Organizing a refrigerator (It matters what goes where!)

May 8, 2021

I have some great tips for you this week, but first I want to wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who is mothering! Maybe you’re a new mom, or a mom of a toddler or teen, or maybe you have a home full of littles. Perhaps you’re a grandma providing home base for both adult kids and grands. Maybe you’re a teacher mothering all day at school or daycare, or maybe you’re part of a community who mothers all the kids in sight! Whatever form your mothering takes these days, please celebrate yourself and your oh-so-important nurturing role!

Now, without so much as a transition sentence, we’re on to refrigerator storage!

Once upon a time, my refrigerator was stored something like this: milk on the door, produce thrown haphazardly in the produce drawers, and the rest of my food wherever I could find room for it! But it turned out my food was suffering in quality and longevity, simply because of where in my fridge it was being stored! Does your fridge organization system look like mine used to? No need to despair, dear reader. With a few tips you can easily help your refrigerated food keep longer and stay fresher, more nutritious, and better tasting! Here’s how.

Where to keep what in the refrigerator

On the door

The door is the warmest place in your refrigerator. It’s also subject to a lot of temperature fluctuations as you open and shut it. For this reason, the fridge door is a poor place for items like milk that can spoil easily. (Even if it doesn’t spoil, it may loose nutrients and/or taste less fresh.) For the fridge door, I stick to long-lasting items that won’t be affected by regular fluctuations in temp. (Think items you’d leave on the counter for a bit without worry.) Here are some examples of items that do well on a fridge door:

  • Condiments like catsup and mustard
  • Bottled water, soda, and packaged juices
  • Cooking oil

In the drawers

My fridge has a meat/deli drawer (ideal for cheese and processed meats) and both high- and low-humidity crisper drawers (perfect for produce). The high humidity drawer is where I put my veggies that have a tendency to wilt, like broccoli and leafy greens. I keep fruits and skinned veggies in the low-humidity drawer, as they tend to prefer a dryer environment. Regardless of the specific drawers your fridge offers, here are the items you should fill them with:

  • Cheese
  • Processed meats
  • Produce (keep in mind some fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be stored together, and others shouldn’t be stored in the fridge at all! Here’s a post on general produce storage (including a handy chart of items to store separately). You can also use the search feature of the site to find a plethora of posts on specific fruits and vegetables!

Top shelves

shelves of a fridge filled with colorful storage containers and various types of produce

The upper shelves of your refrigerator provide a more temperature-stable (but also warmer) spot than the lower shelves. This makes the top shelves a great location for delicate foods that are easily damaged by too much moisture, cold, or fluctuations in temperature, and those that do fine at a higher temp. Some foods that do well at the top of your fridge include:

Middle & bottom shelves

The middle and lower shelves of your fridge typically provide the coldest locations in the fridge. This is the spot to keep most of your dairy and eggs, including:

  • Milk (Keep this in the coldest spot — likely the back of the middle shelf.)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt (Yogurt does okay on the top shelves, too, because it’s fermented.)
  • Raw meats (on trays so drippings don’t get on other foods)

Now, a challenge! Take a look in your refrigerator and notice what’s where. Are you already following most of the recommendations above? How much rearranging does your fridge need to be optimally organized? Are there any quick fixes you can make now to help your food last longer and stay fresher? If you’re like me, you’ve probably already started moving things around in your fridge, determined to get everything in its ideal spot. One word of caution: the best place for any item in your fridge is where you’ll find and use it. If you find yourself wasting food because you can’t find it, moving it to a more front-and-center place (even if that’s not technically the “correct” spot for it) is worth doing.

Tell us, how is your fridge organized? Did you learn anything from this post that you’re ready to implement?

Take good care,

Headshot photo of Karen Mary with her signature in blue ink to the right

P.S. You can access all of the C2K weekly letters in the Newsletter section of the blog! Maybe there’s a topic you want to revisit or a link you want to find. Or maybe you just recently joined us and would like to catch up and/or sign up!

For the latest posts, be sure to stop by the blog every Tuesday — next week we’ll be learning how to clean and care for our ovens and stoves! In the meantime, here are some posts you might want to visit this week:

Pomegranates — Choosing, storing, and using pomegranates (new post!)

How to plant and care for knockout roses

De-cluttering — Thoughts on not cluttering in the first place

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