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23 Tips for Getting Your Fridge and Freezer Organized

When you’re home from a long day at the office and the kids are clamoring for dinner, it can be tough to navigate the black hole that is the freezer and many parts of the average fridge. At the grocery store, we’re ripe with confidence that cauliflower and buttermilk will somehow make their way into our recipes, but often these items simply clutter the space and end up going bad because as the old adage goes – out of sight, out of mind.

Check out our list of tips to get your fridge and freezer organized, making them more functional for your family. After all, if they can see it, they will probably eat it! And the same goes for your peering in after a draining day and coming up with something to cook versus ordering the greasy takeout.

Prep Work Before Food Hits the Fridge

Whether it’s tweaking your grocery store shopping habits or planning things out, there are several steps you can take to cut down on the food that gets lost in the fridge or freezer.

    1. Buy what your family eats. We all have great aspirations for what we may or may not be able to do in the kitchen, but hitting the grocery store after spending the day watching Food Network may put a lot of ingredients in your fridge and freezer that you won’t end up using. Be honest with yourself and what your family regularly consumes when shopping for groceries.
    2. Plan out your meals. Not every meal, but weeknight dinners should definitely be planned out. If you aren’t used to cooking at home, grab a magnetized note pad to go on the fridge with a loose draft of what you’re cooking each night. This gives you direction at the store, so you only buy what you need and are planning to eat in the near future.
    3. Buy freezer bags. Clunky plastic containers simply take up too much space to bother with. When it comes to freezing veggies, sauces or meats, stick them in freezer bags to maximize your space. You can stack the bags or have them all facing with the zip tops up, like rows of books.
    4. Always scan for doubles. You’re headed out the door and need an ingredient for a recipe. Let’s say it’s salsa. Always run to the fridge and double check it isn’t lurking somewhere in there. Having doubles means there’s something that isn’t being used, thus taking up space and going rotten.
    5. Pull everything out. It isn’t a fun task, but before you can get truly organized, you must haul everything out of the fridge and freezer and see what you have. Clear the counters, so there’s plenty of space to view everything clearly.
    6. Dump what’s not being used. Obviously, this won’t be as brutal as parting with clothing, but get rid of anything that stinks, is passed it’s expiration date or your family tasted once and hated.
    7. Check for items that don’t have to be refrigerated. Items like Tabasco and fish sauce often find their way into the fridge, but they don’t actually have to be kept cold to stay good. If you’re short on space, store these items in your pantry or cabinets versus taking up precious fridge space.
    8. Wipe it down and soak drawers. If you’re pulling everything out anyway (and you definitely should be), go ahead and wipe down the shelves and soak the fridge crisper drawers and shelves. Ideally you should do a serious cleanup of the fridge every six months.

How to Organize Your Fridge

The inside of the fridge…just the thought makes us cringe. Not because it’s a space that gets especially dirty, but because it’s often so disorganized that finding anything is a chore and is bound to bring on a frustrated string of sighs. Don’t flip out just yet! These organization tips will get your fridge in check.

    9. Get compartments.Your fridge is equipped with some compartments, but when it comes to all of the sandwich goodies or if your family eats an abundant amount of fruits or veggies, you may need extra space. Hit a home goods store for plastic compartments that can store these things so they aren’t loose and tossed all over the place. Let everyone in your family know what goes in each new compartment so they can put things back where they belong.
    10. Store like items together. You do this with your closet, so why not your fridge? Put sandwich goodies in one compartment, all fruits together, do the same with veggies and condiments.
    11. Put the items that are used most at the front. The items that your family reaches for several times a day, such as milk or hummus, should go towards the front of the fridge. While you want to maximize your space, you also want to make the items that are regularly consumed accessible.
    12. Get a system going. Think of it this way – first place the main course (meats and eggs), then sides (extra veggies, boxes of broth), working your way up. On the top shelf should be items for sandwiches and condiments that are in jars or don’t fit in the side shelves.
    13. Avoid stacking things to high heaven. If you have small things like yogurt or pudding cups, it’s best to store them in rows versus stacking them so they spill over every time someone opens the fridge. If you must stack, take it no higher than two cups, including the one that’s on bottom.
    14. Make the most of shelves. Store bottles according to how they fit in the shelves. This may take a little playing around to get right, but instead of going by size or what’s in the bottles, it’s best to store them in a manner that efficiently utilizes the space. This allows slim bottles to be tucked into small spaces that would go unused otherwise.
    15. Keep bread over to the side. If you store your bread in the fridge (or other bread products like bagels or tortillas), put them over to one side. If you try to make room for them on the center of a shelf, they’ll eat up too much space.
    16. Condense doubles. If you have two half-eaten jars of pickles, but all of the pickles are still good, throw them all in one jar. This way you aren’t wasting delicious pickles, but you are making more room in your fridge.
    17. Store tall items at the back. We like this because it allows you to see nearly everything that’s in your fridge at a glance. While it won’t work for everyone, it is something worth trying since a tiered system puts more food in your line of vision for consuming.
    18. Slice and prep your veggies when you get in from the store. OK, maybe not the minute you get in from the grocery store, but setting aside a mere half hour to slice and dice the veggies in your fridge can save you from digging through the crisper and having them go bad (because they roll to the back of the crisper). Slice veggies and put them in zip top plastic bags, allowing even young kids to pop in and grab a handful of carrot sticks or cucumber slices.

How to Organize Your Freezer

The freezer’s no picnic either. Items get lost for years in the back of the freezer, so it’s time to go in and clean house. Make appropriate use of your freezer because we promise, it has a purpose besides serving as a haven for freezer burned meats and desserts.

    19. Eat what you can. A lot of food can last for ages in the freezer. Meats and last up to six months and can go even longer if stored in air tight containers. Veggies can last up to a year and a half, so if all else fails, create a stew or soup with what you pull out of the freezer and nosh on it throughout the work week or take it for lunch .
    20. Keep frozen meats over to one side. Like with breads, you don’t want to store meats down the center of the space because they take up too much space and can get pushed to the back. Keep all of your meats over to one side, preferably whatever side your freezer door opens on so it’s always visible.
    21. Label your sauces. Because different sauces can look the same, it’s best to label and date them so you know what’s what when you need a quick fix for supper.
    22. Label already cooked meats. For the same reasons as the above and because your spouse may not know the difference between ground taco meat and beef ragu when you tell him or her to take it out to defrost.
    23. Get used to frozen vegetables. You can buy them organic and they’re just as fresh as veggies purchased in the produce department. The bottom line is they last far longer than fresh vegetables, so if you get a wild hair and don’t follow through on that ratatouille this week, your ingredients will still be good to go when you’re ready .

Don’t bother waiting for spring cleaning to get your fridge and freezer organized. Set aside a couple of hours to do a good job and you won’t have to face it again for a few months. If you implement the organizational tips offered here, you’ll seldom throw out food or be stuck picking up fast food because what’s available and ready to go in your fridge will be visible.