Experts agree it’s a top-to-bottom job.
The refrigerator is the home base of the kitchen. It’s a place that you want to be in and out of quickly, and that’s true whether you’re grabbing ingredients for a family dinner or you’re on the hunt for a snack. An organized refrigerator is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also adds efficiency, and in some cases even promotes better health. To find out the best way to organize your icebox inventory, chef Stephanie Nass and expert organizer Cait Sirianni of NEAT Method Philadelphia offer their insights and tips, including where to store raw meat and when it’s time to break out the label maker.
Start with a Blank Canvas
Like with most organization projects, it’s best to start from scratch. Empty out as much of the refrigerator as possible; spread packaged products across the kitchen countertops or clean surfaces so you can see everything before deciding what deserves a place back in the fridge in a thorough edit. “Toss expired food,” advises Sirianni. “Especially those old condiments and forgotten frozen meals, [because] that makes room for items you’re currently eating.”
Organize by Need
When mapping out the new refrigerator layout, it’s important to consider two things: First and foremost, remember to weigh the health and safety measures of certain foods against where they’ll live in the refrigerator. “Raw poultry should always be at the very bottom of the fridge,” says Nass. “It can carry salmonella, so put it below everything else so it cannot leak onto any ready-to-eat foods.” Second, consider the most frequent reasons you or your family open the refrigerator and create zones or compartments for easier access to these often-used items. “Create a snack zone, a drink zone, a produce zone, and [a] meal prep zone. Remember, most refrigerators can adjust the shelving to make space for your specific needs,” says Sirianni. That way, you’re not removing pickles and condiments at the end of the day to get to that cold-water bottle that gradually made its way to the back of the fridge.
Lose the Plastic Takeout Containers
It’s easy to stick half-eaten takeout into the refrigerator and forget about it, but that thinking is a reason why you need to learn how to organize your refrigerator in the first place. Make your fridge work for you—anything going into it should be conforming to your storage system—so be ready with your own containers. “Store food in reusable containers,” offers Nass. “From my restaurant days, I’m most comfortable using quart containers—they stack nicely, and they’re clear so you can see inside.”
Another important aspect of organizing your refrigerator comes from breaking down some of the excess packagings after grocery shopping. “Remove packaging from individually packaged foods like yogurt, string cheese, and drinks,” says Sirianni. “They’ll take up less space, and it will help you visually track inventory. Where necessary, use acrylic drawer dividers, open bins, and Lazy Susans to separate and contain categories.”
Part of keeping an organized refrigerator happens when you’re nowhere near the fridge, but while you’re perusing grocery store aisles. Too often, when the groceries are brought home, the new supply goes right in front. But by stocking things back-to-front, expired or soon-to-expire products can be resurfaced as a reminder to either discard or use before they go bad to help keep a clean and organized setup. “[For prepared leftovers,] stick the dates of preparation on the containers, and push to the front of the fridge whatever containers are oldest to use first,” says Nass.
Add a Label
Just because you’ve taken the time to design a new organizational plan for the refrigerator doesn’t mean the rest of the family will immediately understand. By labeling the different zones, anyone opening the fridge can search for the right label, rather than tearing through carefully arranged shelves. “Label categories with damage-free chalkboard stickers [to] keep everyone in your family on the same page,” says Sirianni. “Some of our go-tos include bread, cheese, condiments, dressings, and fruit. Unpacking groceries will never be easier!”
By: Alia Hoyt | May 9, 2019
Think your refrigerator is just one big box of evenly cold air? Not so! The temperature inside the average fridge actually varies from front to back, bottom to top and everywhere in between. Because of this, food product placement within the appliance is far more important than you probably realize.
The whole purpose of the modern refrigerator is to slow the growth of bacteria, which thrive in temperatures from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 to 60 degrees Celsius). 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.
Manufacturing giant Samsung recommends an ideal setting of 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Many refrigerators (even the new ones!) don’t feature an easy-to-read temperature display. If that’s the case for yours, drop a few bucks on a freestanding refrigerator thermometer to make sure everything’s working as it should and your food is being kept at safe temperatures.
Although it might seem like time spent organizing the fridge will spoil your day, doing so will actually make it more user-friendly, easier to clean and food safety-conscious. Check out this location-specific guide to refrigerator food storage:
In the Door
Those little bins on the inside of refrigerator doors are convenient, but they don’t maintain a consistent temperature, so definitely refrain from putting perishable foods, like eggs or milk, in there.
Reserve this space for condiments, salsas, salad dressings and other such items that are high in preservatives anyway, and thus unlikely to be affected by slightly higher temps. Pasteurized orange juice can also live in the door no problem. Bottles of soda and wine can stay there too.
On the Top Shelves
This area is not as cold as the bottom of the fridge, so save it for the foods that don’t need extra-chilly temps. Restaurant professionals will tell you that the industry standard is to store foods that are ready-to-eat or already cooked (like leftovers and pies) on the top shelf. Storing them up high also keeps these items from being contaminated by meats or other drippy products, which could cause foodborne illness.
Cheat sheet: salad dressings, condiments, pickles, salsas, butter, margarine, pasteurized orange juice, nut oils.
Cheat sheet: drinks, leftovers, ready-to-eat foods.
On the Middle Shelves
This is the most temperature-controlled part of the fridge, so place eggs here. Drinks and prepared foods can also live on the middle shelf if you ran out of room up top.
Cheat sheet: eggs, fruit that doesn’t fit in the drawers, anything that didn’t fit on the top shelf.
On the Bottom Shelves
The back of the bottom shelf is the coldest spot in the fridge, so store perishable dairy products here to keep them edible, longer. Never store foods with high water content here, like certain fruits or veggies, because the water within them can and will freeze, effectively ruining them!
Cheat sheet: milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream.
In the Drawers
Whenever possible, use the drawers that so many refrigerators feature to separate meat and produce. Typically, there’s Veggies need a more humid environment than fruits do.
The other is often ideal for raw meats, seafood and poultry, not only because it’s in the bottom (and therefore coldest part of the refrigerator), but also because it keeps meat juices from potentially cross-contaminating other foods.
If no drawer is available, seal meats in bags or put them in their own plastic bin on the bottom shelf in the back. Never put meats on top because you then run the risk of dripping.
Many refrigerators also have one of those long, skinny drawers that are intended for cheeses, deli meats and the like because they are a little colder than the rest of the appliance.
Cheat sheet: one drawer for meats, the other for produce. Never mix and match.
Don’t wait to put hot leftovers in the refrigerator until after they’ve cooled down. That just gives the food more opportunity for bacteria growth at room temperature. Instead, place leftovers immediately in the fridge in a covered, sealed container. If it’s a big old pot of soup/stew or a very large quantity of anything, subdivide it into smaller containers.
How to store prepared food in the fridge
The first and most important rule when it comes to refrigerator storage is: keep it at the optimal temperature. Set your refrigerator’s temperature to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature setting/preset to inhibit bacteria and mold, and remember that generally the lower shelves are colder than the ones at the top.
This makes your fridge’s top shelves ideal for storing prepared foods, leftovers or ready-to-eat items. Here they’ll stay fresh, remain easily visible and won’t take room away from meat, produce and other raw ingredients.
Refrigerator storage tips for dairy, meat and produce
Not sure how to keep uncooked food fresh in your fridge? In restaurant kitchens, raw meats, dairy and other perishables are generally stored on lower shelves to keep them as cold as possible. You should do the same in your kitchen. Avoid cutting up meats in advance – it speeds spoilage – and consider placing meats in glass or plastic containers to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods.
Dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese should also be stored on lower shelves, with milk placed toward the back. Butter and soft cheeses are an exception – they can go into the dairy section on your refrigerator’s door, or placed in a container and stored in the deli drawer.
When it comes to fresh produce, it’s important to store fruits and vegetables in the proper refrigerator storage compartments. Fruits and vegetables are best kept in a high humidity environment, so they should be stored in your fridge’s vegetable, crisper or high humidity drawer.
How to keep other food items fresh
Once you find a place for fresh and prepared foods, what about refrigerator storage for your other items? First, start with your eggs. Eggs need consistent temperatures to stay fresh, so the middle shelf is the best place for them. Next, put any deli meats and cheeses into the deli drawer so they stay chilled. (If your refrigerator doesn’t have a deli drawer, these items can be stored on the lowest shelf of your fridge.)
Condiments, nut oils and pasteurized juices can all be stored in the door – while this is the warmest part of your fridge, these items will still be well preserved. If your juice is fresh squeezed, make room for it on the lowest fridge shelf – the cold temperatures will slow fermentation.
If you need a refrigerator that has room for your family’s favorite foods, check out our complete collection. Whirlpool’s kitchen, laundry and other home appliances help you care for everyone in your home.
Make Your Perishable Food Safer and Easier to Find
The Spruce / Margot Cavin
When you get home from the grocery store, you might be in a hurry to get everything put away and relax, but taking a little extra time to organize your refrigerator properly can extend the life of your food and make it safer.
Prep the Fridge
If you are giving your refrigerator an organizational overhaul, start by removing everything and washing the inside thoroughly. Make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water in a spray bottle; spray the walls and shelves and wipe them down.
While most frost-free refrigerators maintain the 40 F temperature fairly evenly, some areas might be a bit colder than others. Always make sure the temperature is 40 F or below. If your refrigerator does not have a built-in thermometer, keep a refrigerator/freezer thermometer on one of the shelves to monitor the temperature. As little as two hours above 40 F can render leftovers and many perishable foods unsafe to eat.
Cold air is denser than warm air, so keep that in mind when you put your food away. Here are some basic guidelines for door and shelf storage.
Because the fridge is opened frequently, refrigerator door compartments tend to be warmer than the inside and back of the refrigerator. The butter compartment is okay for storing butter, but milk, eggs, and most other dairy products should be in the coldest part of the fridge.
Use the door storage for items that can stand warmer temperatures, like condiments, sesame and walnut oils, jams and jellies, sauces, sodas, juice, water, and opened fortified wines (e.g., Madeira, Marsala, Sherry, Port Wine, and Vermouth). Some condiments, such as barbecue sauce and ketchup, can be stored in the pantry after opening but will last significantly longer if stored in the fridge.
The upper shelves tend to be the warmest (up to 40 F). Store yogurt, leftovers, hummus, fruit cups, and other items that do not fit in the door shelves. Grains and flours—especially whole grain flours—can become rancid over time; store them on the top shelf in airtight containers so they won’t absorb moisture and odors. Store open bags of shelled nuts in the refrigerator as well.
The bottom shelf is typically the coldest part of the refrigerator. This shelf is where you should store eggs, milk, and meat. Meat should be placed on trays or in bins to prevent contamination of other foods.
Deli or Meat Drawer
French door refrigerators typically have a deli drawer. Use this drawer to store deli meats, hot dogs and smoked sausages, cheeses, and bacon.
Some fruits release ethylene gases, which can have an impact on vegetables and hasten decay. Most refrigerators have two crisper drawers with sliders for high or low humidity. The items that release the ethylene gases should be kept in a low-humidity drawer, while other produce belongs in the high-humidity drawer.
- Scallions/Green Onions
- Leafy Greens
- Ripe Avocados
- Ripe Melon
- Summer Squash and Zucchini
Use chalk markers or sticky labels or tape to label your leftovers with names and dates. You might even add tags to the refrigerator shelves so the whole family will follow through with your organization.
Get an Insta-worthy refrigerator by using as many drawers, shelves, and containers as possible.
It’s mesmerizing to look at well-organized, color-coordinated refrigerator. (Try not to get lost in the perfectly placed peppers above.) But actually, an organized fridge also saves time and money. If you know exactly what’s inside, grocery shopping and mealtimes become way more efficient, with less food waste and unpleasant smells.
To get started, experts from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen recommend prioritizing the foods that you reach for most. From there, categorize items into groups and place them in clear containers (key word: clear) for a more uniform look. The rest is up you: Stock up on different storage solutions to help combat rolling soda cans, overloaded snack drawers, and your growing wine stash.
When placing items on shelves, consider what makes most sense for you — and for the food itself. Most people keep milk on the top shelf or in the door but it should go on the back of the bottom shelf where it’s coldest. Same goes for eggs: Store eggs in their original cartons on middle or top shelves where temperatures are more consistent. Reserve the fridge door for condiments, butters, soft cheeses, and processed juices.
If you have young children, stick their go-to snacks at eye level so they can easily grab them without making a mess. You can reserve a special bin for each kid or throw all the snacks in one spot for people to pick from because, well, sharing is caring.
When you buy something new — a fresh gallon of milk, for example — rotate the older items to the front so that they can be used before the expiration date. Keep an eye – not just a nose — on leftovers: Toss fish after one to two days, meat after two to three days, and veggies or grains after five to seven days.
Before you start clearing your fridge, stock up on these must-have storage solutions and gadgets.
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share on Pinterest
- Share via e-mail
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share on Pinterest
- Share via e-mail
Does it feel like a game of Tetris every time you stuff leftovers into the refrigerator? Or, did you pull out a salad dressing bottle from the back of the fridge, only to discover it expired months ago? Are your groceries expiring fast, causing massive food waste?
If any of this is frequently happening to you, it may be time to deep clean and organize your refrigerator the right way. Not only will it bring you joy (thanks, Marie Kondo!), but proper organization can also help your food last longer and ultimately save you money on your groceries.
To get this right, you’ll want to pull everything out of the fridge, toss expired items, give the shelves a good wipe down, and then—here’s the important part—put everything back in your fridge in a way that will best preserve your food and make sure no cross-contamination happens.
To help, we called in experts such as professional organizers and chefs to share smart tips on how to organize your refrigerator. Here’s what they have to say.
How to organize the top shelves of your refrigerator
In general, food safety experts say you should organize your food based on the temperatures that food needs to be cooked at (more on that later!). With that in mind, keep the top shelf reserved for leftovers and pre-cooked foods. You can use your top shelf to stash ready-to-eat foods, drinks, and herbs that are wrapped in damp paper towels and stored in resealable bags or sealable containers, suggests Executive Chef Jonathan Dearden from Radiator in Washington, D.C.
How to organize the middle shelves of your refrigerator
Adjustable shelving is a perk of refrigerators, says Chaos Concierge owner Elise Gurock. She recommends spacing shelves out based on what food is bought most frequently. Middle shelving is still eye level and easy to reach, so that makes it a good spot for milk, juices, and eggs, she says.
How to organize the lower shelves
Keep your lower shelves for raw meats and fish. If you have multiple lower shelves, though, you’ll want to keep cooking temperatures in mind.
Foods that require a lower cooking temperature should be stored above foods that require a higher cooking temperature, explains Janilyn Hutchings, a food scientist who is a Certified Professional in Food Safety and in-house specialist for StateFoodSafety.
For example, a beef roast, which needs to be cooked to 145 degrees, should be stored above ground beef, which requires a minimum internal temperature of 155 degrees. Ground beef should be stored above poultry, which needs to be cooked to 165 degrees. This can help prevent cross-contamination because what you don’t want to happen is, for example, you accidentally stored raw chicken above a whole, raw beef steak and chicken juice dripped onto the steak.
“When you cook the steak, it likely wouldn’t be cooked to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, specifically Salmonella, that could come from the chicken drippings,” she explains.
Also, you can prevent juice from dripping by storing raw meat on trays, Hutchings says.
How to organize the side doors
Refrigerator-door foods should be mostly condiments and beverages, Dearden says, and cut citrus is also OK for this spot. But don’t stash your eggs or milk here because it’s the warmest part of your fridge.
“Neither dairy products or raw meats should be stored in the refrigerator door since temperature is lost every time the door is opened,” he says. “Fluctuation of temperature can minimize the shelf life of perishable food.”
How to organize the crisper
Your crispers are designed for produce, but you don’t want raw meat cross-contaminating your fruits or veggies, right? If your crisper drawers stack on top of one another, you could put meat in the lower one (rather than placing on the lower fridge door) or if they are side-by-side, you could reserve one drawer just for meat.
Another option is you could put fresh vegetables and fruits on one side and deli meats and cheeses on the other, suggests Chef Mark Estee, of Liberty Food & Wine Exchange in Reno, Nevada.
Ready-to-eat salads can be stored in a crisper drawer, too, Dearden says, but make sure you don’t leave produce in the original packaging from the store. “These bags are meant for transfer from the grocery store to home,” he says. It’s best to use good quality bags that are reusable.
What to stash in your freezer
If you purchase frozen foods, you’ll want to keep them frozen until you’re ready to thaw and use or cook it, Hutchings says. This includes frozen vegetables, meats, and ready-to-eat meals, Hutchings says. You can also purchase most of these foods fresh, like fruits, vegetables, and raw meat or poultry, and freeze them before they spoil. Freezing and re-freezing, though, can change the texture of your food, she says, so just keep that in mind when you’re deciding which foods to freeze when it comes time to defrost them before cooking and eating later.
Store ready-to-eat foods like ice cream at the top. Then do frozen foods and vegetables that will be cooked. Below that, keep raw meats and seafood that will be cooked to 145 degrees. The next shelf should be for ground meats and other foods cooked to 155 degrees, and the bottom shelf should be reserved for raw poultry products and other foods cooked to 165 degrees. And now you’re armed with all the right knowledge it takes to have your fridge organized the right way.
RELATED: Easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.
Affiliate links are provided below for your convenience. You can see my full disclosure policy here.
Wondering how to arrange fridge at home? The Dollar Store is the perfect place to start with cheap and budget friendly options that will make your fridge look amazing.
Part of organizing your kitchen or pantry is organizing goods in your fridge too. Now, if you want to have it really neat and well-arranged while keeping it low-cost, these Dollar Tree Fridge Organization ideas will surely help you.
You could use some plastic containers, bins, trays, or stacked containers, if you wish. You can also have some color coding for the food items or snacks. You can organize and get tidy within a budget friendly and inexpensive way!
If you’re looking for some brilliant ideas to manage what’s inside your fridge, take a look at this collection of Dollar Tree Fridge Organization and start cleaning up and getting organized right away!
Dollar Store Freezer Organization Idea
Use plastic baskets and tie laminate paper labels to them. Dollar Store Freezer Organization Idea
Lazy Susan Dollar Tree Storage Idea
Use a turntable to free up refrigerator space and have easy access to food items. Lazy Susan Dollar Tree Storage Idea
Dollar Store Magazine Holder Organization Hack
Create more space in refrigerator or freezer by turning magazine file holders sideways – creating more shelves. Dollar Store Magazine Holder Organization Hack
Dollar Tree Clear Bin Fridge Organization And Storage
Having snack and fruit in plastic containers or bin makes it easy to pull out and grab – great ideas for kids to grab their own snacks. Dollar Tree Clear Bin Fridge Organization And Storage
Dollar Store Fridge Snack Box
Pull out drawers are a great idea for snacks – juice boxes or any grab and go food item. Neat and tidy for the refrig. Dollar Store Fridge Snack Box
Dollar Store Refrigerator Makeover
Bins make a great way to give your refrigerator a makeup over and get things organized. Try this Dollar Store hack to organize your refrig and or freezer. Dollar Store Refrigerator Makeover
Mason Jar Food Storage
Store food in mason jars or meal prep with mason jar. Either way mason jars are great organization idea for your fridge. Mason Jar Food Storage
CHEAP FRIDGE ORGANIZATION | Best Dollar Tree Ideas
DOLLAR TREE REFRIGERATOR ORGANIZATION TIPS
DOLLAR TREE REFRIGERATOR ORGANIZATION IDEAS & TIPS| ORGANIZE WITH ME
Do you now have the Dollar Store hacks and ideas on what to do with the goods in your fridge? The items and materials you can use in arranging some stuff in the fridge can be found in Dollar Store. You can find these cheap products and save money while having your fridge well-organized. You can have one compartment for fresh vegetables and perishables, another one for the eggs, another one for the sauces, and so on, and so forth. For more ideas on how to organize your fridge and save money at the same time, you can visit Youtube and search for some video tutorials and organization hacks compilations. You can also look for some ideas on Pinterest such as upright freezer organization, small apartment fridge, DIY Dollar Tree organizers, bulk meals, DIY fridge mats, chest freezer organization system, magnetic spice rack, and many more Dollar Store goodies. I hope you find these Dollar Tree Fridge Organization ideas interesting and worth doing. Happy fridge organizing time!
Don’t forget to Pin! So you can come back and try these Dollar Store Fridge Organization & Hacks!
A full fridge doesn’t have to be a cluttered fridge. When a refrigerator is organized, you won’t have to dig around to find something to cook or snack on. It makes you more excited to open the door, which means you’ll end up wasting less of the food inside.
Stacked products in open fridge
Photo by: moodboard
1: The coldest spots in your fridge are in the back near the freezer compartment. Check your individual fridge with a refrigerator thermometer to see which shelf is the coldest. Keep milk, dairy, eggs (in their cartons) and raw meat in that area.
2: Avoid cross-contamination with meat by placing it in a container, either a bin or rimmed tray (a shallow plate can easily slosh blood and juices around when moved). This will keep anything from dripping to foods below.
3: Keep regularly used condiments and sauces on the doors where they’re easily accessible. Stash items that are used only every so often together toward the back of the fridge. Visit them occasionally to remind or inspire yourself to use them up. Know which items don’t need to be refrigerated so they don’t take up precious space. Keep hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, potatoes and onions outside of the fridge.
4: Group like items together to avoid hunting around or buying duplicates: ketchup, mustard, mayo, salad dressings and salsas; jams, sweet spreads and syrups; pickled items like capers, olives and pickles; and ethnic ingredients like miso, oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, curry pastes and chutneys. Keeping them in bins will allow you to pull them all out together.
5: Bins are also useful to corral odds and ends, like tubes of tomato and anchovy paste, or items that don’t necessarily stack nicely, like juice pouches and string cheese.
6: Arrange taller containers in the back and shorter ones in the front so it’s easier to see the labels.
7: Place items that need to be used up, like tomato sauce, toward the front of the fridge.
8: If you’re short on vertical space, bottles of wine often fit in deli drawers.
9: Invest in both glass and plastic containers that stack easily and are see-through. They’ll look more streamlined and you can instantly find what you need. Square or rectangular containers are more space efficient. Transfer the remains of half-used containers to smaller containers to free up space. Pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the food will help it hold longer.
10: Place leftovers that need to be reheated in glass containers or other lidded microwave-safe vessels. Remember to label them with the name and expiration date. Store leftovers together on the same shelf so you don’t need to rummage around to find them and there’s less chance of leftovers migrating to the cemetery at the back of the fridge. Leftovers should be eaten within three or four days, so if you don’t remember making or buying it that week, chuck it.