I may not be much of a cook, but I’m great at organizing any space. There’s nothing I love more than giving an unkempt area an organizational makeover. Right now I have my eye on my mom's fridge…reason being, it’s like a refrigerator version of "what not to wear this season." With these simple tips, I plan to give my mom's fridge the makeover her chef-level culinary skills deserve!
4 Reasons why you should organize your fridge
There are many reasons to spend the time to organize your fridge. Here are the most compelling:
- For food safety! If you store each item in its proper cold zone, you bear much less risk of ingesting microbes or food-born bacteria.
- For efficiency. A well-packed fridge is an energy-efficient fridge that cools better.
- For time and energy savings. The less time you spend with your fridge doors open as you poke around for whatever you need, the more time you have to cook and the less energy you waste.
- For inventory purposes. When your fridge is well organized, every item is visible and you don't risk missing expiration dates and wasting money.
Your fridge: many “closets” in one
Unlike closets where you store shirts and shoes all jumbled in together, your refrigerator is like many different types of closets in one. It has different compartments for storing different types of foods. There are different temperature zones inside your fridge. And different sized areas are better suited for storing certain types of items.
- The key to organizing your fridge like a chef is simple: you need to know what to put where.
- Why use professional chefs' fridge organization as a model? Professional kitchens place a priority on storing food so it’s safe to consume later.
Learn your fridge’s zones
While this may vary depending on the size and brand of your fridge, in general, refrigerators each come pre-installed with certain zones (sometimes called "compartments").
Here’s what to expect temperature-wise in each zone:
- The door(s): These will be the least cold zone in your fridge, and the one most susceptible when doors get left open.
- The crispers: One crisper is often more humid and the other more dry (and some newer models have the ability to adjust which is which). Both crispers will be cold.
- The shelves: The upper shelves will be the most stable of all the shelves in terms of consistent temperature. The lower shelves will be the coldest. The middle shelves are vulnerable like the door(s) to varying temperatures.
Note: Unlike with your freezer, you do not want to "pack" your refrigerator—you do want some cool air to be able to circulate between the items.
What goes where?
Because your refrigerator has warmer and colder zones, this can serve as a natural organizational guide.
Store on the door:
- Sodas and water
- Opened snack foods you want to store in the fridge to keep them fresher
Store in the crispers:
- If you have two crispers (most fridges do), put your veggies in one and your fruits in the other. Try not to mix the two, since fruits tend to release more ethylene and ripen more quickly than vegetables.
Store on the upper shelves (there will likely be some overlap between all the shelves):
- Ready-to-eat foods (ex: tortillas, hummus, deli meat, prepared meals)
Store on the middle shelves:
- Snack foods (anything that gets grabbed to drink or eat frequently)
Store on the lower shelves:
- Raw meat
On top of the fridge:
- Store nothing edible here—it gets hot and can cause spoilage and mold quickly!
A foolproof tip: One way professional chefs sometimes think about refrigerator storage is this: store things that don't need any cooking on the higher shelves and store things that are raw and need cooking at high temperatures on the bottom of the shelves. The middle shelves are for things that are ready-to-eat or need just a bit of cooking.
What not to refrigerate
Here, keep in mind that some items are best when left unrefrigerated (if your fridge is small, remembering this can also free up much-needed space!).
Here are the most common examples:
- Potatoes, yams, squash
- Onions and garlic
- Some fruits
- Dry ingredients (flour, meal, sugar) you plan to use soon
For more information on what and what not to refrigerate, check out 8 Surprising Tips to Make Your Produce Last Longer.