It’s week 1 of my 2015 Foodie Challenge, and that means it’s time to organize my refrigerator. That also means you get to see how awfully unorganized my refrigerator is. After all, cooking is kind of my job, and the kitchen is really my second office. You’d think I would have a perfectly organized refrigerator, right?
Wrong. [Insert horror movie theme music here]
But that’s about to change. This week I dove into all of the information I could find about how to organize your refrigerator. Which means I searched Google and Pinterest for ideas. It turns out there is a lot of conflicting information out there on how to organize your fridge. Some of the conflicting advice even resides on the same site.
However, there are a couple of common themes I found when searching this topic. It starts with why.
Why organize your refrigerator?
1. Food Safety
This really should be your first priority when deciding to organize your fridge. After all, if you get food poisoning;and die, you won’t really need an organized refrigerator. The main reason you even own a refrigerator is to slow the bacteria growth of foods by keeping them cold. Bacteria can’t multiply as quickly when they’re cold.
2.Find what you need, when you need it
When was the last time you opened your fridge and thought, “I know I just bought some pickled herring! Where is it?” Yesterday? Yeah, me too. If you can’t find something, you buy another one, just to clean out your fridge and find it languishing in the back of the fridge. Which leads us to the next point…
3. Reduce waste, save money
When foods spoil, you throw them out (hopefully) and really, that’s just like throwing money straight into the garbage can. Really. Can you imagine throwing 5 bucks straight into the garbage? Me neither. But that’s what you do every time you throw out the lettuce that has somehow morphed into a brown puddle in the bottom of your fridge. And that’s what I’m about to do.
Organizing the Fridge: Step By Step
Step 1: Empty the fridge
First, I completely emptied my refrigerator. You could choose to go shelf-by-shelf if you wanted to, but I decided to empty the whole thing out so I could adjust the shelves easily.
If you think it may take you a while before you get your food sorted and back inside the fridge, it’s a good idea to put highly perishable items in a cooler while you work.
Step 2: Clean the shelves and drawers
I opted to completely remove each shelf and drawer and each one in hot soapy water. Then, I wiped the walls and other surfaces down until they were sparkling clean. Some sites recommended lining your shelves with contact paper or with plastic wrap, but I didn’t prefer the look myself.
Step 3: Throw away old & expired foods
This one’s kind of a given, and it was my least favorite part of cleaning out my fridge. I had a LOT of leftovers that had morphed into something completely alien, and not surprisingly, a lot of dirty mason jars and other containers. And smells. Lots of unpleasant smells.
I’ll spare you a photo on this step. You’re welcome.
Step 4: Stock and organize
Here’s where it’s a good idea to plan ahead. I decided to rearrange my shelves in order to place items where they “should” go for optimum temperature. For example:
- Milk and other dairy products fare best on the bottom shelf in the back, where temps are the coldest. I did choose to store my small containers of yogurt on the top shelf though; we eat them relatively quickly.
- Raw meats should go on the bottom shelf on a tray (so juices don’t drip on ready-to-eat foods), and eggs do well on the top shelf.
- Eggs should stay in their original containers, and the top shelf is a good place for them. If you have chickens that free range and give you eggs like I do, you can even leave them on the counter in a bowl. (I guess that’s one habit I just can’t break!)
- Fruits and vegetables should be stored in separate drawers: Fruits prefer low humidity, and veggies like high humidity. My fridge comes with humidity adjustments for the drawers.
- Sauces and condiments can be stored on the doors. Because most sauces and condiments contain vinegar or are highly acidic, they’re safe for the warmer door temps.
- Drinks and leftovers can be stored on the middle shelves… Otherwise known as the beer shelf in my fridge.
There are lots of infographics on Pinterest that illustrate how to organize your fridge… so feel free to choose the one that suits your refrigerator arrangement.
I actually chose to follow this simple video from marthastewart.com because the refrigerator shown resembled the layout of my refrigerator:
And voila! Here’s my clean and organized fridge:
Maintaining an Organized Refrigerator
Unsurprisingly, one of the secrets to a glamorously clean and organized refrigerator is meal planning. Basically, figure out what you’re going to eat for the week, make a shopping list, and buy only what you need for the week. (I’m going to have to work on that.)
Meal Planning Services
There are some meal planning services out there that can help you plan your meals, taking a bit of the tedium out of the planning process. Here are a few of the services I found, in no particular order.
CookSmarts– 3 free meal plans, then $6-$8 per month (depending on whether you opt for yearly payment or monthly payment)
eMeals – $14/month with 14-day free trial
NoMoreToGo – $7/month with 14-day free trial
Meal Planning Mobile Apps
Also, lots of apps can be found that you can access right from your phone or tablet. Lifehacker has a pretty good roundup of apps in this post:
Join Me in the 2015 Foodie Challenge
Want to make 2015 a year of learning and trying new food-related adventures? Join me each week as I check one item off the 2015 Foodie Challenge List, writing about them once a week throughout the year.
Have you organized your refrigerator? Use hashtag #2015FC and tweet me a photo of your organized fridge! I wanna see!
Next Week’s Adventure: Make a Recipe from Your Pinterest Recipe Boards