How is it that the people on television always have such organized refrigerators, full of delicious snacks? Well, probably because they’re not real and it is someone’s job to make it immaculate. However, you can do your part to make your own refrigerator much less of a disaster area. Here are some tricks to make your food last longer and your life a little easier.
Keep it Cool. Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is set to 40°F or lower to prevent foods from spoiling too quickly.
Understand Temperature Zones: The temperature on the inside of the fridge’s door fluctuates since it’s opened frequently. Don’t put perishables, like milk, here. It’s a good place for condiments. The coldest areas are the back and bottom of the fridge.
Keep the good-for-you stuff in sight: If you don’t have humidity-controlled drawers, those two bottom drawers can honestly be used for anything. Your waistline will thank you for this tip: Put the junk (e.g., soda) in those drawers and store the fresh produce on top of the drawers. That way, the junk is out of sight, out of mind, and you won’t forget about the healthy foods.
Maintain frequent fridge rotation: After each grocery trip, move the older items to the front of the fridge so you’ll think to use them before they spoil.
Contain the inevitable messes. We recommend purchasing plastic bins — like these from Bed Bath and Beyond — to better organize everything and to ensure that when something like raw meat spills, you just need to clean the bin rather than a whole section of the fridge. Buy many different sizes to accommodate all the different shapes and sizes of your food — Bed Bath and Beyond even has a shape that’s perfect for juice boxes. And while we love places like The Container Store and Bed Bath and Beyond, the truth is you can find similar plastic containers at your local dollar store. No need to spend your hard-earned cash on pricey plastic.
Another option is placemats — put them on top of the shelves so that when something drips, you can just remove the placemat and throw it in the wash. If you’re not using either of these options, make sure you store your raw meat and seafood on the bottom shelf so that foods below won’t be contaminated if something leaks.
>> Don't have the time to get organized? Read more here.
One word: Zoning: Organize foods in groups according to what you typically pull out of the fridge at the same time. For example, sandwich spreads and deli meats might go in one container or drawer. Or you might simply have a container for frequently used foods so it’s easy to access and remove. (Obvious tip: Put this container in front.)
Or you can organize based on similar products — a dairy drawer/container, for example, could contain your sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt and cheeses. A snack drawer is also helpful.
We like to put everything that’s not stackable (e.g., bags of lettuce) in one big bin. Try it: You have no idea how much neater your fridge will look. No more loose bags littering the shelves.
Label it: If you really want to go all out, use labels — like these from The Container Store — to identify foods and indicate when leftovers were initially stored.
Meet Lazy Susan: This simple, plastic turntable from Rubbermaid costs only $9.49 and is perfect for situating smaller items on the top shelf of your fridge. Need something in the back? No need to move anything! Just turn it. Use the Lazy Susan for whatever you deem helpful, whether it’s extra condiments that don’t fit on the fridge door or your most frequently used items.
Don’t overfill the fridge: Air needs to circulate inside the refrigerator to keep everything fresh, so don’t pack in too much.
Protect the fruit: Line the fruit drawer (or shelf or container) with bubble wrap to prevent bruising.
Don’t let things roll around: Meet the Fridge Monkey. This nifty gadget holds things like soda and wine bottles in place so they don’t roll around the fridge. Note: You should be storing wine on its side. If you store it vertically, the cork can dry out and let oxygen in, spoiling your vino.
>> Fridge full of soda? Read up on the dangers of drinking diet!
Get this Herb Savor: We hate when fresh herbs go bad before we have a chance to use all of them. This Herb Savor preserves the flavor and vitality of fresh herbs for up to three weeks. Plus, it’s a much neater-looking alternative to plastic bags.
Separate some produce from others: Fruits and vegetables ripen at different rates, and some produce emits more ethylene gas — a ripening agent — than others. (Read more about this here.) To keep your produce fresh for longer, keep the high-ethylene gas emitters separate from the rest of your produce. The Kitchn made a comprehensive list of produce categorized by their level of ethylene emissions — so we made it into a pretty chart. For those of you lucky enough to have humidity drawers, the non-ethylene gas emitters should go in the high-humidity drawer, the medium ethylene gas emitters should go in the medium humidity drawer, and the high-ethylene gas emitters should go in the low-humidity drawer.
Prevent odors: That open box of baking soda your mom always used to keep in the back of the fridge? It works. Invest in some Arm & Hammer.
Keep it clean: Clean out the fridge every week or two so spoiled food doesn’t hang around long enough to stink up the place.
This is a guest post submitted by HellaWella. HellaWella aims to take the stuffiness, the snobbery and the holier-than-thou out of the healthy lifestyle culture and bring it back down to earth. For tips, news and trends on healthy eating, fitness, general health, home and gardening, and eco-friendly living, follow HellaWella on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and sign up for the free daily e-newsletters at HellaWella.com.