How to Organize Your Refrigerator

how to organize refrigeratorCleaning the fridge is no small feat, which is probably why most people only do it once or two times a year. And once you do clean it, it's important to know how to organize the refrigerator properly, so you can find your items when you need them.

With the help of the following refrigerator organization ideas, you'll never again have to hunt for the mayonnaise or wonder where you put the leftover pasta.

How to Organize a Fridge 101

First, there are several cardinal rules of refrigeration that will help you determine which items should be stored in each part of your refrigerator. Note: Your fridge should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent spoilage, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Doors: The doors are the warmest part of the fridge and also experience the most fluctuation in temperature. Reserve this area for condiments, salad dressings, pickles, butter, soft cheeses and pasteurized orange juice. (Fresh-squeezed orange juice should be placed on the bottom shelf.)
  • Top shelf: This is another warm area in the fridge. It’s the place where you should store jams and jellies, hummus, leftovers and bottled or canned beverages.
  • Middle shelf: As this part of the fridge is cooler than the top shelf, it can be a good place to store eggs or yogurt, though you should keep them in their original packaging and set them back in the fridge as far as possible. You can also store any other items similar to those stored on the upper shelf or in the door.
  • Lower shelves: This is where items most prone to spoiling will go, including uncooked meats, fish and poultry, milk and unpasteurized orange juice. Be certain to store uncooked meat, fish and poultry in their original packaging and on a drip tray so that any items in the crisper below don’t get contaminated. Additionally, you’ll want to clean your drip tray regularly. As with other shelves, the further back in the fridge you place items, the cooler they’ll stay.
  • Deli bin: As the name suggests, this is where you’ll store deli items, such as lunch meats, cheeses, hot dogs, bacon or other cured meats. If your fridge doesn’t have a deli bin, these items will need to be kept on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
  • Crispers: Naturally, this is where you’ll keep your fruits and veggies. If you have two drawers, keep apples, grapes, avocados, peppers and other produce that emit a lot of ethylene gas away from those that don’t (think leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, basil, green onions and so forth). Ethylene gas can cause your produce to ripen and go bad more quickly.

Learn to Love Bins

Some refrigerators don’t have built-in storage bins. Even if yours does, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add a few more to help keep things orderly. You can store many things in these containers, including:

  • Soft drinks, bottled iced coffees and juice boxes
  • Deli meats, cheeses or cured meats
  • Snack foods like hummus, salsa or pickles
  • Individual-sized yogurts
  • Salad dressings

Or you can group items by meals your family eats a lot, so you can remove the entire bin when you need to. For example:

  • Hamburger, sandwich and hotdog fixings, like pickles, relish, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard
  • Taco and nacho ingredients, such as refrigerated hot sauces, salsas and jalapeños

Tip: Take this fridge organization idea to the next level by using clear bins or labeling your containers, so you always know exactly where things are.

Know What’s in Your Fridge

The remains of last night’s dinner and other rogue foods can sometimes be forgotten and pushed towards the back of the fridge. That’s why almost everyone has a jar in the refrigerator with one lone olive or a package containing a dried-up piece of cheese. Kick this bad habit to the curb by keeping a running list of what perishables you need to eat sooner than later on a magnetized dry erase board that’s secured to the refrigerator door. This will give you a better idea of what leftovers you need to take to lunch, as well as the meals you can cook with items you already have.

Purge Regularly

One of the key factors in figuring out how to organize a refrigerator is learning to get rid of things you don’t need. Make sure you’re keeping your fridge tidy by tossing foods that you’re not going to eat (like the leftover Pad Thai from last week) or items that have expired (the yogurt that you’re scared to open because it may have spawned a new life form). You might find it convenient to take care of this task once a week, such as the night before trash pickup day. Regular clean-outs are not only good for organization, they also help your fridge work better, as the air needs room to circulate in order to properly cool your food.

Once your fridge is cleaned, it only takes a few minutes a day to keep it organized. However, it takes a lot more time to maintain a daily cleaning schedule. If you need help keeping up with the housework, contact your local Merry Maids. That way you can spend more time doing the things you really love and still enjoy a tidy home.

Next > 4 Helpful Kitchen Organization Ideas