Arrange food by ‘coldness zones’ and make everything easy to find. ‘Un-stuff’ your fridge.
‘Tis the season for big family feasts… and over-full refrigerators. In pursuit of ‘farm-to-table’ and fresh, organic produce – we preference foods which are stored in the fridge over those in the pantry. Refrigerators are getting stuffed. in fact, refrigerator organizing projects are said to have 1.3 M followers on Instagram. It seems a lot of people want to take control of their ice-box. Opening the fridge door to see ‘everything in its place’ and easy to grab is very satisfying. Here are some ideas to make your refrigerator more useful and your food more appealing.
A good first step is to take everything out of your refrigerator. Toss old food and out of date condiments. Wipe down the inside.
Replace your refrigerator deodorizer.
Your refrigerator has coldness and humidity ‘zones’ based on the likely temperature and humidity at different positions – drawers, shelves, and doors. Most fridges are coldest at the bottom, warmer in the upper sections and warmest on the shelves on the doors.
The top and middle shelves are the warmest. Use them for things least likely to spoil like filtered water and cooked food.
Put leftovers and perishable foods you want to eat soon on the most visible middle shelves so you will remember to use them first.
Milk, yogurt and eggs should all be stored in the ‘coldest’ section at the bottom of the refrigerator.
Your refrigerator drawers are probably labeled by ideal contents. Fruit, which you want to ripen slowly, should be in a low humidity drawer, a ‘crisper’. If you want it to ripen or you plan to eat it quickly, especially berries, store on a middle or top shelf. Leave fruit bags or containers open to keep them freshest.
Vegetables go in the high humidity drawers, labeled ‘vegetables’, in open bags or containers. For lettuce and cut vegetables which need to be eaten soon, store them on a middle or upper visible shelf. Wet vegetables are at greater risk for growing bacteria. Don’t wash whole vegetables before storing them and don’t store them in water.
Meat belongs in the coldest part of the fridge. Most of the time the bottom shelf in the back is the coldest section. Sometimes there is a low drawer labeled for meat. A benefit of storing meat on the bottom shelf is that you reduce the chance of meat juice escaping and contaminating other food.
Most fridges have a shallow, ‘meat and cheese’ drawer – not the coldest, as it is in the middle of the fridge. Cheese, deli meats and bacon can go in this drawer.
Doors are the warmest spaces in the refrigerator. Use them for drinks and condiments. Group these items for easy retrieval. Heavy drinks like milk and orange juice go on the lowest shelf, sweet condiments like jams and syrups go together on another door shelf and savory condiments with natural preservatives like salt and vinegar will be fine on the top shelf of the door. There is usually a butter compartment at the top of the door, it is fine to store it there even though it is a dairy product. Hint: doors are hiding places for expired foods. Clean them out occasionally.
The ideal temperature for the middle of the refrigerator is 37 degrees. In most fridges, this gives a colder temp at the bottom of about 35 degrees (still above freezing) and up to 38 degrees on the doors (still below the temperature where bacteria thrives). 2 Pack Refrigerator Freezer Thermometer Large Dial Thermometer. $7.99
Now that your refrigerator is clean and food is stored in the right zone, here are some storage tools which will give you convenient access to your food.
A lazy Susan can help avoid the problem of food ‘hiding in the back’. They come in many diameters – measure your shelf. Get one with a small lip to catch spills – and make sure that it is easy to wash.
Containers help organize similar foods for easy access. They reduce the times you must remove three items in order to retrieve the one at the bottom of the pile. Here are some good ones. Bins help organize similar items like mustard, mayo and ketchup for easy retrieval.
I prefer glass food containers to plastic, no matter how often they claim to be BPA free. These rectangular glass containers maximize storage by stacking and fitting together neatly on a shelf. The Smart Seal Leakproof lids are easy to use.
Once you transfer food into storage containers, label it to keep track of its freshness. Use removable ‘painting tape’ to label leftovers in containers with dates to keep track of freshness.
Header image credit: https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/thermador-refrigerator/