If you're like most people, you might have a tendency to put away your groceries willy-nilly. Sure, you probably sort your vegetables into the crisper drawers and put the condiment jars on the shelves, but if you keep a well-stocked fridge, it's easy to lose track of things or have trouble finding them. Unfortunately, that can lead to wasted money and food, since it can result in spoiled items or accidentally stocking up on items you already have. Keeping your fridge neat and organized can save you both time and money.
One of the biggest mistakes many people make is storing foods in the wrong areas, which can result in increased food waste when things spoil faster than expected. The top shelf and the shelves on the door tend to be the warmest areas in most refrigerators, so keep your longer-lasting food and condiments there. Bottom shelves tend to be the coldest, so produce and other food that's prone to spoiling should go there.
A lot of people just accept the fridge as it arrives from the factory, but that can be a mistake. Most refrigerators have easily adjustable shelves, and moving them around to suit your individual needs can make it much easier to organize your fridge. For example, if you don't buy big cartons of milk, you may not need as much space between your shelves.
Another easy fridge hack is to buy some small, clear plastic bins to serve as extra "drawers", to help sort and organize items on the shelves.
Sometimes, foods come in jars or bags that aren't clearly labeled and are difficult to recognize, such as fruits and vegetables in the store-provided plastic bags that aren't transparent. Remove those items from the concealing packaging and store them in the open, if possible.
It's easy to just stuff everything together, like throwing meats and cheeses into the same drawer or clustering your salad dressings, hot sauces, and other condiments together randomly. Using drawer dividers and taking a few minutes to sort things out can help save time when you're searching for the right sauce or rummaging for the deli meat under an assortment of cheddars.
Labeling your bins and drawers can help you stay organized, especially if you live with other people. That makes it easy for everyone to know where to put the vegetables to keep them separate from the fruit, or which bin is for food that's about to expire and needs to be used first.
If your fridge always seems to be overcrowded, try buying some small baskets or bins and attaching them to the walls with adhesive strips. The strips won't damage your refrigerator, so it's a quick and easy way to add extra storage. You can also remove or replace them as your needs change.
If you're still in need of extra space, you can add more vertical storage using curtain rings. This won't work in every fridge, but many models are designed with a bar underneath the upper shelves. Clip in a few rings so you can hang lighter packages and bags. You can also buy mesh bags to hang fruits and vegetables.
Most modern refrigerators come with temperature and humidity controls for the crisper drawers, but it's easy to ignore them. That's a mistake if you tend to have a problem with fruits and veggies going bad. Lower humidity and colder temperatures might be better for those varieties. Keep your fruits and vegetables separate, too, since storing them together can make your veggies spoil faster.
It wouldn't hurt to double-check a list of which produce doesn't need refrigeration, too. You might clear up even more space by removing things that are better left on the counter.
Most people are prone to going to the refrigerator often to grab a quick snack, so keep those eats front and center. This is a good use of clear bins; put a clearly labeled snack bin in a prominent place. Making sure snacks are easily accessible can prevent nibblers from messing up the rest of your fridge by rummaging around for them.
Before you do any of this, though, it's a good idea to clear out your fridge and give it a thorough cleaning. Before you load everything back in, consider putting down liners. That way, if you do have an item spill or leak, you can easily clean it up by removing your shelf liner, rather than fighting with the whole shelf to get it out of the fridge.