Raise your hand if you’ve returned from a grocery run to a refrigerator crammed up with meal leftovers, expired items, and overflowing crisper drawers - leaving you barely any space to store the newly bought groceries.
Well, we’ve all been there. That’s why we’ve rounded up easy-to-follow storage strategies to transform your fridge into a clutter-free and Instagram-worthy food haven it’s always meant to be.
Simple Tips To Organize Your Refrigerator
Organizing your refrigerator (and keeping it that way) might seem like a massive undertaking. Choose from our list of organization hacks to create a storage system that works for you and your fridge.
1. Empty the Refrigerator
Spring or not, your fridge overhaul should start with a bit of spring cleaning. Empty the refrigerator by taking everything out - produce, condiments, deli, dairy, drinks, and leftovers.
Discard any produce, perishables, or frozen foods that are past their use-by dates or are showing signs of spoilage. Sort the rest into broad categories, such as go-to foods, condiments, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and so on. This will make refilling the empty shelves and drawers a breeze.
2. Give the Shelves, Drawers, and Interiors a Good Cleaning
Before restocking the fridge, give the appliance a good wipe-down. Remove the shelves and drawers and wash them separately with hot water and soap.
Don’t put them back until you’ve cleaned the interiors with a soft kitchen towel and a homemade cleaning solution of two parts water and one part vinegar.
You can count on good ol’ toothpaste to remove tough stains from the gasket seal. Just dab a small amount onto a cloth towel and rub it on the stain until it vanishes.
3. Check the Use by Dates
This is an important one. Make it a habit to check the expiration dates of your refrigerator’s contents. Certain items, jams, and sauces, in particular, often end up at the back of the fridge and overstaying their welcome. The same holds for a crisper that’s crammed with produce.
Try to group items that are closer to their expiration date and store them up front as a reminder to eat them first.
4. Sort by Zones
Once you’ve classified the items into categories and by their expiration dates, it’s time to stock them in the refrigerator zone by zone.
To keep your fridge tidy, we recommend following a storage system that’s easy to implement. For starters, keep your go-to items, snacks, and breakfast items front and center. Organize the rest according to storage zones.
Top Shelf: Open the fridge’s door, and the top shelf is typically the first place that catches your attention. Not only is it at eye level, but it is also one of the more consistent zones temperature-wise.
Use this space to park milk and dairy, containers of meal leftovers, and drinks - pretty much any other grab-and-go snacks that you want within easy reach.
Bottom Shelf: Cold air sinks. So, no matter how advanced the airflow system in your refrigerator is, the lowest shelf will invariably be the coldest spot in the refrigerator.
Use this zone to store meat, poultry, and fish. The cold conditions will keep the raw meat fresh, while the bottom-most location will prevent the risk of spills and cross-contamination.
Crisper: Crisper drawers come with their own humidity controls and air vents, making them ideal for storing produce. While organizing a crisper, make sure you keep ethylene off-gassing produce, like apples, pears, and peaches, away from those sensitive to it - cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, to name a few. Consider adding mini storage baskets and dividers to sort the produce.
Don’t forget to modify humidity depending on the type of produce. Foods that rot easily, like apples, avocados, pears, melons, and mushrooms, need to breathe and fare well in low-humidity settings.
Meanwhile, most vegetables, leafy greens, and thin-skinned fruits like spinach, lettuce, and strawberries that are prone to rapid loss of moisture thrive in high humidity conditions.
Door: Door compartments are relatively warmer than shelves and are subject to frequent temperature fluctuations - more than other areas of a refrigerator.
It is precisely for this reason we do not recommend storing highly perishable items here. Instead, fill up this zone with well-preserved items, such as beverages, condiments, sauces, and dressings.
Freezer: Begin organizing the freezer by tossing out any items that are covered in ice crystals or have undergone discoloration, as they have most likely succumbed to freezer burn.
When storing meal leftovers and prepared foods, opt for clear containers and label them, mentioning the contents and the dates.
These labeled freezer-safe tubs and bags can go on the shelves, preferably stacked to make the best use of space.
Meanwhile, ice creams and other high-fat foods can be stored at the back and away from the door to avoid subjecting them to temperature fluctuations.
5. Ditch the Store-Bought Packaging
Many store-bought items, including fruits, snacks, and yogurt cups, come with extra layers of packaging that eat into precious refrigerator space.
Remove the bulky original packaging and transfer the contents into clear containers or reusable produce bags to avoid overcrowding the shelves and drawers.
6. Adjust Shelves
Ever had trouble storing something tall, like a bottle of milk, on a fridge shelf due to a lack of vertical space. All you need to do is adjust the height of shelves and drawers - a feature found in most refrigerators these days.
7. Group Similar Items
Store the items that you’ve grouped on similarities together so you know exactly where to find them.
For instance, sauces and salad dressings can be huddled together in the same bins.
The same applies to condiments and grab-and-go breakfast items. The sorting process may take a while, but you’ll never find yourself going on a scavenger hunt just to find the ingredients you need to get dinner started.
Maximize Fridge Space With These Storage Helpers
1. Add Drawers and Dividers
Your refrigerator drawers and shelves might be roomy enough for storing various items. But not so much if keeping the fridge organized is what’s on your mind.
You’ll often find contents of your fridge, especially bottles, not where you put them but instead rolled to the back of the shelves. Adding a few dividers and stackable drawers will do the trick in keeping similar products grouped together and apart from others.
2. Stackable Airtight Glass Containers
Resealable glass containers are found in virtually every refrigerator for a simple reason - their incredible versatility extends from storing leftovers to helping prep meals.
Invest in containers that are clear as well as stackable. Clear containers make it easy to see the contents. Meanwhile, a stackable design makes the best use of shelf space.
3. Reusable Produce Bags
Reusable muslin and mesh bags are a must-have storage aid for keeping your crisper drawers dainty and organized. They help group and store similar produce while helping keep ethylene gas-emitting fruits away from sensitive foods.
Reusable produce bags made from 100% certified organic cotton offer all the great qualities of cotton, especially breathability, and durability, while boasting a low environmental footprint.
4. Milk and Juice Decanters
You can keep refrigerator clutter at bay by replacing milk cartons and juice boxes with glass decanters. They also work perfectly well for storing half and half, smoothies, cream, stocks, and broth.
As far as aesthetics go, decanters, together with clear glass containers, give the fridge a uniform, contemporary look.
5. Soda Can Dispenser
If you often find bottles and soda cans rolled down to the back of the fridge, try this. Get a drink dispenser where you can store rows of cans and bottles, and each time you remove one, another glides out to the front.
6. Flour Sack Kitchen Towels
A pack of reusable flour sack kitchen towels can do a world of good for your refrigerator organization project.
From cleaning spills to wiping the interiors to acting as a damp wrap to keep leafy greens fresh and crispy - the list of tasks that these versatile cloth squares can do is virtually endless.
7. Egg Holder
Like decanters and clear glass containers, an egg tray can enhance the aesthetics of your refrigerator, making it look sleek and uniform. It protects eggs while freeing up space that an egg carton may occupy.
That’s not all. Egg holders are easy to spot, letting you know when it’s time to stock up.
Final Thoughts on How to Keep Your Refrigerator Organized
As indispensable as a refrigerator to modern living, it also doesn’t take long for it to turn into a mess full of forgotten food scraps and frozen foods well past their use-by date.
A well-maintained refrigerator, on the other hand, helps you visualize all of your food. It reduces waste, keeps food fresh and healthy, and makes meal planning hassle-free.
If you’re looking for products to make this task even easier, be sure to check out Organic Cotton Mart’s sustainable and versatile storage helpers.
From reusable mesh and muslin produce bags to machine washable and quick-drying flour sack towels, our catalog has everything you need to get your fridge and kitchen in order.