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How to Organize the Refrigerator

Learn how to organize your refrigerator like a pro with these simple tips so it’s neat and tidy while staying within your budget.

Organized Refrigerator, Open to Show Items Inside

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!

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

Grab our free organizing guide, 7 Simple Starting Points!

This quick guide gives you 7 simple, practical ways to begin to tackle an overwhelming organizing project. (And once you get started, the momentum will help you keep going until it’s complete!)

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As I am taking everything out, I look carefully at expiration dates and toss whatever is out of date.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.

Sort

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.

Clean

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.

Restock

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

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How Do I Organize My Refrigerator Like a Pro?

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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…

White kitchen with large island

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.

an opened French door refrigerator that has been organized with bins

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.

Love the idea of using labels in the refrigerator? Follow this tutorial where I labeled pantry items and containers under the sink using my Silhouette cutting machine and vinyl.

organized shelves of a refrigerator

Let’s take a look at some of the systems we have set up!

Snack Organization

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.

snacks in a refrigerator organized with clear bins

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.

canned drinks in a small drawer in the refrigerator

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.

the top, middle, and bottom shelves of an organized fridge

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

an opened drawer with meat and cheese

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…

the French door refrigerator opened showing the condiments being organized

…and butter and seasonings on the other side.

the other side of the fridge door with butter, lemon juice, and cheese

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!

Freezer Organization

top view of the organized freezer drawer with boxed meals

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.

the bottom of the freezer drawer with frozen meat

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.

If you are interested, you can watch our full kitchen organization tour. I declutter and reorganize every nook and cranny, including the junk drawer!

FRIDGE STORAGE WE LOVE

Refrigerator Organization: Frequently Asked Questions

Organizing doesn’t have to be expensive– it just needs to be functional for your family! Before I buy anything new to organize a space, I always shop my house for bins or containers that are not being used and try to make those work first.

I also try to repurpose items when possible. Old Tupperware containers that may be missing lids or glass or plastic containers (like jelly jars or butter tubs) can be used to corral snacks and small prepackaged items.

If you’re on a budget, places like The Dollar Tree or Target’s Dollar Spot often carry small, inexpensive bins and baskets that are perfect for the fridge.

Pretty, expensive bins are not a prerequisite for an organized fridge! In fact, many times bins are a hindrance because they diminish the flexibility of the space in the refrigerator.

To organize without bins, we can simply create zones, grouping foods together by category, and use items’ original packaging to contain them.

Adjusting the height of the shelves in the refrigerator can also help maximize space and makes sorting food a little easier.

If this post was helpful for you, you can save it by pinning the image below so you can find it easily later:

The Best Way to Organize a Refrigerator

[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!

Abby Lawson, Just a Girl and Her Blog

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

22 Comments

  1. Amy Greene says:

    Your refrigerator looks beautiful! I don’t know that mine will ever be that organized LOL – but we do have a system that works for us, and I learned years ago to try to keep things together in the fridge so everyone knew where to look. I think it makes things much easier! Thanks for sharing the great post and pics!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Yes! The key is finding the system that works for your family’s needs! Glad you’ve found a great one! Hope you’re having an awesome week, Amy! <3

      ~Abby =)

  2. Your refrigerator is beautifully organized! I love your ideas. I’m going to take a little trip to Target tomorrow to check out the clear bins. Happy 4th of July, Abby!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Debbie! Hope you had a great 4th! We sure did here! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  3. Cory @ Growing Dollars from Cents says:

    My fridge is a complete mess!

    I know I need to take the time to organize it from scratch but finding the time is the issue…and I’m lazy haha.

    I like the system you have. maybe I could use some of your tips to make my fridge look organized for a change.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, Cory! The fridge can be tricky to keep organized for sure! Happy organizing! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  4. Ellen from Ask Away Blog says:

    OMG I freakin love this post! It’s like my dream fridge interior haha! Nicely done, girl!
    XO Ellen from Ask Away
    http://www.askawayblog.com

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Ellen! Hope you’re having an awesome week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. So inspirational, I need to get my fridge organized asap! Thanks for the ideas.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, Karen! Happy Friday! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  6. Jacquelyn says:

    We keep our bread in the refrigerator as well.

    Our fridge is currently a disaster that desperately needs cleaned out and organized, but my problem has been a combination of lack of time and battling illness. Maybe this weekend!

    While our fridge could never look at gorgeous as yours (simply because ours is an old, creepy fridge that came with the house we are renting), this is just the inspiration I needed to tackle this eye-sore. Thank you! 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Jacquelyn! Hope you feel better soon! <3

      ~Abby =)

  7. April@LoveOurRealLife says:

    How inspiring! I am going to clean out my refrigerator right now…really!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, April! Hope your kitchen organizing went well! 🙂 Have an awesome week!

      ~Abby =)

  8. MamaMurrey says:

    Refrigerator organization changed for me when I did start labeling. I made labels about 2 x 3 inches out of scrapbook paper, wrote on them with marker, and taped them on with clear packing tape. My categories don’t change so I don’t need something that’s erasable. I label each drawer, the left and right side of each shelf, and each bin and the left and right side of the shelves on the door.

    In the above-fridge freezer, I labeled clear plastic shoe boxes with the same kind of labels. They work well to stand up packages of meat, frozen vegetables, and shredded cheese in them. I also labeled the left and right side of each shelf in the door.

    Now it takes no mental energy to know in exactly what part of the fridge or freezer an item needs to go.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      You know me… I LOVE LABELS! This sounds like a great system. Thanks so much for sharing! Have a great week!

      ~Abby =)

  9. I love my double door fridge too – best design ever!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      It seriously is! I LOVE it! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  10. So neat and tidy! I love it! I may have to find me some clear bins too!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I love them! 🙂 Thanks, Amanda! Have a great evening!

      ~Abby =)

  11. Abbey, we are looking at getting a new fridge. Researching models has just about driven me nuts. So I am going to actual word of mouth users. Do you like this fridge? Are there any major issues or complaints with it that you have experienced? Would love to hear any feedback, if you are able to comment. Thanks, by the way I absolutely love your organization in your fridge.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Jody! We have had this fridge for about a year now, and I can honestly say I have no complaints. I love all of the built in storage it has and we have always been able to fit all of our items easily. It does have you replace a filter every 6 months, which is about $45, but I think every fridge with an ice maker/water feature would have something similar. Best of luck with your search!

      ~Abby =)

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