How-To: Organize your Refrigerator
March 15, 2021
Few things in life are as satisfying to me as having a well-organized (and stocked!) refrigerator. Eating and preparing meals is a consistent thing we do multiple times a day, so feeling like you can organize your refrigerator can make meal prep and healthy snacking feel significantly more doable.
Organize and Systemize
When it comes to organization I have learned time and time again that an organized space is only as good as the “system” that supports it. The system or approach will help to maintain the organization and control which will best serve you and your household.
An orderly fridge isn’t only pleasing to look at, it also has the potential to save you money by reducing waste, and certainly makes cooking far more convenient and efficient.
Below you’ll find a simple guide for organizing your refrigerator and putting a system in place that will keep it that way.
Step #1: Take it ALL out
Step one for really any organizing project is to take it ALL out. Clean out your refrigerator entirely and toss anything that has expired (take a close look at your condiments). Give it a really good wipe down with soapy water or my favorite cleaning product of all time, Force of Nature. Once you’ve cleared all of your food out, categorize it on your countertop. (produce, dairy, snacks, leftovers, etc.)
Step #2: Plan out your Refrigerator Real Estate
Once you have a blank slate, determine where you will keep certain items. Utilize your produce crispers/drawers, and think about where it makes the most sense to store things like condiments (many times this is on the door, other times a lazy susan is a better choice). While I can recommend what works for me (you can check out my Bin-Dinn system here), keep in mind that every household will have different needs. If you’re feeding young kids you might arrange things differently than if you’re feeding teenagers or living with roommates.
Don’t be afraid to invest in a handful of acrylic bins and containers to manage your refrigerator space best. The containers really don’t take up that much space and really maximize what you have to work with. Whether it’s string cheese or snack-sized hummus packages, if small things like this aren’t contained, they’ll clutter up your fridge. Keep them together and make use of vertical space at the same time by storing them in clear stackable storage bins.
Step #3: Label your Shelves and Bins
I cannot emphasize this tip enough, LABEL IT ALL! Labeling reminds you and others of where things belong. By clearly categorizing within your fridge, you’ll know where to find things and where to put them away. With a clear label you won’t have to nag anyone about putting things back where they belong and this will cut down on digging through the refrigerator to find things. I suggest labeling shelves, drawers, door bins, and any bins or other organizers you’ve added. You simply cannot over-label when you organize your refrigerator!
You can label with a few different products. Freezer Tape is made to withstand cold temperatures, so it never budges. A sharpie drawn on freezer tape is super practical and reliable. I’ve also had good luck using a Sharpie Paint Pen to write directly on bins. If I ever need to change the label, it’s easily removed with a magic eraser. Finally, I’ve also had a fair amount of luck with labels generated from a label maker. I’ve had one or two instances where they’ve lost their adhesive and I either make a new label or stick it back on with just a bit of Gorilla Glue.
Step #4: Dedicate a spot for Leftovers
If you don’t have a dedicated spot for leftovers, then they’ll end up all over the place, throwing your system off. I have a dedicated “leftovers” bin that I specifically keep at eye level. Keeping the food you need to eat in this space helps ensure that you’ll use it before it goes bad. I also have a “Kids” bin where I store prepped ingredients and snacks for my kids to easily grab. That way I prevent little hands from rummaging through the refrigerator.
Step #5: Do a weekly wipe down
My system for my weekly wipe down is to take inventory of my refrigerator just before I do my online grocery shopping. This is when I toss unusable items and determine what I need to use up and incorporate into my cooking for the week. I always use Force of Nature to spray down the inside of my refrigerator and this helps to keep things clean. Having a clean fridge is a great first step to organize your refrigerator.
One tip I have for a multi-adult household: when you put leftovers or open items in the fridge, label them with the “use by” date instead of the date you put them in the fridge. That way folks (my hubby, in my case) know whether something has been in for too long or is safe to eat. Saves a lot of “Honey, smell this and tell me if it’s still good.”