You opened your fridge to pull out sandwich fixings, only to find that your refrigerator is packed, and you can't find anything. Sounds like it's time to clean out and organize!
I know, it's not all that high on your list of favorite things to do - especially in the middle of a gorgeous summer. But and organized refrigerator will save you time and keep your family safer in the end.
To begin, toss any leftovers that are too old. That begs the question, how old is too old? The short answer is it depends. If it's something that is higher in acidity - like tomato-based foods - can keep up to 7 days. Likewise, food that have higher sugar content are usually good for a week. But foods that have higher water content, like cooked meats and vegetables may only be good for three days. Why? It all comes down to how quickly bacteria can grow. Acidic foods will discourage bacteria growth, so they can be kept a bit longer.
Then, throw out food that's past its expiration date, or that's moldy, slimy, or smelly. You know what I mean - this isn't rocket science. Be sure to look at your condiments. We tend to keep these items way longer than we should.
Okay - now that you've gotten rid of the gross stuff, take everything else out and clean! I know it's not going to happen for most people, but you should be cleaning your refrigerator at least once a month. That gives you the chance to clean out and re-organize on a routine basis.
Now, on to organizing. What goes where? Let's start with the door. Because the door of your refrigerator is the warmest, generally, you can keep water bottles, sodas and condiments here. You really don't want to store actual food in the door as it won't last as long here.
Moving to the inside, the top of the refrigerator is warmer than the bottom, so that will play into where you put food. Keep things like leftovers and ready-to-eat foods up here. You should avoid putting raw meat on the top shelves - it's the worst place for it. Not only is it too warm, but any thing that drips down will contaminate other food.
Instead, keep raw meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. If you have fruit and vegetable drawers below the bottom shelf, consider keeping the meat in a plastic bin that will catch any drips so that don't contaminate the food in the drawers.
Lastly, most refrigerators have drawers specifically for produce. These usually have humidity settings that are ideal for fruits and veggies - and sometimes special drawers for deli items. Use the drawers for what they were made for. Again, if you store raw meat on the shelf above the drawers, make sure you contain the drips.
Looking for some other tips? Here you go. Label your leftovers with painter's tape or masking tape with the date. This will ensure you always know just how old the food you're about to eat is.
Keep like foods together. Decide exactly where your ready-to-eat items are going and put them all together, rather than shoving them wherever they fit. If you need to, buy clear bins and label them with what goes in there.
Don't forget about the wall space in your refrigerator. You might be able to store small snack items in containers that suction cup to the side. This makes the food easy for you or your children to find plus it frees up space for other items.
Finally, think about using drawer dividers in your vegetable drawers. This is helpful if your produce get jumbled together and difficult to dig through.
Overall, keeping your refrigerator organized comes down to designating a place for things to go and routinely cleaning out old food and leftovers. Go ahead, put a reminder on your calendar today so you can tackle this area and make your refrigerator-raiding more efficient.
Jennifer Raschig loves to share thoughts on creating restful spaces and presenting your best self every day.