Refrigerator Organization 101: A Shelf-by-Shelf Guide

Nobody wants to open their refrigerator and suddenly discover in January something that was left over from Thanksgiving. That’s why refrigerator organization is crucial. While it might seem daunting to many, refrigerator organization isn’t that hard — you just need a plan. A refrigerator is more than a big box of cold air. The temperature actually varies from front to back, bottom to top, and everywhere in between. That’s why product placement is more important than you probably realize. For example, you don’t want to put perishable foods like eggs or dairy products in the door. That space should be reserved for condiments, salad dressings, orange juice, soda, and other items that are high in preservatives. The top shelves aren’t as cold as the bottom of the refrigerator, so save that area for foods that don’t need extra-cold temperatures, like ready-to-eat foods and leftovers like pies. The middle shelves are the most temperature-controlled part of the refrigerator, so place eggs there. Drinks and prepared foods can also live on the middle shelf if you run out of room up top. The back of the bottom shelves is the coldest part of the refrigerator, so store perishable dairy products there to keep them edible longer. However, never store foods with a high water content there, like fruits or veggies, because the water within them can and will freeze, ruining them. The whole purpose of the modern refrigerator is to slow the growth of bacteria, which thrive in temperatures from 40º to 140º F. As a result, refrigerators are typically set at or below that low end to protect foods from succumbing to bacteria, which threaten to spoil them prematurely or, even worse, make you sick. One more tip: Don’t wait to put hot leftovers in the refrigerator until they’ve cooled down. That just gives the food more opportunity for bacteria growth. Place leftovers immediately into the refrigerator.