A well-organized kitchen can not only make dinner prep go a lot faster, but it can also make small spaces feel larger. But even the most organized kitchen is useless if your fridge is a total disaster.
We're all guilty of stuffing food into every empty crevice and corner of the fridge, but organizing your refrigerator will save you time—and more importantly, money—as you won't find yourself wasting as much food month after month.
To get more out of your space, we asked a few organization pros for their advice on creating a storage system for every refrigerator. With these simple steps, you can reduce food waste and make it easier to find every ingredient come dinnertime.
Meet the Expert
- Liz Jenkins is the owner of A Fresh Space, a professional organization company.
- Michele Vig is the founder and chief organizer of Neat Little Nest.
- Laura Cattano is the owner and founder of Laura Cattano Organizational Design.
- Joanna Wirick is a professional organizer and founder of Joanna Organize.
Do a Fridge Deep Clean
"We recommend cleaning at least quarterly to toss things that are expired or got lost in the back, wash down shelves and drawers, and rezone and group as needed," Jenkins says.
If this is your first time tackling your fridge, make note of everything you have and focus on the items you use the most when setting up your system.
Pick a System You Can Maintain
There are many suggestions out there on where to put each food item in your fridge, but the best storage system is one that you will actually maintain. Consider your family's own habits and which foods you need to access the most, and start there. The items you use daily should be at eye level, making them easy to grab and put away.
Don't be afraid to customize your fridge to suit your needs. "So many refrigerator organization challenges can be solved by moving the height of the shelf," Michele Vig of Neat Little Nest says. "If you buy tall beverages, then give yourself enough height to store [them] properly along with placing other taller items on that shelf."
After all of your shelves have been deep cleaned, decide what kind of space you need for your family before putting them back in.
Add Plastic Bins
No matter where you decide to put food, you should always create "zones," according to Vig. This gives you the freedom to move them around as you decide on the best system for you. For example, meat should always be stored with other meat, while dairy should hang out with other dairy products.
A simple way to keep your zones in order is with fridge-safe plastic bins. "Use bins to divide the space up into zones," Vig says. "Bins help you put like items together and give a home to small items. The right bins can help you maximize your fridge space."
Utilize the Door Correctly
Your refrigerator door can sometimes turn into a catch-all for random odds and ends. Instead of considering it an afterthought, give your fridge door a bit of special attention. This is one area of your fridge where certain foods really shouldn't go, says Laura Cattano of Laura Cattano Organizational Design.
"Since the refrigerator door has the least consistent temperature, it's not good to have any kind of milk there," she says. "Instead, use the door's shelves to group condiments, dressings, sauces, jams, and spreads."
Focus on items that won't perish easily—avoid anything with dairy, meat, or produce.
Prep Your Groceries
If you eat a lot of fresh produce, consider doing all the prep work before you put it into the fridge. Joanna Wirick of Joanna Organize says the best way to keep an organized fridge is to always pre-dice and slice before you store.
"I’m all about helping your future self," she says. "Wash and cut those fruits and veggies. Make the healthy choices the easy ones, and pre-pack healthy snacks in reusable containers."
Making it easier to grab a handful of berries than a bag of chips will not only encourage your family to eat healthier but will also ensure you never waste fresh produce again.
Dedicate a Shelf to Leftovers
If your family is big on takeout, consider dedicating a whole shelf to leftovers. "Leftovers often get lost in the back of the fridge, but if you dedicate one shelf to leftovers then you will always know where you can find yesterday’s meals," Vig says.
Leftovers should be used within three to four days and should always be stored in a tight container to avoid smells penetrating into other foods in your fridge.