How to Organize a Fridge to Make It More Functional

Take one day to organize your fridge using these genius hacks and save yourself time (and stress) the rest of the year.

The refrigerator is the most popular home appliance, and between whipping up a quick breakfast on your way out the door and hitting the kitchen for a late-night snack, you're in and out of it several times a day. With so much traffic on a daily basis, the inside of your fridge can quickly become a mess. You know the signs: expired food lurking in the back, shelves crammed with seldom-used condiments, and containers of leftovers stacked so high you can't see past them. Luckily, learning how to organize your fridge can be a simple process.

Taking just an hour or two to sort out its contents can help guard against food waste and unpleasant smells while making meal prep much more efficient. Take your kitchen organization to a new level with these tips on how to organize a fridge.

a refrigerator full of food with both doors open
AndreyPopov / Getty

Start by Choosing a Section

Figuring out how to organize the fridge can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Start small and tackle one section at a time. Clear all items from your chosen area and store them temporarily in a cooler. Check the expiration date on each item and dispose of anything that has expired. To save space when you restock, remove products from their packaging when possible, then mark the expiration date on individual items using a permanent marker. Once the fridge section is empty, wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth. To get rid of foul fridge smells, add a DIY refrigerator deodorizer such as a jar of baking soda or coffee.

And don't forget that your refrigerator shelves are adjustable! Switch up the shelf heights as needed to better accommodate different sized items. You might be surprised at how much new space you can create by adjusting them.

fridge filled with food
Cameron Sadeghpour

Organize the Upper Shelves

Each zone of your refrigerator has a different temperature, though the exact degree will depend on how much food is inside and how often you open the door.

Take a top-to-bottom approach to refrigerator organization. Since this is usually the coldest area of the fridge, the upper shelves should be designated for drinks, dairy products, leftovers, and ready-to-eat foods. It's best to keep milk on an upper shelf rather than the door, for example, so it stays at a more consistent temperature. To avoid eating food that's past its prime, label leftovers containers with an expiration date before placing them in the refrigerator. According to the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, a general rule is to throw out any cooked leftovers after 4 days.

As you refill the fridge, group foods by type, using clear bins, baskets, and other containers to corral similar items. This ensures everything remains properly stored in a space-efficient fashion. If you like your wine chilled, consider using a wine rack to organize bottles.

Arrange the Lower Shelves

As you begin stocking the lower shelves, start with the largest items first and group foods by type. Visibility is key to good fridge organization, so it's best to use clear containers that allow you to see the contents. Consider adding a Lazy Susan turntable on one refrigerator shelf. This gives you easy access to your favorite grab-and-go goodies, such as condiments, yogurt, or jars (no more fumbling around for containers in the back). To prevent cross-contamination with other foods, place any packages of raw meat on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator or inside the lowest crisper drawer if you have multiple.

Refrigerator with variety of vegetables
Cameron Sadeghpour

Stock the Crisper Drawers

Cover the bottoms of your fridge's crisper drawers with removable shelf liners or placemats for easy cleaning. Then, when an accidental spill or splatter occurs, you can simply remove the mat, wipe it down, and return it back to the shelf. Next, add small baskets or dividers to sort the drawer contents. Place the heaviest items, like citrus, on the bottom and layer more delicate items, like bell peppers, on top as needed. If you have a deli drawer, use that for processed meats and cheeses.

Adjust the humidity controls on your crisper drawers to best preserve fresh produce. Use low humidity for foods that rot easily, such as apples, grapes, peppers, and mushrooms. High humidity is best for foods that wilt in the fridge, like broccoli, carrots, and green onions.

spicy and savory condiment fridge organizer
Cameron Sadeghpour

Declutter Door Compartments

As the warmest area of the fridge, the door compartments should only be used for soft drinks, condiments, sauces, and butter. When you're organizing the fridge, place your most frequently used items closer to eye level and reserve the lower compartments for ingredients you don't reach for on a daily basis. Group similar items together and label each section with the category of products it contains. If your fridge door has a removable shelf, consider using it to store your family's favorite dressings and condiments. Then when dinner is ready, you can remove the shelf and bring all the bottles to the table at once.

Organize the Freezer

For the most efficient use of space, store leftover food in containers as close to the size of the food as possible, which will also help prevent freezer burn. Use a label maker or permanent marker to label leftovers and prepared foods with expiration dates as a reminder of when you need to use them up. As you restock the freezer, create zones and group items by category. Add clear plastic tubs and dividers to help organize shelves, and freeze items flat when possible to save more space. To prevent continuous melting and refreezing, avoid storing high-fat items like ice cream in the door.

Everything needs its own place in order to maintain an organized refrigerator and to ensure the freshness of your food. With these tips, fridge organization is a snap.

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