Everything You Need to Know About Keeping Your Fridge Neat Inside and Out
We love food. Everything about it is incredible. It helps give us energy, it can be fun to make, and it tastes amazing in our mouths. The one thing we often struggle with is storing food.
In 1913, home refrigerators were created to help people store perishable food products like meats, vegetables, and fruits. Not only did this allow people to store food in a cold environment, but it helped keep the food edible for longer.
So it should be simple right? Take your food, plop it in the fridge, and voila! Food storage mode activated.
While technically, you can store food in your fridge however you please, sometimes things can get a little out of hand. If you’re not careful, you might end up with a fridge that looks like this:
It may seem simple to slide things into the fridge, but most people actually struggle with keeping maintaining fridge organization. Food gets stored improperly, funky smells start to build up in the walls, and nothing can easily be found once you open the door.
But how do you come back from a mess like that? Even though it may seem overwhelming, organization can be a synch once you know where to start.
So throw out that expired mayonnaise and grab a scrubbie. We’re heading into your refrigerator and not coming out until it sparkles.
Breath In and Breathe Out
First challenge: find the motivation to make a change.
The first step is always the hardest, no matter what you try to do in life. When you open that fridge and see a giant disaster, it can feel almost impossible to ever make it better. That overwhelming feeling can make a lot of people quit their fridge organization goals before they even begin.
To combat that feeling, take a moment to breathe and rationalize with yourself. It’s not impossible. There is no mess that is too impossible to clean up. You just need drive, dedication, and a bit of elbow grease.
Understand that it is okay to be in this situation. Nobody is perfect, and if your biggest fault is a dirty fridge, you’re honestly doing quite well in life.
Finally, find the courage to take action. All you need to do is take it one baby step at a time. We will help guide you through a general fridge organization process and then you can apply those pieces of advice at your own pace. You’ll be glad you stuck through it when you step back and look at just how beautiful your newly organized fridge is.
Does It Matter Where It Goes?
Your fridge offers a ton of space for you to store your food, but does it matter where you put it? Actually, it does.
Certain areas of your fridge are colder than others, meaning that they are able to preserve different types of food in different ways. Learning what part of your fridge is able to store each type of food is essential for proper food storage.
Plus, if you know where things should go, it will help you put those things in their proper home consistently, allowing you to maintain your fridge organization.
So let’s debunk some of those fridge perceptions and get down to the facts.
Exploring Door Country
You swing that door open day after day, but what should really be put there? Truthfully, not much.
Think about how often you open and close your fridge on a typical day. All those times, your fridge door becomes warmer and warmer, making it the warmest part of your fridge.
Although many people think storing your milk on the door is a great idea, it can actually be the reason your milk goes bad. Milk and other dairy products should be stored in the coolest part of the fridge.
Many fridges have a shelf built onto the door that is designed for butter or eggs, which can be misleading. Although it may be convenient to place the food items on the door, they should also be stored somewhere far cooler.
So now what? We just told you to basically take all the things normally perceived to be on your fridge door off. What can go there?
Anything that does not have to be chilled at a very specific temperature can go on the door. Things like sauces and condiments.
Some people also like to store their soda or certain juices on the door as it is both easily accessible and does not have to be kept incredibly chilled to preserve.
Overall conclusion: your door is for mayo, soy sauce, ketchup, and relish. Not much else.
Top of the Pack
The top shelf. The true pinnacle of your fridge.
This area has the most consistent level of coolness in your fridge, making it an ideal spot for food that needs to be eaten.
You should ideally place ready-to-eat foods here, along with certain types of dairy products. Things like cheeses, dips, olives, and herbs can all be placed here. This will keep them colder and able to last longer.
Plus, they will be above your meat, which will prevent any drippage or contamination from above.
To make your leftovers last as long as possible, you should also try to place them on the top shelves in your fridge. The consistent temperature will ensure that your food stays preserved for as long as possible.
The top shelves are also often at eye level for both you and your children. That means it will be the first thing you see when you open the door. This is a great way to remind yourself to polish off those leftovers as soon as possible.
Another great leftover tip is to designate a certain area on a shelf for your leftovers. If you try to shove in more leftovers than what fits into that area, that probably means you should throw some of that old stuff out.
Starting From the Bottom
All right folks, it’s time for a science lesson! As you may or may not remember from class, heat naturally rises. This means that the bottom level of any area will be the coldest part.
Since this is the coldest section, it makes it the best section for all that other dairy you bought at the store. Your milk, yogurt, and sour cream should all be stored near the back of the fridge on one of the lower shelves. This will keep them at an ideal temperature and enhance their lifespan.
We all know just how versatile eggs can be. They go great with breakfast, make for a quick sandwich add-on, and help us bake yummy treats. But did you also know how sensitive they are?
Eggs want to be as cold as possible and will have the longest shelf life if placed on the bottom shelf of your fridge, especially near the back.
A fun thing to note about eggs is that you should never try to store them in something other than their store-bought container. Those containers are specifically designed to block out the other food odors in your fridge, keeping your eggs fresher.
Keeping Things Crisp
Nobody likes droopy lettuce. You want your veggies to be crisp and fresh! Which is exactly what the crisper drawers are designed to do.
Those drawers on the bottom of your fridge aren’t just for hiding away the snacks you don’t want your sister to eat. They’re actually designed to maintain moisture.
That moisture is important in keeping your fresh produce, like fruits and vegetables, crisp by preventing your produce from drying out and rotting.
Many fridges these days even offer small tabs to adjust and label the drawers for either fruits or veggies.
What’s That Other Drawer?
Depending on what your fridge looks like, as there are a lot of different designs and models out on the market, you may have an extra drawer beneath the crisper drawers or one that sits at an angle. What is that for?
This drawer is actually designed to store your meat. The drawer itself should be situated right next to the fridge’s cooling system, making it significantly colder than any other part of the fridge.
This is the perfect place to store any of your raw meats, including chicken, steak, and pork.
But I don’t have a meat drawer in my fridge! What do I do? What do I do with all my meat?
Don’t fret if you do not have a meat drawer. Storing your raw meat on the bottom shelf of your fridge is just as safe as having a meat drawer. The only difference is the way you store it.
Raw meat can often have a pungent smell and may leak in your fridge, depending on the type of packaging it is in. This is not good for the other foods in your fridge.
To prevent any type of cross contamination, consider buying a small, plastic bin to store your meat in. This can sit nicely on the bottom shelf and help separate the meat from the other food on the shelf.
Fridge Organization Layout
All those words can feel a bit confusing unless you can actually see them in action. We’ve taken the time to place the words we’ve shared with you and put them into an actual fridge.
This is a quick guide to what goes where in your fridge and how you should lay it out. With this visual key in hand, you’ll be able to sort out your fridge in no time!
Beautiful Fridge Inspiration
Now that you know where things should go, it’s about time you learned a bit about how to put them in those spots. Throwing all your condiments on the door won’t help you find things any easier. It’s about time we start focusing on fridge organization.
For a bit of a warmup, take a look at how this expert organizes everything inside her fridge.
Organization Hacks For Every Fridge
No matter how much or how little food you keep in your fridge, it’s important to keep things neat. Fridge organization can make it easier to not only store your food but find it.
Through the use of a few simple tips, and a bit of rearranging, your fridge can be transformed into something a professional could be proud of.
The most important thing to remember is that everything may not work for you. These are all suggestions designed to help you, but each person has their own unique way of doing things. Take these tips and make them your own, so you can feel both comfortable and confident with your fridge organization.
Get That Stuff Out of There!
If you know you’re not going to eat it, throw it out. Preferably sooner rather than later.
Anything that looks bad, smells strange, or you know has been in there for a long time, should be thrown out. It’s clogging up too much space and it could get moldy or rotten, creating unwanted bacteria in your fridge.
This also applies to unnecessary produce items. Your onions and potatoes do not need to be stored in the fridge. They’re actually better off being stored at room temperature in a pantry or cupboard.
If you have purchased extra condiments, that have yet to be opened, store those in your pantry as well. They will stay fresh at room temperature until they are opened, which can free up more room on your fridge door.
Make a Trip to the Dollar Store
Trying to stack things on top of each other can be troublesome and difficult, but you really do need to use up all the storage space you can get.
Take a minute to head over to your local dollar store, or click over to Amazon, and invest in a few small containers. Amazon especially. They have fridge-specific bins that can help store soda cans, keep your vegetable drawer organized, and give you additional room to store your meat or condiments.
These small investments (often less than $20) can help save a ton of room in your fridge while still making it easily accessible.
Don’t Procrastinate, Do It Now
It is so easy to put off tasks for later on. But if you don’t want to do it now, you certainly won’t want to do it later.
When you get home from the grocery store, take a few extra moments to prepare your food as much as possible. Doing simple things like washing your lettuce, chopping up those peppers, or de-stemming your grapes will make you more willing to eat the food in your fridge because it’s already prepared.
Plus, you can store all these ingredients into rectangular containers, which can then be stacked and easily stored. Not only will this clear up some clutter in your fridge by removing oddly shaped ingredients, but it will save you a ton of time during meal prep.
Slap a Label On It
Labeling isn’t just for office supplies, it’s for everything. By clearly labeling areas of your fridge, your children, spouse, and guests know exactly where to put everything away.
Don’t be afraid to slap a label on your food either. Clearly labeling the expiration date of your food will not only tell you when it’s gone bad but can also encourage you to eat things in a more timely fashion. Which of course allows you to save money by not wasting food.
Keep It Clear
If you can’t see it, you won’t eat it. Just like labeling, having clear containers allows you to eat up your food more efficiently because you know exactly what’s inside from the get-go.
Clear containers remove the mystery, making it easy to both store and eat anything that lives inside it.
It’s Freezing in Here!
Don’t forget about your freezer! The freezer is just as important as the fridge itself as it stores all your overstock food. It’s also a great place to store some frozen snacks for later.
Be sure to seal your containers tight here to avoid getting freezer burn. Labeling the fronts of containers or bags can also be quite useful as frozen food can sometimes be hard to discern.
Don’t forget to venture to the back from time to time either. It can be very easy to forget just what sorts of things can hide in the back of your freezer. Periodically check and bring the back to the front so it gets eaten up.
The Life and Death of Food
Food doesn’t last forever. Different foods offer different shelf lives, meaning they will only be edible for a certain window of time.
To make sure you are utilizing your food before it’s too late, and to not eat something that could make you sick, it’s important to understand just how long your food can be good for.
So be sure to check those expiration dates again before you put that food in your mouth.
Generally speaking, dairy products do not have a long shelf life. Things like milk are usually only going to stay fresh for about a week, while things like sour cream or yogurt may be good for up to three weeks, depending on the product.
Cheese is a bit tricky as there are a lot of different types. Processed sliced cheese can be kept for up to two months, and hard blocks of cheese can be good for up to six. Softer cheeses won’t last nearly as long but can potentially last for up to a month if left unopened.
If you are not planning to eat your meat right away, you should really put it in your freezer, not your refrigerator. Raw beef and pork will usually only stay good for about three to five days, while poultry like turkey and chicken will only be good for two days.
Lunch meat is a totally different story. Since this meat has already been cooked and processed, it is able to last for up to ten days, sometimes, even more, depending on the meat. Things like hard salami or bologna can double the shelf life of other meats.
Fruits and Veggies
Your refrigerator can help keep fruits and vegetables good for far longer than out on the counter, but will not keep them fresh forever. Each type of produce has its own life cycle, but they all generally have the same sorts of shelf lives.
Most fruits will stay good somewhere between three and seven days. This will often differ depending on how ripe the fruit is when you initially purchase it. The one major difference from this is apples, which can stay good for up to three weeks in your fridge.
Vegetables tend to last a lot longer, most of them staying good for at least a week or two. Again, this will differ depending on the veggie and how ripe it is when you buy it. Many vegetables can also be frozen if you do not plan to eat them immediately, which will lengthen their lifespan to up to 12 months.
Don’t be fooled by what you want to believe. Leftovers are only ever good three to four days after you put them in the fridge. Any longer than that and you risk potentially getting food poisoning, which nobody wants. Take care of your fridge, and yourself, by throwing out anything older than four days.
Trust Your Nose
A simple rule of thumb: if it smells bad, don’t eat it.
Your nose knows what’s up. If it’s telling you that something doesn’t smell right, there’s probably a good reason for that. Don’t try to chance it. Throw out anything that smells bad or looks unusual.
It’s Cleaning Time!
Just like your mom always made you clean your room, we’re going to make you clean your fridge. This is the place where all your nutrients and energy sources are being stored. The last thing you want is for things to get gross or be smelly.
So…Like Once a Year?
Think more like, daily. No, you don’t need to take everything out every morning, but doing a quick sweep each day can help prevent bacteria from building up.
Try to fit in a deep clean that makes everything look shiny and new seasonally. This means taking out all the drawers, shelves, and food to give it a bath. When done properly, this should help keep your fridge clean and healthy until the next season rolls around.
A Whole Bucket of Bleach
You actually might want to lay off the bleach. While bleach is an effective tool, it can be a bit harsh, especially in a place where smells get locked in and soak into your foods.
We actually recommend soaking your shelves and drawers in some warm, soapy water rather than dousing them with bleach. For tough stains, try using a bit of baking soda. You’d be surprised just how much it can lift up.
Keep That Refrigerator Running!
Learning about fridge organization can not only make it easier to grab a snack but can make you feel better about your kitchen as a whole.
Feeling trapped by clutter can be overwhelming and make it difficult to eat right. By having a clean, well-organized fridge, you can improve your confidence, motivation, and attitude while in the kitchen. Plus, it might encourage you to try out that recipe you found months ago.
Our helpful fridge organization tips are here to guide you through your journey, but remember that journey is all your own. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it makes sense to you.
So grab your label maker and sniff those leftovers. Your fridge is about to get a whole lot more usable.
Featured Image: CC0 via GoodFreePhotos