This time of year means a lot of cooking and baking which in turn means a lot of leftovers and a scramble for fridge storage space. Your fridge can easily turn into a leftover disaster zone, but a little pre-planning can ensure that all of your tasty dishes are enjoyed and that nothing goes to waste!
Photo credit: Kathleen Franklin
The best way to start organizing your fridge is to start with a clean slate. Clean out your fridge, ditching all expired food stuffs and cleaning the shelves and drawers. Once you’re working with a clean canvas, it’s time to put some basic organizational techniques to work.
Having the appropriate food storage containers is the key to staying organized, and they can also be an important part of keeping healthy. Ditch all of those plastic containers, and switch to glass. Glass is an impermeable substance, so you don’t have to worry about your foods staining your containers or any harmful chemicals leeching into your leftovers. Glass also has the added bonus of being completely transparent, so you can always clearly see what you have.
Keep a roll of masking tape and a sharpie or grease pen close to the fridge so you can label all of the containers that are going into the fridge. Make sure you include either the date it was prepared or the date it needs to be discarded. Leftovers are generally good for 3-4 days after their preparation, and keeping the older food towards the front of the fridge will help you to make sure everything gets eaten before it goes bad.
If you’re like me, you always seem to find that one container of leftovers in the way back of the fridge that is a month old and has sprouted a blanket of green fuzz. The crowded front of the fridge has kept it hidden, and now it’s a total waste. Avoid this by using a designated “Eat Me First” bin - put a big, bold label right on the front of the bin so everyone notices it! - and keep the almost-ready-to-be-thrown-away leftovers there.
If you’re always struggling to see what is behind the milk or orange juice, try using a lazy susan or turntable so you can easily spin it and see what you have. Given space limitations, this may not work in every fridge. But, if you have space, it’s a great way to keep on top of your inventory.
A few more tips to keep your fridge under control:
- Set aside one time every week, like Sunday breakfast, when you intentionally go through the fridge and discard any leftovers that have passed their expiration date.
- The door is the warmest spot in the fridge, so never store your milk or eggs there.
- Designate one drawer for produce only and another for meat only. If your drawers are stacked, use the bottom one for your meats.
- Using bins and baskets can also help keep things organized. A clear acrylic bin is easy to see through and easy to clean.
And, always remember … a full fridge is an efficient fridge!