Front and center
Give prime fridge space to priority items, says professional organizer Kathi Burns, founder of Add Space to Your Life.
“If you want leftovers to be eaten, keep them front and center on the middle rack, at eye level,” says Burns. “That goes for healthy snacks, too. If you have leftovers, don’t cram them in the back.”
For large food items, slice and store in several containers, says professional organizer Abbey Claire Keusch. If your refrigerator has adjustable shelves, you can move them around for specific items. Have a plan for the food you keep.
Not everything needs chilling
Did you know that ketchup, vinegar, jam, and even mayonnaise and butter don’t need to be refrigerated? If you’re tight on fridge space, these items and more can go in the pantry instead.
And if you have backyard chickens, the eggs you get from them don’t need to be refrigerated, although store-bought eggs do (American regulations require eggs to be power-washed before selling, which strips eggshells of their protective coating, so store-bought eggs have to be refrigerated to stay fresh).
The only items that really need to go in the fridge are meats, dairy products, and certain vegetables (unless you’re going to eat them right away).
Items that should never go in the refrigerator include:
- Tomatoes (they’ll get mushy faster if they’re cold).
- Onions (they’ll soften, plus all your other food will smell like onions).
- Honey (it’ll get too thick).
- Potatoes (cold temperatures turn starches into sugars, giving your taters a sweet flavor when you cook them, and not in a good way).
Go against the flow
Today’s refrigerators are designed to be organized a certain way — condiments in the door, vegetables in the crisper, gallon of milk on the center rack. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Burns says.
“For busy families, I recommend a ‘lunch bin’ that you can pull out,” she says. “Keep the mayo, mustard, pickles, meat, and cheese in there, so you can just pull it out and make a sandwich. It’s easy for kids. You can create a bin for healthy snacks, too, or a breakfast bin with bagels and cream cheese.”
Pulling out one bin instead of many individual items is faster, too, so your refrigerator door doesn’t stay open as long. For smaller refrigerators that don’t have drawers, long, rectangular bins can be used for easy organizing.
“Same goes for the freezer — just use a Tupperware bin for frozen veggies, so you can pull out all the bags of veggies in one fell swoop,” Burns says. “It works really well.”
Hip to be square
Refrigerators are more efficient when they’re fuller, but that doesn’t mean you should cram as much stuff in there as possible. Square or rectangular containers are the way to go for leftovers — they’re easily stackable and fit into corners neatly.
“Stay away from round containers,” says Burns. “That’s just wasted space.”