7 Tips to a Better Organized…and Healthier…Refrigerator and Freezer

Organizing your refrigerator might not be at the top of the list of fun things to do, but if you want to avoid finding green fuzz again (that isn’t your kiwis) it’s something that needs to be done.

Why it’s important

Intuitively you know it’s important to organize your refrigerator and avoid letting foods go to waste.

But, you may not have given much thought as to why it’s so vital to your health and that of your family’s.

Aside from the obvious waste of money by letting food spoil, it is possible for spoiled food to contaminate the rest of your food, so it’s good for your health too.

Refrigerator Organization Tools

Before you begin to organize your refrigerator you’ll need to gather some tools to make the most of your efforts.

While these resources aren’t mandatory, they can be helpful in maximizing the space you have and ensuring that nothing gets lost or forgotten (and left to rot…literally!)

1. Bins and baskets

Use solid or even better, clear bins or baskets to help corral small items and/or to organize items that are similar. 

2. Lazy Susan(s)

Lazy Susans are great for preventing the inevitable spill when you need to reach in the back of the fridge for something and end up knocking things over in the process!

3. Wine bottle storage

Make use of shorter shelves with wine storage racks and smaller baskets.

4. Labels

Use address labels, a label printer or simple masking tape and permanent marker, to keep your refrigerator and freezer organized. 

To be effective, labels should have a date, the name of the item and any other pertinent information (e.g. weight) on the label. Place the items and put them in the refrigerator and/or freezer with the oldest dates towards the front.

5. Food prep 

Maximize space in your refrigerator by removing items (when possible) from their containers. If you need the directions that are on the box, cut out the label and tape it to the bag or container.

Break down large packages into smaller ones and cut veggies and fruits such as grapes to encourage healthy snacking. 

Put vegetables and fruits into their respective crisper drawers to preserve their freshness. If you can adjust the humidity levels in the drawers, give your fruits less humidity and your vegetables a higher level.

Raw meat should be in a container or sealable storage bag to prevent leaks that can happen with the original packaging. And to really minimize the chance of a leak and keep it really cold, put it in a bin on the lowest shelf of your fridge.

6. Organizing Tips

  • ⬥ Dairy should be kept very cold, so put your milk and yogurt in the back of the refrigerator to make sure it stays fresh longer.
  • ⬥ The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator so it works well for condiments as they often have preservatives that help them stay fresh.
  • ⬥ If necessary, adjust the shelves to suit your family’s needs.
  • ⬥ To make sure nothing’s forgotten, place your leftovers at the front – and top – where they’ll be seen…and used.

7. How cold is cold enough?

According to most food scientists, the ideal temperature for a refrigerator is between 35°F and 38°F and a freezer should be set to 0°.

At 40°F bacteria can start to rapidly multiply so it’s important to know the temperature of your refrigerator.

If your refrigerator isn’t equipped with a thermometer (and only has one of those numbered dials) then buy a cheap appliance thermometer to get a reading.

Put it inside your refrigerator and wait 20 minutes to get an initial reading.

Adjust the dial on your control panel until the temperature is within the recommended range.

Here are some tips to help your refrigerator stay at the best temperature.:

  • ⬥ Before storing leftovers let them cool down a little before putting them in the refrigerator. This will keep the hot food from warming up the inside of your refrigerator (potentially letting bacteria grow quickly)
  • ⬥ Make sure the gaskets and door seals on the refrigerator are clean and in good shape to ensure a tight seal. This will keep warm air out and cold air in which not only helps with food preservation but can keep your electric bill down because your fridge will be operating more efficiently.
  • ⬥ Know what you need or want before opening your refrigerator door so you can open the door, grab what you’re after and then close the door.
  • ⬥ Keep the refrigerator full, but not stuffed. Too much in your refrigerator and you impact airflow, too little and your fridge will work harder to keep foods cool.

Bonus tips:

  • ⬥ Keep an inventory of items in your freezer so you’ll always know what you have on hand and what you need.
  • ⬥ When you freeze items, put them into pre-portioned sizes and if possible, freeze them flat to help with storage space.
  • ⬥ Label your freezer shelves using binder clips that are labeled. 
  • ⬥ If you use foil covered bowls to store leftovers, put a cookie sheet on top of them to save space and create an instant shelf for other items.
  • ⬥ Designate an “eat this first” area for foods that need to be eaten first, before cooking anything new.
  • ⬥ Create a “snack bin” of allowed snacks to keep everyone from digging through the fridge and moving things out of place.
  • ⬥ Organize food items based on type of meal or food (e.g. all nut butters together or stir-fry ingredients in one location)