit more, you should probably try to plan out your meals better. Figuring out what you’re going to make for the remainder of the week allows you to save money by only buying the essential items, frees up a lot of space, and keeps your fridge nice and tidy.
Many refrigerators come with built-in egg racks or mobile egg holders seemingly meant to be kept in the doors. Many people also tend to keep their milk in the drink holder section of the door as well since it’s easy to reach. We’d advise against doing either of these things.
Milk and eggs are notably touchy when it comes to temperature changes, and they tend to spoil rather quickly. The eggs are a bit more longer-lasting than the milk, but if you don’t use them relatively soon, you’ll notice that they’ve gone rancid.
The fridge door is the farthest point from the cooling unit, and it gets opened several times a day (several times an hour if you’re bored and you just wander into the kitchen aimlessly). This makes it the least consistent area of the fridge temperature-wise, so it’s not the best place for the most temperature-sensitive items.
We’d advise reserving the door for bottles, cans, and condiments. Unopened drinks don’t spoil easily, so you don’t have to worry about them for quite some time. As for the condiments, they’re probably the items you use the most from your fridge, so you’ll want easy access to them, which makes the door the ideal spot.
The Upper Shelves
In our opinion, the upper shelves of your fridge are the best place to store your leftover food containers. They’re easy to reach, they’re right in front of your eyes as soon as you open the door, and you won’t forget about them when they’re in clear view.
You can also clearly label your containers with a bit of paper and tape so that you’ll know exactly what you have in them without having to open them or even take them out of the fridge.
You can even put the date that you’ve made them on if you want to go one step further. This might sound slightly silly, but it’s honestly a very easy way to decide which leftover meal to tackle first or throw away.
Think of these labels as your expiration date markers. They take two seconds to write up, and they’re incredibly convenient, so there’s really no reason not to use them and be as specific as you possibly can.
The Middle Shelves
Speaking of specific, that’s how we try to be with these instructional articles. We’ve also put in quite a lot of effort to be as concise as we can when teaching you how to organise your fridge. However, this section is a bit of an exception.
The food items that you should place on the middle shelves of your fridge are what we call miscellaneous items. They can’t quite be categorised since there are too many different foodstuffs, and they don’t require any specific temperatures or attention, so they can be placed anywhere.
Use these shelves to store all of the non-cooked and non-dairy items that you have. Think ready meals, packaged deli meat, fruits, vegetables, jars filled with various jams, and so on. Feel free to place whatever you want here and organise it however you choose.
The Lower Shelves
The lower parts of the fridge are colder because cold air sinks. This makes the lower shelves the best option for any and all of your dairy products that generally spoil a lot quicker than most other foods.
We’d also recommend sticking the eggs in here as well since they should also be kept at a steady low temperature if you want to keep them fresh for as long as possible.
In short, you should try to place your milk cartons, eggs, yoghurt, and even your pudding cups and dairy-based desserts near the bottom of the fridge to ensure that they won’t spoil too soon.
We say “as near to the bottom as you can” because there’s an item that should take priority on the lower shelves if you end up keeping it in the fridge.
Most people simply keep the meat in the freezer until it’s time to defrost it before they need to prepare it. However, if it’s a specific type of meat that needs to be kept at less than freezing temperatures, or if you’re slowly defrosting it in the fridge, then there’s something you should keep in mind.
There aren’t many rules when it comes to how to organise your fridge, but the single rule that we’d probably emphasize the most would be: don’t put raw meat on the shelves above the cooked meals.
If the cooked meal containers leak on the lower shelves, then the most that’ll happen is that you’ll have a bit of grease or some sauce. However, if any raw meat juice drips and accidentally gets into the cooked meal containers, then it might contaminate it.
This can also be said about any of the food items, so we’d recommend keeping the meat as close to the bottom as you can. This does mean that the dairy products we mentioned earlier should be kept one shelf above the meat since they’ll still be in the colder section of the fridge, but they won’t be at risk of cross-contamination.
Not all of the refrigerators come with drawers, but the ones that do either come with vegetable drawers or fruit drawers. These are much more convenient places where you can store these items since there’s no risk of them falling off the shelves from rolling, they’re in sealed-off drawers so nothing can leak on them, and they have perfect environments.
The only catch here is that you either have perfect environments for fruits or for vegetables, but not for both. These drawers allow you to adjust the humidity settings, and while fruits thrive in low humidity, veggies prefer high humidity.
Simply put, you’re going to have to adjust the drawers for one or the other and place the other type of food items on the shelves above.
While we gave quite a specific layout for each section of the fridge, you really only need to pay attention to what we said about the meat and the dairy products on the door. If you don’t like our layout, then feel free to organise the rest of your fridge based on how often you use certain items and want easy access to them.
If you don’t buy food all that often and you make sure to clean the fridge often enough to not be keeping expired clutter, you should be just fine.