How To Organize Your Refrigerator To Reduce Waste And Eat Better (2024)

As a full-time food writer, cookbook author and the primary cook in my household, few things bring me more joy than a well-organized refrigerator. While you won’t find filming 'restock my fridge' content for social media, I admit, I do find those videos soothing to watch. Once I discovered the satisfaction of a streamlined, uncluttered fridge where ingredients are easily accessible, I officially joined the clean fridge club.

Beyond making cooking more efficient, an organized fridge helps reduce food waste (goodbye sad, wilted produce and forgotten leftovers!). When you can easily see everything in your fridge, you're less likely to accidentally buy ingredients you already have, saving on your monthly grocery budget.

Streamlining your refrigerator to fit your cooking and eating habits takes some planning, but it's well worth the effort. According to Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly Professional Organizing, “The fridge and freezer are constantly evolving spaces, so the systems you establish are crucial for maintaining order.” From giving your fridge a thorough clean to choosing the right storage bins and containers for leftovers, here’s everything you need to know to keep your refrigerator organized.

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How To Deep Clean Your Fridge

An organized fridge starts with a clean slate. Hord advises removing everything, checking expiration dates (and discarding anything past its prime), then categorizing the food items you intend to keep. After emptying the refrigerator, remove any removable bins such as the cheese drawer or produce drawers, dispose of any shriveled carrots or parmesan rinds hiding at the bottom, and take the bins to the sink for a thorough scrub.

Scrub Daddy Scratch-Free Multipurpose Dish Sponges

Clean your refrigerator’s internal walls and shelves with a non-toxic cleanser like Seventh Generation All Purpose Cleaning Spray, plus a scratch-free Scrub Daddy sponge or a soft cloth like Papaya’s Reusable Paper Towels. Make sure to reach all the way to the back to catch any liquids that may have spilled. To sanitize areas that have touched raw meat, mix together one tablespoon of liquid bleach with one gallon of water and spot clean as necessary.

Papaya Reusable Paper Towels

After putting in the effort to deep clean your fridge, maintain its cleanliness with regular upkeep. Set up a weekly routine of checking for ingredients, especially in the vegetable drawers, that need to be used before they spoil. Spray and wipe down any spills to prevent staining. For refrigerators with a stainless steel finish, Hord recommends using Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes to keep the door and handle free of smudges and fingerprints. Meanwhile, a box of Arm & Hammer Fridge-n-Freezer Baking Soda tucked into the fridge will help keeping it fresh.

How To Organize Your Food

Without organizational structures in place, the refrigerator can quickly become a chaotic mess. However, assigning specific spots or zones for everything from bread and bagels to your favorite cottage cheese can save time when searching for ingredients or quick snacks. "Put some thought into how you arrange groceries," advises Hord. "Removing items from boxes can save both time and space in the long run." Hord also recommends investing in a set of clear, stackable bins to maximize the space you have. For the freezer, she prefers adjustable bins and racks that effortlessly organize bags of frozen fruit, frozen pizza crusts and that box of frozen nuggets your kids can’t live without.

Before just buying a ton of bins, Hord recommends thinking about what you realistically need to store. “A common pitfall we see people make is purchasing organizing products before going through the proper steps of organizing,” she notes.

YouCopia FreezeUp Freezer Rack

Some bins, such as a plastic egg storage container or clear cartons for milk and juice, serve more as aesthetic choices. Others, like a designated bin for raw meat or fish (to keep them separate and safe from other food items) or bins for single-serving yogurt cups or applesauce pouches (which often get pushed to the back of the fridge), can be especially practical.

How To Organize Your Refrigerator Door

Refrigerator doors are ideal for storing upright items such as bottles of hot sauce, soy sauce and ketchup, jars of pickles and olives, and cans of seltzer and soda. To keep the door organized, group similar items together. Designate rows for condiments, beverages, nut butters and jams. This way, when the craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich strikes, you'll have everything at hand without needing to search through the fridge depths.

Condiments tend to have relatively long shelf lives, but food writer Adam Roberts recommends periodically checking expiration dates and discarding items that won't be used, like that gooseberry jam bought two Christmases ago. If you have dribs and drabs of a beloved condiment left, Roberts suggests repurposing them: “A little bit of mustard left in the Dijon jar lends itself perfectly to a shaken salad dressing. Just throw some chopped shallots, vinegar and olive oil right into the jar and shake it up.”

How To Keep Produce Fresh For Longer

The moment produce comes home from the market, the countdown to freshness begins. However, a few simple techniques can help keep your fruits and veggies—yes, even delicate bunches of basil—fresher for longer. Roberts recommends wrapping herbs in paper towels before storing them in containers or bags like these Debbie Meyer GreenBags.

Progressive ProKeeper Produce Container Set

The paper towels absorb excess moisture and can extend the life of herbs by a week or more. This method also works well for other watery produce like lettuce, spinach and berries. For delicate fruits such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, remove them from their original containers and layer them with paper towels between each layer in a breathable container into a Progressive ProKeeper Produce Container Set.

Emile Henry French Ceramic Fruit Storage Bowl

Meanwhile, certain produce items including onions, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, and tomatoes, stay fresh longer when stored outside of the fridge. Don’t waste space in your precious crisper drawers with these foods—instead, store them on the counter like this beautiful, two-tiered ceramic fruit bowl by Emile Henry.

How To Store Leftovers Better

Keep your leftovers–both takeout and homemade–from turning into trash by storing them effectively. Avoid plastic containers, which can be hard to fully clean and tend to take on the aroma of whatever is inside them. And skip any opaque containers that don’t let you easily identify the contents.

Pyrex Meal Prep Food Container Set

Instead, opt for see-through, easy to clean glass containers, like this 18-piece set by Pyrex. The set includes several shapes and sizes of containers, creating perfect landing spots for your leftover roasted green beans, turkey chili or pasta salad.

How To Organize Your Refrigerator To Reduce Waste And Eat Better (2024)
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