Like your pantry, your fridge can quickly become a hot mess. Buried vegetables go limp, leftovers get forgotten, and you stock up on extras like a jar of mayo because you couldn’t see the two you already have. Avoid doubling up on groceries and cutting down on the time you spend searching for ingredients by organizing your fridge in a smart and effective way. This easy and satisfying task can get accomplished in one day, saves you time and money, and brings so much sanity into your world—here’s how.
Assess What You’ve Got
Like with every organizing project, the first step to decluttering is taking stock of what you have. Start by emptying all the contents of your fridge and laying them out on a flat surface like a counter. You can do this process shelf by shelf to risk perishables from spoiling or use a cooler to tackle the whole fridge at once. Toss anything that’s spoilt, expired, or that you know for sure you’re not going to eat (Looking at you, aunt Martha’s pickles!). Leftovers containing meat that are more than three days old or cooked veggies more than five days old, should get the boot, too. Next, give the interior a good scrubbing.
Set Up Zones
Corral like items together and store them in their own zones in the fridge. The smartest way to do this is by sticking with what areas are best for certain foods. You see some parts of the refrigerator are warmer and colder than others. Turns out fridge doors, where most of us store milk, is actually the warmest area in the fridge,thanks to all that opening and closing we do. Instead, milk and meats should be placed in the back of the bottom shelf, the coldest part of the fridge. Use fridge doors for items with a longer shelf life like juice and condiments. Basically, it’s important to note that the top shelf and doors are the warmest and the middle and bottom rack are the coldest.
When it comes to produce, store fruits and veggies in the bottom drawers that have humidity control. Unfortunately ethylene-producing fruits can cause vegetables to spoil quickly so in order to keep items fresh longer, designate one drawer to fruits (low humidity) and the other to veggies (high-humidity). Strawberries however like to be in a high-humidity environment.
This leaves us with meats, which ideally would get stored in its own drawer. If your fridge only has two drawers, one solution is to use a clear bin to store meat items. Not only is a bin easy to grab, but it catches meat juices from dripping onto other items. Keep this bin on the bottom shelf.
Create an Eat Me First Bin
One smart way to cut down on food waste is to store items that have a shorter shelf life front and center. Clearly label a plastic bin “Eat Me First!” and stash foods that need to be consumed in the next few days, such as leftovers, yogurts that are about to expire, or overripe fruits.
Store Tall Items in the Back
There are a few strategies that make finding items easier. To start, place all tall, easy-to-spot times like a gallon of juice or soda bottle in the back of the fridge. Place smaller bottles in front so they don’t get lost. Gather the items you frequently use such as butter and yogurt right in front so you don't have to dig for them.
Set Up a Snack Station
To avoid a constant mess from hungry little hands, store their favorite snacks at eye level so kids can easily help themselves. An even easier solution is designating some bins for these treats. A bin with dividers is a great way to corral small, easily buried items like cheese sticks and yogurt pouches. And having a designated spot of their own will make snack time feel extra special.
Get Stacking With Chopsticks
We wish we could all have a 48-inch refrigerator, but when you’re dealing with a lack of space, it’s important to get crafty. Often after a party, you find yourself with bowls of leftovers and little shelf space to place them. When this happens, go vertical. Grab some chopsticks, place them on top of a covered bowl, about an inch apart, and balance the next bowl on top. Anyone who opens your fridge will consider you an upcycling genius.
Build a Can Pyramid
Cans quickly take up valuable shelf real estate. If your household has a LaCroix habit, take advantage of vertical space by stacking cans (or bottles!). One genius way to keep your beverages in place is by using a binder clip. Start by laying cans vertically on a shelf to create a base. Next, afix a binder clip to the shelf coming up from the bottom. Place the clip next to the outermost can to prevent the can from rolling away. Stack cans on top to create a pyramid like structure.
Befriend the Lazy Susan
Rescue jams, nut butters, tubs of ricotta and sour cream from the back corners of your fridge by placing them in a lazy Susan. The tried-and-true turntable isn’t just for pantries—it makes assessing everyday essentials in the refrigerator so much more efficient.
Corral Condiments With an Egg Carton
If you're a condiment enthusiast (hand raised!), you probably have more bottles than you know what to do with. Organize your stash with the help of an old egg carton. Place the bottom half of an egg carton on the shelf of the refrigerator door. Flip over mustard, mayo, or ketchup squeeze bottles and store them upside down in the container. Bonus: this trick makes it easier to get every last bit of sauce out of the bottle and prevents that initial trickle of water from squirting out of the bottle.
Use a Sponge Holder for Small Produce
Small produce like stray jalapenos or a half-used lemon are easily lost when placed in drawers with leafy greens or bulky veggies. One easy way to prevent these items from getting forgotten is to place them in their own visible storage unit. One genius hack we love is sticking a sponge holder to the side wall of the fridge for these tiny items. This spot is also great for storing—and actually using!—mini condiment packets. It will feel so good to not be wasteful.
Line Refrigerator Drawers
How much of a pain is it to remove fridge drawers or shelves to wash? So much so we hardly do it. But we all know refrigerators get sticky with spills pretty quickly. With a removable shelf liner—this can be kitchen linens, paper towels, or plastic mats—clean up is a cinch.
Keep a Dry Eraser Pen Handy
If you love leftovers or prefer to decant items like eggs, use a dry eraser pen, erasable marker, or painter’s tape and Sharpie to write expiration dates on storage containers. The same goes for cheese, a container of cut-fruits, etc. This way you know what needs to be consumed first (or tossed immediately).
Labels Complete that Pinterest-Worthy Look
If you swoon over those spotless, color-coordinated images of fridge interiors and pantries in your feed, you’ll notice one common trend—besides the fact that they clearly don’t do takeout—is that all items are labeled. Labeling drawers and bins makes finding and putting away items so much easier. And when things look pretty, it just motivates you to keep it looking nice.
If you can’t see it, chances are you’re not going to remember to eat it. To avoid food waste (and cut down on cooking!) it’s best to store leftovers in clear and stackable storage containers. The top shelf is the ideal spot for your leftovers.