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How to Organize Your Refrigerator

Updated March 11, 2022

Organize your refrigerator to work for you. Keep things tidy and prevent over shopping.

 fridge pantry detail

COVID-19 has put food storage and preservation at the top of many families' minds. If you are stocking up on food, organization is more important than ever.

The Benefits of Organizing Your Refrigerator

Not only can organization provide you with more room for your food, it can also prevent some foodborne illnesses. Cross-contamination is the primary safety risk from improper food placement.

What is Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination is defined as the transfer of bacteria 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 a good way to reduce the chances of this happening.

Refrigerator Organization Tips

What to Do Before Organizing Your Refrigerator

Start by cleaning and disinfecting your refrigerator.

  • Wash your hands before (and after) you organize. If you are putting any food on countertops while reorganizing, clean those areas before and after as well.
  • 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.

Now that your refrigerator is clean, 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.

Bins are your friend. 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.

  • Top shelf: 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 like ketchup, hot sauce, or mustard. Eggs and milk should be placed in a colder part of the refrigerator.
  • Drawers: If you only have two drawers, we recommend keeping one exclusively for veggies and the other is solely for raw meat.
  • 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.
  • Frequently used items: If there are foods you know your family consumes often, place those items front and center so they are easy to get to.
  • Check the expiration dates and make a “Use Me First" Box for items that are close to expiration.

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.

Unique refrigerator features like LG's door-in-door storage and adjustable shelving other brands provide can make storage even easier.

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.

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

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 since 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 is ultimately up to us to keep our refrigerator organized.

In Need of a New Refrigerator?

We're here to help. Howard’s has been in business for over 75 years and is Southern California’s largest and most trusted appliance retailer. We offer free next-day delivery on purchases over $399 within qualified zip codes scheduled before 5 p.m. in the Southern California area.

To make things easier for our customers, we also offer online chat, phone consultations, and online ordering. Shop one of our 14 locations or browse our selection online at

Looking to Finance?

Extend your budget and apply today for special promotional financing. Howard’s can work with you to find flexible financing and you can receive 18 months of no interest. Learn more about our financing options online today or contact us for more details.

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