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Organize Your Fridge To Minimize Food Wastage

Making time to organize your fridge will help you to minimize food wastage and as a result, will save you a lot of money in the long run aside from relieving yourself from stress.

In this guide I will share with you how I organized our fridge to make it more functional which I have learned over time. This will help to minimize food wastage if not to totally eliminate it.

Just a reminder, the purpose of organizing your essentials or anything inside your home is to make things in your life easier. It’s also used to accomplish everything that you need to do in a faster and more efficient manner. Doing this will allow you to spend time on the things that really matter. Improving the esthetic look of things inside your home is just an added bonus. Therefore, organizing should not be done solely for the purpose of just to make things look beautiful but for the purpose of making your everyday life around the house easier.

The same principle should also be applied when you want to organize your fridge. The refrigerator is one of the household appliances that you and your family use often, whether you are making a quick breakfast, storing the perishable food that you just recently bought, grabbing something to eat on your way out to the door or cooking a special meal for loved ones. Since the fridge has so much traffic, the inside of your fridge can rapidly become a mess. Below are the common problems that you will encounter if the inside of your fridge becomes disorganized:

  1. Expired food hidden in the back
  2. Shelves stuffed with rarely-used condiments
  3. Containers of leftovers stacked so high you can’t see past them
  4. No available space for your newly bought foods that need to be refrigerated
  5. Unpleasant smell
  6. Looks dirty and messy

Sound familiar? If your fridge description is somewhat similar to the descriptions above, your fridge is in need of organization. Fortunately, organizing your refrigerator is an easy task. You just need to an hour or two to organize its content which will help you get rid of unwanted odors, make your fridge look clean and tidy, help you to see and access food that you need quickly and most importantly, will help you to prevent food wastage.


Organize Fridge 101: Things That You Need To Know and Remember


a. Know The Different Compartments Of Your Refrigerator and Its Uses

Knowing the different compartments of a refrigerator and how each one keeps food longer and helps it to stay fresh is knowing what food item to place where. Just like all other items, refrigerators are also available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. However, they all function in the same way despite their differences in appearance. To help you understand the use and function of each compartment, here’s a quick rundown.organize fridge

The Door:

The temperature on the door rises a few degrees above that of the main compartment, which is too warm for milk and eggs. Even though some refrigerator doors come with gallon door bins and egg shaped storage that appear to be excellent places for storing these food items. Instead, save the door for goods that can withstand the heat, such as butter condiments, juice, soda and water.

Crisper Drawer:

These drawers are specifically intended for fresh produce storage. On many refrigerators, the humidity can be regulated:

  • High humidity is ideal for wilting vegetables
  • Low humidity is best for fruits and some vegetables with thin skins

But keep in mind, the fruits and vegetable should be stored apart.

Upper Shelves:

The upper shelves are considered the warmest part of the fridge. This is the reason why dairy products and raw meat should not be stored in this part of the fridge.

Lower Shelves:

The lower shelves or the middle part of the fridge is considered to be the coldest section. This makes a perfect spot for storing products that are more sensitive to bacterial growth like milk, fresh seafood, eggs and so on.

b. Remember the Refrigerator Shelf Life Of Your Fresh Produce

It is important to know the shelf life of each food item going into the refrigerator. This information can be known by looking at the food’s packaging. Unfortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables often do not come with packaging stating such information.

Below is the recommended refrigerator shelf life for various food items:

organize fridge

organize fridge

 

 

You must also know that not all produce items belong in the refrigerator and these are the following:

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

These are food items that will do better if they are kept at room temperature for optimal freshness. However, you should keep in mind, that there is always an exception to the rule. For example,  for avocados, green or unripe avocado is better if stored inside a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter. However, for ripe or close to being ripe avocado, put this in a container and place it in the produce drawer of the fridge if you want to extend its shelf life. For garlic, it can also be stored in the crisper drawer of the fridge, however it will speed up the sprouting of the garlic. For potatoes and onions, they should be stored separately because the ethylene emitted by potatoes can cause onions to sprout.

c. Know and Apply Appropriate Refrigerator Storage Techniques For Each Food Category

  • There are some vegetables that are better to put in the fridge as soon as you get home from the grocery shop like carrots, cabbage, celery, broccoli and cucumber. These are the vegetables that will stay fresh longer inside the crisper drawer especially if they are stored inside an untied plastic bag or washable mesh bag.
  • Fruits and vegetables should be stored separately in the refrigerator. This will stop them from ripening too quickly.
  • Mushrooms should be kept in a paper bag.
  • For leafy green vegetables, rinse and wrap in a paper towel or tea towel and chill in a container or sealed plastic bag.

d. What Foods Can You Freeze And How Do You Do It?

The freezer is equally as significant as the other refrigerator compartments. This is where you store food items that you want to extend their freshness for weeks to months with the use of the right freezer containers. Use containers such as freezer baggies and plastic containers to store your fresh meats like beef, chicken, pork, fish as well as cookie dough. These are best because they can withstand freezing temperatures. Knowing the freezer shelf life for each food category will help you in keeping their freshness in the freezer.

organize fridge

It’s crucial to remember that all freezer containers should be moisture and leak-proof, sturdy, able to physically sustain low temperatures, liquid-resistant (oil, grease, and water), and be easily markable with the current date. If the containers are overfilled with air during the sealing procedure, the food item is more likely to get freezer burn, rendering it inedible.

Now that you know the basics in order to use your fridge effectively, you are now ready to organize your fridge. Below are fridge organization techniques that you can use to organize your fridge which will help to minimize food wastage.


7 Easy Steps To Organize Your Fridge


1. List All Recipes That You Routinely Cook

When you have already made a decision that no matter what you will organize your fridge, a good way to start your organizing journey is by making a list of all recipes that you routinely cook for you and your loved ones including the ingredients. Why? Because the list of recipes that you frequently cook will give you good information for what food items that you should keep inside your fridge as well as what food items that you need to keep.

Tip: You can use the Pantry Recipe List Form for free to make your date gathering easier.

2. Determine What Organizing Method That You Can Apply And Sustain

Probably at this stage, you have been looking around the internet to find some inspiration on how you can organize your fridge. You have most likely come across a lot of beautiful and well organized fridge photos that use matching fridge organizing containers with cute labels on them. It becomes your aspiration to transform your fridge into something “Pinterest worthy”.

However, you need to be really careful on choosing what organizing method that you want to apply and use. Some organizing methods when applied incorrectly will create additional work for you rather than making your life easier and you may possibly end up with something that you cannot sustain. Photos of beautiful and well organized fridges that you often see on the internet or social media are easy to apply but harder to sustain. If you are not careful and let your eyes and emotion lead you on what type of organizing method that you will use, you might end up with a fridge that really looks good for a while but after a few days or weeks, your fridge will be right back to looking messy again. Below are some examples of organizing methods that when applied incorrectly, will give you additional work instead of helping you to accomplish your tasks easier and faster.

– Put Everything Inside Uniform Containers

organize fridge

Image Source: Pinterest

Putting everything inside uniform refrigerator containers will definitely be eye appealing to everyone. It is really tempting to adopt this organizing method because it really looks beautiful and looks neat and organized. However, there is work involved in order to achieve that and you constantly need to be in control in order to sustain this type organizing method.  Aside from that, washing fruits or vegetables and slicing or peeling them before storing makes them more likely to spoil because moisture fosters bacteria growth according to food research expert Amanda Deering of Purdue University. Therefore, it shortens its shelf life.

So pick and choose wisely on what food items that you need to wash, peel and slice. These should be foods that you and your family eat often or food that you use for food preparation on a daily basis.

– Organize The Fridge By Putting Labels On Each Compartment

This is actually a good idea because labels will tell what item to put where. However it will lead your fridge to not being very flexible because you assign each compartment to only store specific food items.

For example,when you grocery shopping, there are still some vegetables, eggs, fruits and so on inside your fridge unless its totally empty. When you come home after your grocery shopping, in that assigned compartment you would need to mix the newly bought food with old items and therefore, it will be hard for you to follow the first-in-first-out basis and could lead to food wastage.

Image Source: Pinterest

The labeling method is a great organizing method but sometimes there are some areas that labeling is not going to work because it eliminates storage flexibility of the particular space and this includes the fridge compartments and this is especially true if you have a small refrigerator. Fridge storage flexibility is sometimes necessary or needed in order to store all food items that need refrigeration. However, if space is not a problem, assigning each compartment for particular food items will definitely be helpful and will keep everything in place.

If space is a concern, what you can do is before you go to the grocery, grab all the vegetables from different crisper drawers and place them all in one crisper drawer. You can mentally take note of what that particular crisper drawer is containing. This is all the vegetables that you need to use first. Or, you can grab a washable marker to mark that crisper drawer “consume me first” or anything that will remind you to consume those vegetables first. So after your grocery shopping, all your newly bought vegetables will be stored in different crisper drawers separated from the old ones. This will help you to follow the first-in-first-out method and therefore help you to prevent food wastage.

The labeling method can be used to temporarily mark the crisper drawer containing old stocks of vegetables, or by marking leftovers and prepared foods with expiration dates as a reminder of when you need to consume them. By doing this, you will be able to use all of the foods that need to be eaten before they are expired.

– Removal of Original Packaging Before Placing The Food Items Into The Fridge

The principle behind this organization method is to save up some space because some packaging uses a lot of space. Food packaging comes in various sizes and shapes which makes it difficult to organize and fit into the available space that you have. However, when you do this, you need to make sure that your hands and containers that you are going to use are clean to avoid any contamination. Plus, you need to label each container with its contents and their expiration dates. When you decide to apply this organizing method, the illustration below is showing the number of steps that you need to perform every time you remove the original packaging.

organize fridge

The flowchart above shows the number of steps involved when you keep the contents in their original packaging versus the number of steps that you need to take when you decided to transfer the contents into another container. It clearly shows that you will incur additional work if you decided to go the other way.

Remember, the purpose of organizing is to accomplish your daily tasks easier and faster and the esthetic improvement is only an added bonus. Transferring the contents into another container is only ideal if you buy food items stored in a big container, like a gallon of ketchup for example, or if it increases the shelf life or will save you money. If the organizing method that you want to apply will only save a little bit of space in your refrigerator, can shorten the shelf life and cause you more work, then it is better to keep the contents in their original packaging especially if you are just buying a regular sized bottle containing 12 oz of liquid/sauce or less.

There are also some food items that are better to store in their original packaging like eggs. Carton packaging protects the eggs and prevent them from absorbing flavors of other foods and strong odors in your fridge aside from the fact that the best before date is always visible. The first-in-first-out method is easily applied by just placing the newly purchased box of eggs underneath the old box of eggs.

Carrots, cabbage, celery, green onions, broccoli and cucumbers are also food items that do not come in storage containers. These are vegetables that will stay fresh longer inside the crisper drawer especially if they are stored inside an untied plastic bag or washable mesh bag. If you keep these vegetables in a plastic bag, you will be able to put them in the fridge as soon as you get home from the grocery store which makes you able to accomplish your work faster. Do not forget to apply Appropriate Refrigerator Storage Techniques for each Food Category mentioned above because it will help you to keep your food fresh for a longer period of time.

Therefore, choose an organizing method that will help you accomplish your daily tasks in a more efficient and effective way. This will help you to have more time to do the things that matter and will help you eliminate food wastage and therefore save you money.

3. Buy Sticky Notes And Utilize Color A Coding Scheme

You are probably thinking, what do sticky notes have to do with organizing your fridge? Because a sticky note will help you to utilize the color coding system. Use the above Fridge Storage Compartments guide to know what specific food category should be placed in each compartment and assign a particular color. See the examples below:

  • Use Teal or Blue color sticky notes for food items that should be stored in the Upper Shelf compartments.
  • Use Pink color sticky notes for food items that will be placed in the refrigerator Door compartments.
  • Use Green color sticky notes for all fruits and vegetable that will be place in the Crisper Drawer compartments.
  • Use Orange color sticky notes for eggs, all dairy products and raw meat that will utilize the Lower Shelf compartments.
  • Use Yellow color sticky notes for all items that will go inside the Freezer section.

Once you have decided on color assignment, the color will visually guide you on what food items should be grouped together as well as where to put them inside your fridge. So when you are ready to remove everything from your fridge, place a corresponding color of sticky notes on each food item as you remove them from the fridge.

4. Organize Your Fridge By Deciding On What Section To Begin With

  • To prevent you from being overwhelmed, organize your fridge one section at a time. Remove all objects from each specified region and place a corresponding color sticky note on each food item following the Fridge Storage Compartments guide as you temporarily store them in a cooler.
  • Once the fridge compartment is empty, clean all of the surfaces with wet towels. Use refrigerator liners if you want. A refrigerator liner will help to keep drawers and shelves clean and dry, plus they will also help protect your glass shelves or create a solid surface for wire shelves.
  • Once you are done cleaning the first compartment, follow the same procedure as you begin to tackle the second compartments and so on until all compartments have been emptied and cleaned.
  • You can start organizing the Freezer compartment once you are done organizing the fridge compartments.

5. Examine The Food Items That Have Been Taken Out

Once you’re done cleaning all fridge compartments, color code each compartment by placing a corresponding color sticky note, use the same color scheme you used in step no.4. This will visually guide you to where to place food items when you start putting food items back in the refrigerator. However, before returning all the food items that have been taken out of the refrigerator, you need to examine first all the food items and do the following:

  • Examine each food item’s expiration date and its condition.
  • All food items that are not expired and still in good condition should be returned to the fridge. Pay attention to the color of the sticky notes attached to each of the food items as this will tell you what compartment the item should be stored. All items with the same color sticky note should be placed in the compartment that has the same color sticky note. For example, all food items with pink sticky notes attached should all be stored in the compartments with pink sticky note and so on.
  • At this stage, you are only trying to group all the foods that need to be stored in the specific compartments. So don’t worry, if after this stage your fridge still looks unorganized. The thing that matters here is to return all the food items to the inside of the refrigerator as fast as possible.
  • Set aside all food items that have already passed the expiration date or anything that does not look good or has an unpleasant smell.  These expired food items will give you an idea on what you need to do in order keep this food wastage from happening. Do not discard them yet!

6. Organize Your Fridge By Having A Dedicated Space For Everything

Now that all your food items are already stored in the proper fridge compartment, it’s now time to group foods by type. If you have clear bins, baskets or other containers on hand, use them to corral similar items. However, if you do not have these, it’s ok just to group them together and then buy the necessary containers afterward. Actually it’s advisable to do the shopping for organizing products after this process so you will know what type of organizing products to buy that will help you with your storage needs.

Upper Shelves:

The use of bins and baskets will ensure everything is correctly stored in a space-saving manner and is ideal to organize your upper shelves. The handles that come with the baskets and bins allow easy access to food. For leftover foods, use containers with a lid or a leak-proof container to prevent any spillage.

Lower Shelves:

Eggs, meat and dairy products are food categories that are ideal to store in the lower shelf compartment.  Choose a clear container to store these food items as visibility is the key to good fridge organization. The more visible the food is inside the fridge the most likely that they will be eaten before they get stale.

Lazy Susan turntables are an deal organizer to group together all your dairy food items, such as milk, heavy cream, whipped cream, etc. to make everything accessible.

To prevent cross-contamination with other foods, place any raw meat packages on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and place them on a tray or wrap them in a good plastic grocery bag.

Organize Your Fridge Crisper Drawers:

Image Source: Pinterest

If your crisper drawers are big enough, add baskets or dividers to sort the drawer contents with ease. Place the heaviest items like carrots on the bottom and then place the more delicate or lighter items like green onions on top to maximize the use of space.

Organize The Door Compartments Of Your Fridge:

organize fridge

As the warmest area of the fridge, the door compartments should only be used for soft drinks, condiments, sauces, and butter. Place your most frequently used items closer to eye level and reserve the lower compartments for ingredients you don’t use on a daily basis.

Freezer:

To effectively use every inch of your freezer space, store your leftovers in containers that are almost similar to the size of the food as possible which may also prevent freezer burn. Label each container using a marker with the expiration dates and the contents.

Use a freezer basket to create zones and to group things by category.

organize fridge

Image Source: Pinterest

Freeze food flat when possible to save space. If your freezer has a door compartment, avoid storing your ice cream or any high fat food items to avoid constant melting and refreezing..

7. Determine The Cause Of  Your Messy Refrigerator

Once you have put everything back and dedicated a space for everything, it is time for you to identify the root cause as to why your fridge was a mess by using all of your expired food items. This is the reason why you were asked to set aside all of the inedible foods instead of throwing them away immediately. All of the expired foods or food that does not look or smell good will give you useful information about why your fridge was a big mess. Below is the information that you can get from all expired and stale food items that you collected when you organized your fridge:

a. It could mean that the particular item was not really part of your daily diet. If is not part of your diet then these food items should not be part of your grocery list.

  • Use the data on the first step (List Down All Recipes That You Routinely Cook) by comparing the list of ingredients of the recipes that you routinely cook versus the expired items that you collected.
  • If the food that you eat does not contain the food that have expired in your fridge, the item was expired because it’s a food item that you do not like to eat or food that you do not eat often.  Therefore, that item should also be crossed off of your grocery list.
  • If that expired item is part of your regular diet then you need to consider reducing the amount that you buy to eliminate the food from getting expired.

b. Food that you tend to overstock or items that you buy more than you and your family can consume.

  • Overstocking could also be cause of your tendency to buy huge quantities when goods are at a great discount. Buying a lot of food because there is a great sale will not save you money if the food will become expired before you can consume it. Avoid compulsive buying and only buy what you need.
  • The amount of goods to buy should be based on your storage capacity, your family needs and the frequency you do grocery shopping. For instance, if you like to go do grocery shopping 3 times a week, there is really no need to stock up goods especially perishable ones.

c.  Food that simply got buried in the back part of the refrigerator. This problem can be easily solved by just utilizing the first-in-first-out method, storing newly purchased items behind the old ones, so you grab the old one first. Or you can write the date of purchase on jars or bottles to have a constant reminder of what item you need to use first.

d. For food items that are still within the date but do not look appetizing anymore or have an unpleasant smell it could mean:

  • You are storing them in the wrong compartment of the fridge.
  • There could be a food handling issue.
  • You are storing them incorrectly.

And these storage problems have already been dealt with by doing the first 5 steps to organize your fridge.


Once you have gathered the information that you need, it is now time to dispose of all the expired food.  You are now ready to maintain an organized fridge that will help to eliminate food wastage.


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