Three Ideas for Better Fridge Organization

June 15, 2020

Follow these fridge organization tips from Howard's before you overshop and overfill your refrigerator. Learn how to keep your fridge tidy and efficient.

 fridge pantry detail

COVID-19 has put food storage and preservation at the top of many families' minds. And fridge organization is an overlooked aspect of food optimization and efficient living.

If you're like most people, you're used to putting groceries wherever they best fit. This system, while convenient, isn't the approach to efficient use of space and food. Not to mention, depending on your fridge organization, or lack thereof, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk for foodborne illness.

Cross-contamination is the primary safety risk from improper food placement. Cross-contamination is defined as the transfer of bacteria or other microorganisms from one substance to another - in this case, from something onto your food. It can happen at any stage of food production, from planting, to harvest, to the table and any step in between. Maintaining proper fridge organization is your way of minimizing this risk.

On top of that, there's nothing as pleasant as a well-stocked and well-organized refrigerator. You'll let less food go to waste, spend less time cleaning, and keep your mind at ease.

Here are our fridge organization tips.

What to Do Before Organizing Your Refrigerator

First things first, before you start running through storage solutions and marking up expiration dates, you should clean and disinfect the entire inside of your refrigerator. Why put all the effort into organizing your refrigerator if it's all going into a dirty spot anyway?

  • Wash your hands before (and after) you do your fridge organization. If you're putting any food on countertops while reorganizing, clean those areas before and after.
  • Empty the refrigerator. If you're worried about your food going bad, work in sections from top to bottom. Use an ice-filled cooler to hold your perishable foods while you work.
  • Wipe down all surfaces, be sure to clean off dirt, stains, and spills. Use disinfecting wipes or spray and some paper towels to sanitize the surfaces of your fridge. Take out the drawers and soak them in some hot, soapy water before drying and returning them to the refrigerator.

It's best to have your fridge cleaned and ready for you to begin organizing your food storage. You'll be grateful your shelving is wiped down, and the refrigerator is smelling fresh. Now here are our tips for safe and efficient fridge organization.

1. Group Like Items Together

This might seem like a “well-duh” tip, but in your rush to store everything as quickly as possible you may place food wherever there's empty space. That's convenient at the moment, but it's what led you here in the first place.

During fridge organization, bins become your friend. Stock up on an assortment of shapes and sizes and give everything in your refrigerator a home. Think about how visually pleasing compartmentalized bins of sauces, produce, condiments, drinks, etc. would look in your fridge space. Use a tray to hold meats on the bottom shelf, and a labeled bin can hold all the condiments that don't fit the door shelves. Consider choosing cardboard boxes or containers with handles to make them easy to grab out of the refrigerator.

Here's a quick way to zone your fridge organization.

  • Upper shelves: Beverages, leftovers, and ready-to-eat foods (like cheese and deli meats).
  • Lower shelves: Raw ingredients slated for cooked meals.
  • Door: Only condiments belong in the door compartment. Eggs and milk should be placed in a colder part of the refrigerator.
  • Drawers: If you only have two drawers, one is exclusively for veggies, and the other is solely for raw meat. Store your meat in only two places, the freezer or the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. These two locations prevent drips from contaminating other food. If you want to be extra safe, place a tray on the lowest shelf under the meat. The tray helps contain any leaks and makes clean up a breeze in case of a spill.
  • Make a “Use Me First" Box for About-to-Expire Foods

Label one of those many bins “Use Me First" and fill it with items nearing their expiration date. Use this chart from to see how long your leftovers and other food will last. This is a great way to cut down on food waste.

2. Line Shelves and Bins with Paper Towels or Washable Refrigerator Mats

This simple trick will save you a lot of headaches in the long run, and if you have glass shelving, eliminates that sometimes jarring sound when shifting items around. Waterproof refrigerator mats also fight bacteria and lingering odors. Crisper drawers can be uncomfortable to clean. This trick keeps them cleaner for longer as the lining collects all the bits of fruit and produce that tend to fall off over time.

Replace them every two weeks or when you experience spills and drips. A big part of fridge organization is making maintenance easier. This tip will help you maintain an organized refrigerator for longer.

fridge pantry detail

3. Use your Crisper Drawer the Right way

All refrigerators have crisper drawers. Crisper drawers are often humidity and temperature controlled to keep certain foods fresh longer and cut back on food waste. There is an art to properly storing your food in the crisper, as some items need more humidity, and some need less.

  • Put anything that can rot in the low humidity drawer. This includes fruits and veggies that emit ethylene gas like apples, mangos, figs, and most fruits. A low humidity drawer allows ethylene gas to escape, which helps keep the fruits and vegetables from rotting prematurely.
  • Put things that wilt into the high-humidity drawer. This includes leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and herbs. The added moisture keeps the veggies crisp and will keep them fresh longer.

If you're unsure what to put into each drawer, this guide is a great resource for learning which drawer to keep certain foods in.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have a space-conscious side-by-side or a voluminous french door, proper fridge organization is not only visually appealing; it cuts down on food waste. It offers the peace of mind that comes with efficiency. Some refrigerators offer innovative designs like a door-in-door or compartmentalized dividers to make fridge organization more manageable, but it's ultimately up to us to keep our refrigerator looking the way we deserve, and the way that will make life a little bit easier.

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