Is your fridge full of items you have no plans to eat or drink? Do things get stuck in the back and go virtually unnoticed? Do you buy things you already had? If so, it may be time to get organized!
My tips for rocking a micro-organizing project in the fridge are to clean up, categorize, and stack.
Cleanliness is paramount when it comes to things you are consuming and the space where they are stored. Start by doing a sweep of the entire fridge to trash spoiled or expired items as well as anything that you no longer want.
Real Simple magazine states that “leftover cooked foods have a life span and you cannot rely on a “sniff test” or look for mold, since bacteria that causes food poisoning may be multiplying without any obvious signs (Aug ’16). In other words, refrigerated leftovers are good for three to five days. The more acidic the food is, the longer it can generally last.
Check the condiments in the door as well. Most of the items are good for a few months or up to one year. Notable exceptions are Worcestershire & soy sauce which last for two years and hot sauce that lasts for five years (stilltasty.com).
Next remove everything from the top shelf and disinfect the area. Continue down to the rest of the shelving, drawers and compartments, working quickly so that the door does not stay open for too long.
Collect like items together and create a space for drinks, snacks, fruits, veggies, dairy, kid’s food, and so on. I always place leftovers and items with a short shelf life at eye level so that I make sure not to miss them before it is too late. Adjust the shelves if necessary.
A great way to keep food categorized is to store them in separate holders. I love The Container Store’s “Fridge Binz Trays” with built in handles. They come in five sizes and vary from $8-$20. The point is to cut down on the time that it takes to locate something, so either an item is in the specific bin where it is supposed to go or it is not there at all. Also when food is inside of some kind of a holder, you can pull it out for food prep and return the whole thing when you are done.
Once your refrigerator is clean and categorized, the final step is to stack as much as possible. The main issue with storing items in the fridge is that there is limited space, usually three drawers, and just a few shelves. Unless the items are flat on the top they are not easily stackable and that leaves a lot of space in between shelves that is wasted.
The solution is to include organizing products that allow for better stacking such as The Container Store’s “Linus Fridge Binz Soda Can Organizer with Shelf” ($20) that holds up to nine cans, a wine bottle holder ($8/ea.), and a water bottle holder ($15).
Another way to save space on liquids is to use tall and thin holders that maximize vertical space such as the “1.5 gal Slimline Fridge Jug” ($10) for milk, water, or tea. The jugs are unbreakable and feature a leak-proof spigot so you can pour a drink without moving the jug.
In terms of food, the plastic, glass and ceramic containers stack well for leftovers and pre-cooked meals. The “Fresh Flip” products ($3-$4) are individually stacking pods to keep grapefruit, onion, avocado, lemon tightly sealed. The “Fridge Binz Egg Holder” ($15) is made from Resipreme plastic and has a sturdy lid that allows for easy stacking and is clear so you can see when you are running low.
Remember to follow the same steps in the freezer. Clear out old items (mark dates on any new items you freeze), make groupings, and containerize oddly shaped objects. The Container Store’s vinyl-coated rust resistant “Freezer Storage Baskets” ($6-$8) are great. Brandi Broxson of Real Simple Magazine suggests using a basic desk paper sorter as a frozen foods holder to “file” packages of meat, vegetables, and the like (Dec ’16). I have also used plastic shoe boxes with and without drawer frames in both spaces with great success.
Investing a minimal amount of time organizing the refrigerator makes a positive impact on everyone in the household each time they open the door to look inside. Happy organizing!
Tatiana is a member of The Container Store’s national team of expert organizers known as “Contained Home”. Call (305) 502-6391 for a full home consultation to help you measure, design and organize.