Learn how to organize your refrigerator like a pro with these simple tips so it’s neat and tidy while staying within your budget.
Over the past few weeks I have been tackling some of the organization trouble spots in our kitchen! I started out with our pantry, then last week I straightened out the area under the kitchen sink, and today I wanted to take on an area that can easily turn into a black hole of clutter and mess: the refrigerator!
Refrigerator organization can be tough because not only does everyone have a different size and shape of fridge, but dietary needs are different, food preferences are different, shopping habits are different, etc.
I’m going to share what strategies are working for us right now– some of the ideas may work for you and others may not, and that’s okay! The best organization system will be the one that meets your family’s needs!
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Organizing the Refrigerator Step by Step
Before I show you how I organized our refrigerator, I wanted to quickly run through the steps I took to get it that way. It’s not complicated, but going through each of these steps will help to streamline the process and leave you with a refrigerator that is clean and organized!
Take Everything Out
I like to start with a clean slate! It will be so much easier to begin the organizing process once we know what we are working with. I store everything in coolers while I’m working so that the food doesn’t go bad.
Toss Expired Foods
As I am taking everything out, I look carefully at expiration dates and toss whatever is out of date. This helps to remove a lot of clutter and ensures that everything in the fridge is safe to eat.
Once I have only the items that I plan to keep, I divide the groceries into groups (cooked foods, condiments, dairy, snacks, meat, fruits, and vegetables). This helps me see where each category will fit best within the refrigerator and what bins or dividers I may need to hold things.
Now is the perfect opportunity to make the fridge clean and sparkly. I like to take one shelf out at a time since it can be a little cumbersome (especially in small kitchens) to clean everything at once. After everything has dried, I place all the shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator.
When I’m ready to fill up the fridge again, I add the meats back in first because I don’t want those sitting out any longer than they have to. The fruits and veggies go back into their designated drawers. Then I fill in the top and middle shelf with our drinks, snacks, leftovers, breads, etc. I finish the organizing process by adding the condiments back into the doors.
Organize the Refrigerator: Watch the Video
How Do I Organize My Refrigerator Like a Pro?
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Now that we’ve covered the refrigerator organizing process, let’s take a little tour! Here’s how we restocked our fridge after we finished cleaning and decluttering…
We are not really a “stockpile” family at all. I have tried it in the past, and I felt like I would end up forgetting what we had and we ended up wasting more food that way. So for us, it works to shop once every 10 days to two weeks or so, and just keep that amount of food in the house.
Something that you’ll notice that I do differently in the refrigerator than in some of my other spaces is that I don’t label. For some reason, labels in the fridge have felt like visual clutter to me and hindered flexibility, so while I’m usually a “label all the things” type of girl, I skip them in the fridge.
Let’s take a look at some of the systems we have set up!
First, I have a shelf that is mostly the boys’ domain. I try to keep some quick and easy snack items right up front and within their reach so they can help themselves.
We have two types of cheese sticks, and I actually have them in pickle jars! I was about to toss the jars when I realized that they were the perfect size for the cheese sticks, so I cleaned them up, removed the label, and I had some free storage!
I also have a small, clear bin that is currently holding apple slices. Sometimes it will be yogurt or another snack that the boys can easily grab for themselves. Another clear bin holds some little drink pouches– it is actually the perfect size to hold exactly one box full of the pouches, and it takes up less space than the box does.
The grown ups have space for their drinks too! There is one drawer in the fridge that is the perfect size for cans, so we always have it stocked with LaCroix, which is Donnie’s favorite.
I have a little tray for my drink of choice, which is currently Cherry Coke Zero, and I bumped up one of the shelves so we could fit our milk toward the back of the refrigerator to keep it colder than it would be in the door.
Since we then just had a narrow spot between the top shelf and the top of the fridge, it was the perfect place to slide our bread and bagels. I know not everyone likes to keep bread in the fridge, but we don’t eat a ton of it and it lasts longer in here. I’ve been storing ours in the fridge for about 10 years now, and it has worked well for us, so I’m not going to mess with a good system!
Tips for Storing Pre-Cooked Foods
Cooked meat, leftovers, and snacks should be kept on the top or middle shelf. This helps to see what we have available (Yay for reducing food waste!), but this is also a warmer zone. We need to worry less about temperature in terms of bacteria growth (compared to raw foods) with these items because they are already cooked.
Organizing Lunch Meat and Cheese
I love that this fridge has a nice big deli drawer. But it was driving me a little crazy because everything was just floating around in there and I always felt like things were getting lost. Then I stumbled upon these clear trays…
I may have done a little happy dance when I realized that they happened to be a perfect fit! We have cheeses on one side and meats on the other. There’s even a little “wall” built into the acrylic trays. I can separate shredded cheese from sliced and lunch meat from the hot dogs/pepperoni.
Tips for Storing Meat Safely
We like to keep meat and poultry wrapped separately just in case it leaks. Keeping meats toward the bottom of the fridge prevents cross-contamination as well. When storing a variety of meats in one area, fish should be on top, then red meat, then chicken and poultry on the bottom. This rule also applies to freezer organization.
French Door Refrigerator Organization
Finally, our condiments are stored in the shelves on the door. I have them divided up by type– sandwich condiments, salad dressings, and sauces on one side…
…and butter and seasonings on the other side.
Tips for Storing Condiments
The doors of the fridge have small compartments and are easy to see, so it makes the most sense to store condiments there, but not only because of their size. In addition, these items contain the most preservatives, so they are the least likely to spoil, and the doors are the warmest area of a fridge.
When we first decided on the French door style of refrigerator, I was most nervous about the freezer. I pictured it being this deep pit with all of our stuff thrown in there kind of randomly. BUT we were able to find one that had some good organization systems already built in. And I didn’t even have to add any bins of my own!
The top part of the drawer holds boxed food. Breakfast items are on one side and the lunch or dinner-type food is on the other side. The little slot in the middle is perfect for ice packs.
Down below are the meats, with pork on one side, and then two stacks on the other side– one for chicken and one for beef. We keep frozen veggies in the middle section. And finally there is a slot specifically created to hold a pizza box. If your freezer isn’t already divided up like ours was, you could easily pop a few bins inside to separate the different types of food.
Wrapping Up Refrigerator Organization
So that’s our little refrigerator tour! If you’re working with a smaller refrigerator space, I wrote all about how we organized the small fridge in our last house in this post.
FRIDGE STORAGE WE LOVE
Refrigerator Organization: Frequently Asked Questions
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[Psssttt… You can also find our best tips and tricks for organizing every single room of the house in this post!]
If you have any great systems for organizing your refrigerator or freezer, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.