What You Need:
- Paper towels and sanitizing wipes
- Baking soda
- A trash can
- Fridge bins—we're using the Sorbus Fridge Organizing Set
Whether you’re living by yourself or sharing an apartment with roommates, fridge space always seems to be at a premium. Learning how to efficiently divide up the limited space in your fridge can make accessing foods easier, which helps reduce food waste and save you a ton of money. The task might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be—here’s what we’ve learned really works when it comes to organizing your fridge.
1. Take everything out of your fridge for inventory and cleaning
Emptying the entire fridge will give you a better sense of what should be tossed away. Check packaging labels to see whether they have expired yet. For the shelf life of raw foods, you can refer to this government-sponsored guide. Use sanitizing wipes to clean out drips and residue on the shelves. If you’re worried about perishable items in the fridge, you can temporarily place them in a cooler. You should also take out the bottom drawers and soak them in soapy, hot water, then dry before placing them back in the fridge.
2. Choose what goes on the door—and what doesn't
You might be tempted to put milk and eggs on the fridge door for easy access. However, milk and eggs should always be kept in a place where the temperature is most consistent. Opening and closing the fridge doors will cause fluctuations in temperature for anything stored there. Therefore, milk should stay all the way to the back, the coolest area in the fridge.
Since most condiments are high in salt and vinegar, they’re generally good to stay on the fridge door. The quality of most condiments, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, and salad dressing, wouldn’t be affected by slight changes in temperature. The same goes for jarred pickles, salsa, and pasteurized orange juice. Freshly-squeezed juices should be stored to the back of the fridge along with milk.
3. Store leftovers and ready-to-eat deli meats on the upper shelves
Because their lifespan is much shorter than condiments and fresh produce, you’ll want easy access to these products. Placing them where they’re visible also helps you remember that they’re there and should be first on your “to eat” list, reducing food waste.
Different brands, models, and types of refrigerators do behave differently from one another. If you want to be sure which shelf is the coldest in a specific fridge, we provide that information for every refrigerator we review. The manual for your machine may also provide helpful tips for the kind of storage that works best for that specific.
4. Make your groceries more accessible
To efficiently utilize your middle shelves, you may want to use a lazy Susan turntable to help you access anything that’s hidden in the back corners of the fridge. The middle shelves are usually good for condiments, cheese, and other dairy products. Fridge baskets and bins are also useful tools to keep your groceries neat and orderly. We used this top-rated fridge organizing set in one of our crowded office fridges, and were thrilled with the results.
5. Try to place vegetables above meat and seafood to prevent cross-contamination
Meat products and seafood tend to drip if not packaged properly. You can store vegetables and meat side by side in the bottom bins, or keep meat in a designated drawer away from the crisper. If you are short on bins, you can use the wide drawers from the organizer set to maximize the space.
6. Before you put produce in the bottom bins, line them with paper towels or washable fridge mats
This prevents drips from getting stuck on the shelves, which makes future cleaning easier. The cut-to-fit feature also helps you customize your fridge space. If you’re using pieces of paper towel, make sure to replace them every two weeks.
7. Use a clear soda dispenser for storing cans
If you're big on beer, soda, and seltzer, having a way to keep your cans cold without taking up an entire shelf is essential. The Sorbus organizer set we tested includes one soda dispenser that holds up to 10 cans. You can also purchase a container individually to keep your cans organized and accessible.
8. Divide the space and label your food
Categorize your fridge items in different sections so you won’t mix them up, especially in shared living spaces. Maintaining a habit of labeling your food with an expiration date can help you reduce food waste and promote healthy eating. You may want to try this Chalkboard labeling kit that turns chores into a fun-filled bonding activity that families (or roommates) can do together.
9. Keep your fridge odor-free
A sour smell is usually the first indicator that something in your fridge has gone south of edible. To tackle this problem, our kitchen editor tested this mini ozone generator from FridgeFresh that helps slow food spoilage and reduce odors in your fridge.
A simpler alternative? Place an opened box of baking soda in the back of your fridge. Baking soda, a weak base which reacts with both acids and bases, absorbs the floating smelly particles that may otherwise land on your perfectly fresh food and lead to spoilage. Note that baking soda’s shelf life is about three months, so you do need to replace the box every once in a while. You can label the box with an approximate expiration date as a reminder.
10. Once it's organized, leave it alone
Finally, it’s important to note that once your fridge is organized to your specifications, it should stay that way.
Sure, we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of rearranging our refrigerator to fit a new item. But moving food from one part of the fridge to another exposes it to more temperature fluctuations, which decreases its quality while increasing the speed at which it spoils. If you’re smart about where you store your food, you can minimize this movement.