Organizing Your Refrigerator

I don’t know what percentage of New Year’s resolutions involve something like “getting organized” or “being better organized” but I bet it’s right up there with losing weight and getting out of debt.

There’s a reason why “getting organized” makes it to the top ten of New Year’s resolutions. Most people are too busy to take time to organize. The new year seems like a good time to clean out and make a fresh start. But a lot of us just don’t know how to get started organizing.

Let’s start with the refrigerator. Does yours look like a science experiment? Does anyone in your house stand in front of the refrigerator, holding the door open, complaining that there is nothing to eat? Do you go to the grocery store and purchase jam, only to find that you already had two newly opened jars, but they were so hidden behind other things you couldn’t find them?

So if you would like to have more space in the fridge, make mealtime prep easier, and keep your leftovers from spoiling so fast, here are some tips from experts to help you organize your fridge.

First, it’s important to know which zones in your refrigerator do what. Your refrigerator should be between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Any less and you’ll have frozen crudités; any higher and your food will spoil. However, the refrigerator temperature is not the same throughout the big box. Different parts of the refrigerator were designed to be colder than others. And just so you know, holding the door open too long because you can’t find anything to eat, raises the internal temperature, too. Knowing which sections of your refrigerator is appropriate for each type of food, you can keep food longer and find what you need faster.

Ironically, the worst place to keep butter is in the butter compartment on the door. The shelves on the door are the warmest place in the refrigerator. The bottom interior shelf should hold your butter, cheese, and other dairy products.

And if your refrigerator has one of those sections on the door for eggs that requires you to take the eggs out of the store carton? Don’t use it. For one thing, it wastes time taking the eggs out. For another, eggs are best left in the foam cartons so you can see the expiration date. And eggs stay colder on the bottom shelf along with your dairy products, too.

The meat drawer is designed to be the coldest area of your refrigerator and is the best section to store meat. When your meat is prepackaged, just store it in their original packaging until you are ready to cook it. This reduces the risk of contamination because of the package being handled by shelvers and other shoppers. If the package is dripping, you can wrap it in foil or a zip lock bag to avoid making a mess in the meat drawer.

Jams, jellies, salad dressings, condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce and mustard, soda, and beer can be stored in the shelves on the door. These items aren’t as easily spoiled in warmer temperatures. Plus, you can easily see if you need to buy more jam on your next shopping trip.

The crisper drawer is the most humid area of the fridge and is designed for your produce. The humidity is so produce items like celery stalks won’t wilt quickly. Apples, though, should be stored in a paper bag.

Now that you know where to put everything in the fridge, it’s time to keep it organized. These five tricks can help you free up space and keep the food fresh longer. And that’s going to save you time and money at the store.

Quick and tight. Put away your leftover food as soon as possible. The quicker it is refrigerated, the less chance there is for bacteria to grow. And using a tightly sealing container ensures that bacteria doesn’t have any air to use, either.

Let it cool. Don’t put your vegetable soup straight from the stove into the refrigerator. Putting warm foods in the refrigerator raises it’s interior temperature. Instead, let foods cool at room temperature for at least half an hour before storing.

Toss it. Have a regular day when you will throw out your unused, out-of-date, or spoiled food. Some people do this on garbage day. I do it right before I grocery shop. That way, I can add last minute items to my list, and I can put the food away more easily in a clean fridge.

Clean as you go. There’s no reason to have a whole Saturday morning designated as “fridge cleaning time”. If you notice a spill, wipe it up with a wet cloth and a bit of antibacterial cleaning solution. Wipe off condiment jars before storing. Make sure the bottom of leftover containers have been wiped off before putting on a shelf.

Learn about life expectancy. If you aren’t sure when eggs are no longer fit to eat, or how long ketchup can be used, or when you should throw out that cheese, look to an expert. There are some websites devoted to shelf life expectancy. Hormel has this one.

Now that your fridge is clean and organized, time to start that diet, right?

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