by Staff Writer
A disorganized refrigerator can be stressful, frustrating and unsanitary. If your refrigerator isn't organized properly, then food, especially leftovers, can get pushed to the back and not found again until it is unrecognizable. Proper organization of these large appliances not only maximizes space, but it also assists in maintaining freshness. Plus, if you learn how to organize a refrigerator, you'll be able to maintain it in order to prevent future kitchen calamities.
Start with the doors. Condiments and bottled items should be placed in the refrigerator door. Throw out any condiments that don't have expiration dates: It's better to buy new ones than risk using outdated products. Any perishable items, such as milk or pre-made dough, should not be placed in the refrigerator door as the temperature there is slightly elevated.
Use the top shelf for easy access. Placing beverages on the top shelf will allow easy access to individual bottles, cans and jugs. Place larger items on one side, graduating to smaller items across the shelf.
Avoid cross-contamination. Fresh meat should be placed on the lowest shelf, if not in a designated drawer. Fresh meat has a tendency to leak, making anything under it subject to bacterial contamination. When a fresh meat item is removed, the area should always be wiped with a sanitizing wipe.
Organize the deli drawer. Lunch meat, cheese and bacon should be placed in the deli drawer. If your refrigerator doesn't have a deli drawer, a plastic container with a lid can be placed on the middle shelf. Keeping all deli items together will lessen the chance of forgetting opened items and will keep items fresh for a longer period.
Keep dairy products together. Line up yogurt containers on one side of a shelf, from front to back, to make them more accessible; this also makes it easier to see the expiration dates. Cottage cheese, sour cream and other dairy products should also be aligned to the side.
Use produce bins. Produce bins are helpful when it comes to keeping fruits and vegetables fresh. Not only do they minimize the light; they also reduce moisture, keeping mold at bay. Storing perishable items in a storage bag with a seal, rather than the original plastic bag from the store, will maximize the freshness of the produce. Placing fruits in one bin and vegetables in another will allow for a quick grab and easy inventory.
Create a space for leftovers. It's surprising how much food goes to waste once it moves from the table to the refrigerator. Leaving one area open, usually to the side on one shelf, will aid in keeping track of containers and baggies filled with ready-to-go leftovers. Labeling the containers with names and dates is also very helpful.