To organize and clean a disorganized refrigerator — it’s my very favorite of all household tasks. It’s a “done in a day” type of project, and there aren’t too many difficult decisions. Items are either expired or still good. Plus, the fridge has a finite amount of space: It’s not like a never-ending amount of stuff can be stored there. Nevertheless, for some, it’s a daunting, fatiguing chore.
I hope my experience, as well as that of two of my team members from Metropolitan Organizing®, will be helpful. Patty, Lauri, and I compared two of the most common fridge styles, and below are some of the points and ideas we discussed. Hopefully, our “conversation” will help you identify the best tips on how to organize your fridge.
Style 1: The Side-by-Side Refrigerator
This style of fridge offers a larger quantity of smaller shelves for better organization. This makes it easy to separate items, as compared to a single large compartment. Slide-out shelves allow you to reach items stored in the back, and the raised lip of the shelves prevents spills from spreading to other shelves. Use the pull-out wire drawer inside the freezer to store individually frozen meats. The negative side (pun!) of the side-by-side is that it is difficult to store trays and platters when entertaining.
Style 2: The Armoire-Style Refrigerator
The “armoire” fridge is definitely the most interior-visible fridge style. This style is ideal if you have mostly refrigerated (not frozen) items. There is abundant space for these items, and closer to eye-level. In my experience, people who see what food they have are more likely to use it and less likely to waste it. You can also see what you need so it’s very easy, to create a grocery list. The only negative is that bending over to retrieve freezer items if the freezer is on the bottom, is part of the package.
There are so many different types of containers on the market—it can be dizzying to even begin to consider which to purchase. Here are some considerations that may help you decide.
Whether plastic or glass, see-through bins make it easy to see everything, and no labels are necessary. You can stack most rectangular or square clear containers to take advantage of vertical space. When using glass, leftovers can be safely reheated without transferring the food to a microwave-safe plate. One less dish to wash!
Zip-top freezer bags are a popular option for storing individual or meal-sized portions of chilli, soups, and sauces. They are also great for storing ingredients such as cooked, shredded chicken or pre-cut veggies. Freezer bags come in a variety of sizes and are fairly inexpensive. Look for bags made without BPA; 365 Everyday Value, Hefty, Glad, or Ziploc are options. Plus, you can easily label, date and stack freezer bags like books on a shelf, taking up minimal space.
Ice Cube and Muffin Trays
BPA-free ice cube and muffin trays are perfect for freezing and/or storing purées, fruits, fruit juice or leftover wine. Simply freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays, pop out the cubes, and store them in a freezer bag for future recipes. Packing your baby’s lunch can also be as easy as putting a cube or two of peaches or applesauce directly from the freezer into a small container or baby food jar. Use muffin trays to freeze individual-portion sizes of hummus, refried beans, or other packable foods that are lunch-ready in no time.
Best Practices for Keeping Your Fridge Organized
- Group Like with Like – Categorize items by type, and keep related items together. Then, once sorted, have a designated place for each category. For example, keep condiments and dressings together in the door, and keep deli meats and cheeses in a drawer.
- Labels – Labeling a container or shelf makes it much more likely that an item will be returned there. This is especially helpful for families with children. Some people prefer erasable food storage labels that change along with the ever-changing contents of a family fridge.
- Leftovers – Designate and label a shelf or bin for leftovers so they don’t get tucked away into various areas of the fridge. Giving a home to leftovers helps to ensure that they are eaten before they expire, thus not wasting money or time.
- Temperature – For safety’s sake, keep a thermometer in your refrigerator. It’s impossible to guess the correct temperature. The interior temperature of the fridge should be between 35°F and 38°F.
- Space – Don’t overstuff your fridge. Cool air needs to circulate around the food to keep it safe.
- Line the Drawers – Use a clean towel (or paper towels) to line the fruit and veggie drawers. It’s easier to replace the towel every week than to pull the drawer out to wash and dry it.
Keeping your fridge orderly doesn’t have to be a hassle. After you set up a system that works for you, maintaining it is simple.
Metropolitan Organizing® team members and contributors to this post: Patty Blinderman, Raleigh NC and Lauri Devlin, Apex NC.