Refrigerators are one of those inventions that truly changed the world. The ability to keep foods fresh for incredibly long amounts of time no matter the weather outside not only paved the way for globalized food production, it also changed how families ate. Gone are the days where beef jerky was a survival necessity on some far-flung frontier farmstead. Gone are the days when curing ham was required if you wanted to survive the winter. While many of us grew up with the concept, it’s unlikely that anyone who isn’t growing up on a potato farm has heard of a “root cellar” these days.
While canning has come back into vogue among the hipper, more bearded folks among us (and preppers), it’s certainly not a vital skill for most Americans in 2016. Fridges are the source of this warm blanket of food security. Fresh veggies can keep for ages. Meats last quite a while before they go bad. Even stuff like mustard, itself a means of preservation, keeps better when chilled.
But refrigerators are only as useful as the planning that goes into their contents. A messy, dirty refrigerator means you can’t keep track of what’s inside and many perishables are bound to go to waste. Even the best of us will occasionally open up our fridges and wonder what went wrong. Fret not, however. This handy list contains 18 great ideas for keeping your food chilling appliance as fresh, clean and organized as any you’re likely to see. Some of these tips will have you outdoing those perfectly arranged, glass-windowed commercial numbers you see on cooking shows. And they’ve got a staff dedicated to those shame-inducing showpieces. Read on and learn the simple truth: it’s truly simple to keep your fridge beautiful and your food fresh if you just take a few moments to get things right.
Step 1: Tame those condiments. Cardboard egg crates can help keep squeeze jars organized and inverted for those more viscous liquids.
Step 2: Find a place for a chalkboard. Whether grocery list-building or leaving important “the kids are already fed!” messages, a chalkboard is a fun, attractive way to jot things down in the kitchen.
Step 3: Alternatively, white-boarding on your fridge works just as well, for those of you who can’t leave the office at work.
Step 4: Keep a clearly labeled section for foods that are nearing their final days. If you think something’s getting ready to go bad, minimize the chances of that by prioritizing its use.
Step 5: Get your kids started early on healthy eating by creating a dedicated snack zone for them, easy to reach and stocked with only healthy, delicious snacks like nuts, veggies and fruits.
Step 6: Up your freezer game. One of the worst issues in a freezer is when you start going vertical with stacked frozen goods. Magazine holders turned on their side are just one great way to make those first-frozen items easier to reach without complicated cycling patterns every time you freeze something.
Step 7: While we’re not entirely sure what “Husband Condiments” are (and we’re not entirely sure we want to know), using uniform baskets like these to store like things together can go a long way toward keeping track of your refrigerated foodstuffs.
Step 8: Label it! If you don’t know where it goes, it doesn’t matter how organized it is. A clearly written or printed label for different types of food will save you time and also electricity as you won’t be sitting there with the door open, staring.
Step 9: Handle it! For all the things you’re going to pile into a drawer, place them in an easy to grab basket with handles to make it easier for you to get at when you need them.
Step 10: We’ve shared this one before but it goes hand-in-hand with the magazine holders and it’s absolutely brilliant. Use binder clips to secure bagged frozen fruits and veggies to the underside of your freezer shelf. This trick is even more mind-blowingly helpful if you have a side-by-side style fridge with one of those tall, skinny freezers that always feel so awkward to use. Own that awkwardness with binder clips!
Step 11. Clean everything. This is really just a pre-requisite for step 12 but we’re betting you haven’t done this as recently as you’d like to be able to say you did. If you’ve got some tough, stuck food or stains, break out the vinegar and baking soda and grease those elbows. Don’t worry, we’re about to help you avoid this step in the future.
Step 12: Grab some placements and get cutting. Shaping some inexpensive plastic placemats to fit your shelves can not only brighten up your fridge’s interior but also make cleaning spills as easy as removing the placemat and popping it in the dishwasher.
Step 13: Turn your food around. And around. And around. A Lazy Susan might seem like it reduces the available storage space but the ability to instantly reach stuff in the back without removing everything is worth the few cubic inches you might be sacrificing.
Step 14: If you’re using a chest freezer, your food storage game is already next-level. You’re freezing to win but wait until you see this handy trick. Chest freezers aren’t particularly good for organizing, but a few reusable grocery bags will help your sort things out and prevent all your carefully frozen foods from fusing together into one gigantic, frozen brick of unmanageable nonsense.
Step 15: If your family goes through a lot of eggs, consider finding yourself a nice, sleek basket like this, or even making it yourself. The deep walls and small mesh will keep your eggs safe and secure without the clutter of stacks of cardboard egg crates (which you can then use to sort those condiments)!
Step 16: Track your food’s progress. “Best before” dates on food packaging are really for grocery stores, not for you. What you need to know is how long that tub of french onion dip has been sitting there. You’ve come so far and your fridge looks so good, now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty and ensure you’re never going to watch your milk curdle in your morning coffee ever again.
Step 17: Fridge organization level: master of low-temperature gravity. If your fridge, like many, has surfaces inside that will gladly grab hold of a magnet, you can get your kitchen wizard mojo going straight up the walls with storage jars upgraded with stick-on magnets. Stash your yogurt on the shelf and the fixins’ for it right above. Or really anything you want. It’s your fridge, after all.
Step 18: Is actually like 10 more steps but this is a handy chart to keep your fridge game on fleek now that you’ve got it there. We’d pay special attention to #6; it’s so important we almost included it separately.