We all have those friends who stash away food in their fridge as if it’s their mudroom closet. When organizing your refrigerator its important to understand the temperature zones of your refrigerator and how certain food items might be effected. Restaurants and professional kitchens have a specific method to their organizational madness. Follow along for the “Do’s & Dont’s” to refrigerator organization and learn how to organize your refrigerator like a boss!
First off, I field a lot of questions about the type of fridge I have. When we built this home I was introduced to these two Whirlpool units called the SideKick. I love that the freezer and refrigerator are separate units. You can pair them together or apart. I chose to have my double oven between the two. Anyhow, it’s super nice to have a full size fridge, but I gotta be honest with you- I hate these pieces! I know “hate” is a really strong word, but it most accurately describes the feelings I have for the dysfunction and disappointment of each piece. I can spend a whole post on why they stink, but no one’s going to want to read that. So, although they may look nice and hold a whole lot of food, they are a big dud. And, because they are a special built-in size I’m going to have to do a little creative reconfiguration when I
choose am forced to replace them! Sorry, Whirlpool, but at $1,800 a unit you could do better!
Part of the blogging madness that goes on behind the scenes is the anxiety (as I’m sure I share with every other blogger) I have over allowing you see directly into my personal world of chaos. Although I may appear to have my $#!% together, just remember I’m showing you a very cleaned up version of pieces of my life. If I were to take a picture of what this fridge looks like on any old day I can promise you it doesn’t always look this pretty. I try to stay organized and as clean as possible, but hey- I’m human! And BTW…no judging me on the food items in my fridge! 😉
Cross Contamination of Raw Meats
Basically, all raw foods that may leak (like meats, poultry and fish) and possibly therefore contaminate other foods should be placed at the bottom of your fridge. Then, if accidental leakage does occur it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the food items below it. But wait…you have those produce drawers at the bottom of the fridge! No worries!!! It’s still quite fine to store your fresh fruits and veggies in these drawers. Just buy one of these clear storage bins to contain your raw food items. This storage solution works to keep any potential leaking and cross contamination of your fresh produce.
Your Door- Don’t be a Ding Dong!
The door is the warmest part of your fridge, therefore making it more hospitable for bacteria to grow. I cringe when I see dairy products like milk, eggs and soft cheeses stored here. Spare your sweet family of salmonella and leave the door for the condiments! Think of your door as a place to store items that won’t turn rancid if they spend a couple of hours outside of the fridge, like your vinegar-based condiments, jellies and jams. NOTE: Butter can be stored in the door because it’s made of mostly fat. As a matter of fact, you may remember growing up with your salted butter stored on your countertop. I’m in no way a health professional and I’m certainly not suggesting you store your butter on your counter, however, it should be safe stored in your door.
Colder at the Bottom,
Warmer at the Top
If you’ve always believed that it’s colder at the top you might have mistaken the location of your top shelf for Mount Everest. The exact opposite is true for your trusty old food locker. If we’re trying to get the most out of the life span of our food then you should know that cold air sinks, therefore, most refrigerator’s bottom shelf is the coldest. Pros store all of their ready-to-eat items like yogurt, hard and processed cheeses, left-overs, packaged food, cooked meats and prepared salads on the top and middle shelf. I like to store healthy snack items that I’m always trying to peddle off to my kids at eye-level. Store your leafy herbs, like cilantro and parsley on the top shelf. There are many ways to preserve the life of your herbs, but I like to put my fresh herbs in a large zip lock bag (unzipped) with a moist paper towel to keep things damp and fresh.
Rot- Low, Wilt- High
Your produce drawers are called “Crispers”. They are meant to hold your fruits and veggies and if you’ve never understood what the little humidity controls on those drawers are for, here you go: they control the humidity! 😉 This is where remembering “Rot- Low, Wilt- High” comes in handy! More humidity prevents items from being dried out. Less humidity encourages a drier environment. Foods that will rot do better when placed in low humidity. Foods that wilt do better when placed in high humidity. If you want your vegetables (like lettuce, cucumbers and peppers) to stay fresh they will need humidity. Your fruit cannot share the same crisper as your veggies because they produce a chemical that help them to ripen. Unless, of course, you’re aiming to get rid of your vegetables as fast as you can (like my kids) I suggest you keep your fruits in a separate crisper. Your fruits (citrus, cantaloupe, apples, oranges) require less humidity.
Introducing My Fabulous Food Tricks
Am I the only one who has two kids who are constantly crying about never having any food in the house? The fridge and pantry can be FULL of food, yet, they claim we never ever have anything to eat! That all stopped when I got smart about where and how I placed the food in the fridge. It occurred to me one day while out window shopping that if I displayed my fridge like retailers display their windows, then my kids might actually want to “buy what I’m selling”. So, I labeled two clear bins with the word “snack” and loaded the bins up with healthy snacks like, pudding, yogurt, trail mix, fruit cups etc… I stored the cheese sticks upright in a clear drinking glass and I put the lunch meat and sliced cheeses in the pullout drawer which I labeled “cheese & lunch meat”. And, for my final food trick I bought a clear lazy Susan to hold all our beverages. No more having to pull out the beverage containers in the front to get to the ones in the back. Abracadabra and poof! Amazingly, my kids no longer have trouble finding the food!
Interesting Food Fact:
Did you know, according to Jeff Potter, a food science expert and author of Cooking For Geeks, “putting bread in the fridge actually makes your bread go stale more quickly than simply leaving it at room temperature.” This is because bread (and all baked goods for this mater) when fresh out of the oven are moist in the center. When bread goes stale it is because the moisture has traveled throughout the baked good. Refrigeration actually accelerates this action. Freezing your bread, however, stops (freezes) the moisture in its place, therefore preventing the acceleration of stale bread.
Clean Up On Aisle 4
So now that I’ve explained in detail what goes where, head over to your fridge and rate yourself! Be honest…no cheating! I’m guessing a good number of us, especially those of us with little minions running around, have some reorganizing to do. No worries! Pull it all out (and I mean EVERYTHING) and start over! Once your fridge is bare naked, clean that baby up! I use warm water and vinegar. The Magic Eraser works wonders on getting the toughest little scuffs off. Check all your expiration dates on your food items, bottles and jars. Open up every lid and clean around the seal. Ketchup and mustard gunk? Just get a paper towel wet with hot water and wipe it off. Toss out anything that isn’t worth restocking. And now that every thing is cleaned up, organize your refrigerator like a boss. Your family will never know that you just saved them from salmonella poison, so I am taking it upon myself to send you a big giant THANK YOU!