By: Laura Franklin
Have your kids ever opened the refrigerator door, stared inside and declared, 'There's nothing to eat?”
How often do you bring home a bagful of groceries only to discover no room in the fridge to put away the new food?
Do you ever throw away forgotten leftovers that spent too much time hidden at the back of the fridge?
An organized refrigerator not only makes it easier to find food, but it ensures that less food is wasted and tossed in the trash. With food prices rising regularly, it doesn’t make sense to be throwing your money away every time food is thrown into the trash.
Here are a few tips to keep the fridge more organized, more food in your bellies instead of the garbage can and more money in your pocket at the end of the month:
1. Start Fresh
The best way to get your fridge under control is to remove everything and start with a clean slate. Sort food items on the kitchen counter, toss old food and condiments, and then only put back those things that you know you will eat.
2. Label Leftovers
Leftovers can easily get out of hand and take over an otherwise organized fridge. Rather than wonder whether a meal is still safe to eat or ready to be trashed, stick a small piece of tape onto the container with the date the meal was cooked. Masking tape is easily removed from most surfaces, so you don't have to worry about sticker residue. And a cooked-date is much more reliable than the smell test — trust us.
3. Check Before Opening
Before heading to the store for a brand new ingredient, double check the fridge to make sure you don’t already have an open container. If you find multiple jars of jam, bottles of spaghetti sauce or tubs of margarine, combine them!
4. Everything In Its Place
The key to an organized, well-functioning refrigerator is to assign a general location for similar types of items — just like the rest of the house. For instance, milk goes in the door, condiments are stored together and cheese always gets put away in the deli drawer.
5. Stack Similar Containers
A large set of reusable containers of various sizes can be a smart (and cheap) investment that will make a huge difference in the utilization of fridge space. Look for containers that are easily stacked, which utilizes space much better than randomly tossed-in containers.
6. Adjust Your Shelves
The factory-default settings for shelf heights might not be what your family needs, but shelves are seldom moved. Assess where you need shelf height and where having a narrow shelf might keep things more organized — and then adjust as needed.
7. Check Regularly
Don't let two weeks go by before you check that container that has been shoved to the back of the fridge. Regularly check the dates on salad dressings, sauces and other condiments. Don’t hesitate to toss items past their expiration dates.
By taking just a few simple steps to organize your fridge — and maintaining some order — you’ll be able to make the most of your fridge space, easily find the food you’re looking for and save money on your groceries each month.
A stay-at-home mom turned full-time writer, Laura is a mother of five in the Washington, D.C., area whose daily life consists of a little bit of everything: kids, food, photography, travel, books, music — and very little sleep. Find her at her blog, Better in Bulk.