How do you organize your fridge? Are you a smoosh-it-all-in-and-hope-for-the-best type or do you arrange items with Pinterest-ready precision, containers labeled and dated? There is scientific reasoning behind organizing your fridge for maximum chill! Follow my easy top-down guide on what goes where and why.
Below are guidelines for how I prefer to organize my fridge and expert tips I’ve learned over the years to maximize space and reduce waste. Updated fridge photos of my own fridge coming soon!
Just like your oven has hot spots, the fridge has gradations in temperature especially because heat rises. The upper shelves are the warmest, which makes them best for:
- Pre-cooked food: This includes leftovers from meals you’e made or ready-made meals.
- Dairy products: This is especially the case for hard cheeses, including those pre-grated bags and yogurt, etc.): Even butter may last longer if you forgo the butter keeper and put it on an interior shelf.
- Eggs: Contrary to the way some fridges are designed with egg compartments on the door, eggs actually do better on the second shelf where the temp is cold and stable.
- Snacks for kiddos: If you have small children and they are allowed to help themselves to snacks, keep those items in front of the fridge at their eye level – maybe the second shelf from the top in front- where they can easily see and reach them independently.
- Bread: We prefer to refrigerate our bread, and if you do too, place it in the upper shelves.
We’re getting colder as we go lower in fridge organization! How you organize this tier depends on whether or not your fridge comes with designated meat and produce drawers.
- Raw meat, poultry: If you do not have designated meat and poultry drawers, these items go on the lowest shelf towards the back, which is the coldest spot. This keeps them cold and minimizes the possibility of contamination of items below, should packaging leaks.
- Seafood: This also goes in the coldest, low back part of the fridge. Consider storing seafood on a bed of ice. Small, rectangular 1/8th-size sheet pans (affiliate link) are great for this, but any rimmed dish or pan will do. And it is a great idea for meat and poultry, too, especially if your fridge has wire shelving.
- Cow’s milk: Avoid putting milk on the refrigerator door. That is the warmest place in the refrigerator and milk needs to be kept colder.
- Produce: If you don’t have produce drawers, you’ll also want to store your uncooked fruits and vegetables as low as possible. Separate veggies from fruits, many of which emit ethylene, which prematurely wilts vegetables. If needed, create your own produce drawers with containers (see below).
Use your designated drawers for their purpose – unless, say, you are a vegetarian and can repurpose the meat storage. Here are the two popular drawers available on most fridges:
- Meat and Poultry Drawer: Do not waste this specially designed place on cans of soda. Some refrigerators even pipe colder air into the meat drawers to create the lowest, safest temps possible.
- Produce Drawers/Crispers: Separate fruit and veggies to prevent the ethylene fruits from wilting the veggies. Some models allow you to control the humidity. Vegetables like higher humidity. And fruits like lower humidity. Crispers work best when they are three-quarters full.
Every time you open the fridge door, the items on the door get a blast of heat. Therefore, doors are excellent storage for shelf-stable items you want to chill – like juice or water – and items, typically with high sugar or vinegar naturally preserving content that inherently have a long life.
- Cold drinks: Juice, bottled water and soda go here. The exception is unpasteurized fresh-squeezed juices.
- Jams, jellies, and chutneys.
- Condiments: This includes ketchup, mustard, salad dressings and soy sauce. The exception is mayonnaise which will do better on an upper shelf near eggs.
- Maple syrup and other sweeteners like agave syrup.
- Pickles, relish, and other fermented relishes like kimchi and sauerkraut.
- Soft cheeses: While most dairy needs to be colder, soft cheeses like cream cheese, goat cheese or brie are fine inside compartments designed for cheese or butter.
Useful fridge organizers
- Organizer Bins: Whether you are separating tubes of perishable pet food, cans of drinks, or doing a DIY produce bin, there is a see-through bin for every need and refrigerator size.
- Food Storage Bins with Handles: Bins like this one are perfect for those individual drink containers you pack in your kids’ lunches and easy for kiddos to grab.
- Airtight Food Storage Bin Boxes: Bins like this one do double duty. They can be used as semi-permanent bins that you leave in the fridge and where, say, you always stash one category of food like cheeses, and they can also be filled with leftovers. Square containers with flat tops are stackable space savers.
- Lazy Susan Turntable Storage: A turntable like this one corrals and makes accessible lots of little things that risk getting shoved to the back – like small yogurt containers or squeezable packs of baby food.
- Plastic/Can Storage Dispenser: Dispensers like this one are perfect for those who need to have a chilled beverage ready.
Tips for keeping the fridge organized
- Buy a thermometer or two! Keeping food at the right temperature (anywhere just north of the freezing point of 32˚F up to 40˚F ) prevents harmful bacteria from developing and maximizes its life. Even if your fridge comes with a built-in thermometer, get an inexpensive one like this Taylor model to set on your shelf as a double check. Move it around from shelf to shelf.
- Label perishables. When you open a package of deli meat or bring home a carton of eggs, figure out the last day it will be safe to eat – it may different from the “sell by” date – and write that date in marker on the packaging.
- Label the shelves. You’ve divided your perishables into their proper cold zones, now label the shelves and bins to help yourself and the rest of the household keep the order going. You can be extra basic with a label maker or Pinterest-worthy with something like chalkboard markers.
- Do a five-minute fridge clean-out before you go shopping. This way you are not stuffing new purchases in front of older food that needs to be used sooner.
- Place older items in front of newer items so they are eaten first.
- Keep a whiteboard or list of what is in your freezer on the freezer. No more mystery meats or burritos forming their own Ice Age at the bottom.
- Shop your refrigerator when you don’t know what to have for dinner. Cutting down on food waste means an emptier (more organized) fridge.
Frequently asked questions
Is your fridge overloaded? Refrigerators keep food cold best when they are full but not too full. If all your items are crammed in tight and pressing against the fridge’s walls, the cold air cannot circulate properly. Try a cleanout and reorganization.
The FDA says your refrigerated food is fine for four hours. Try not to open the door to keep the cool air inside. Check your refrigerator thermometer after that. If it is 40˚ or below, you are okay. If not you may have to start throwing out the most perishable items, like seafood.
The inside of your fridge definitely needs to be wiped down regularly. Soap and water is a very effective cleaner and some harsher solutions may damage your fridge’s surfaces.
Organizing your fridge is a way of protecting the investment you make at the grocery store and preventing food waste. Plus, it just feels good to be organized.
For more organization resources:
- How to Stock your Pantry
- How to Stock a Freezer
- Food Storage Tips
- How to make your kitchen more efficient
If you find these tips for How to Organize your Fridge, I’d love to hear from you! And if you snapped some shots of any of these tips and tricks, please share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!