Here's How You Maximize Fridge and Freezer Space


Is your freezer a mess? Do you frequently find old food rotting in the back of your fridge? I used to lose so much money this way. Now I take time to regularly clean and organize my refrigerator and freezer spaces, and it has made a huge difference. Even a few simple hacks are helpful here. (See also: Schedule Regular Fridge Cleanings to Avoid Food Waste)

So, check out these handy tips to get your foods onto the table with less mess, confusion, and — most important — waste.

Clear Out

Before you begin any project, it's good to clear out the old so you can start fresh. Take a good half hour (depending on your level of crazy) and take everything out of your fridge and freezer. Trash what's rotting, examine what's expired, and keep the rest. This occasion is also a great opportunity to spray some homemade cleaner in there and wipe all the crud and grime away. If you don't like how your refrigerator is configured, most shelves are moveable, so try a few layouts before putting your food back in.

Create Zones

The next step: Create zones for all your stuff to live in. There's no right or wrong way to divide, however — temperature and humidity does vary in the box, making ideal environments for some foods versus others. This organization guide helps to identify the areas that work best for all your foods. For example, eggs do well on the middle shelf where temperature tends to be most consistent. Fruit, on the other hand, thrives in a low humidity drawer, whereas you'll want to keep veggies in higher humidity. And condiments — which have more preservatives — can happily hang out in the door. (See also: Fridge or Counter? Where to Store Fruit for Best Flavor)

Contain It

Whole foods and leftovers can certainly get lost without visibility. So, just as you'd box your belongings in other areas of your home, consider bringing some clean bins into the mix. The before and after shots of this refrigerator are jaw-dropping. Corralling snacks into one spot keeps them from migrating to the back of the refrigerator where they'll likely expire before use. And think outside the box here. I've seen friends use lazy susans or even magazine holders as unique shelving options. These same tips work in the freezer, too.

Freeze Flat

If you do any bulk or assembly cooking, space is at a premium in your freezer. Even if you have a dedicated chiller, like I do, you can get much more out of your investment by freezing foods flat whenever possible. Of course, you can't do this with absolutely all foods, but soups and stews, pre-cut fruits and veggies, sauces, meats, and even some baked goods can be placed in zip freezer bags and flattened. You can even freeze smoothies, soups, and other liquid items in ice cube trays and then transfer to flat bags. Try to remove as much air as possible to create even more space (and avoid dreaded freezer burn).

Label It

From there, you might notice that many foods become almost unrecognizable once frozen. And, though you think you'll remember what's what, that's rarely the case. Keep a Sharpie marker on your fridge or in your junk drawer and immediately label anything that goes in with the name of the dish and the date it was made. Otherwise, try to stick with clear storage containers versus opaque for quick identification of, say, applesauce from chili. It's a simple trick, but it cuts down significantly on time and guesswork.

Section Out

If you have a chest freezer — great! But I know how tricky it can be to organize. This blogger built DIY dividers to section off space for different items using plywood. If you don't have a jigsaw at home, you could take all the measurements and ask your local hardware store to make the cuts for you (usually at a small price). If you're not into that idea, consider buying a few larger plastic bins to put your flat bags into and dividing them into broad categories like breakfast, lunch, and dinner or soups, desserts, and whole ingredients. Then stack the bins on top of one another. You get the idea.

Make Lists

Once all your food is happily organized, it helps to make a list of what's there to aid with meal planning each week. That way, if something does disappear from the inventory, you'll still know it's worth digging out. I also write the date it was purchased (with produce), the date it expires (with packaged foods), or the date it was packaged (with frozen foods) and try to list in order of what spoils first. You can keep a spreadsheet if you're more computer-oriented. A small dry erase board works well in my household. Always consult these lists before bringing more food into the house.

How organized (or disorganized) is your fridge or freezer? What's your system? Please share in comments!

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