Organize Your… Refrigerator!

By Katie Faulkner

The fridge is a place that can all too easily become cluttered and messy, causing you to close the door and go out to eat. Out-of-date condiments, forgotten leftovers, and too many beverages can impede your ability to make healthy eating choices at home. If you’re looking to streamline your kitchen experience and enjoy healthy food choices, few things will help you more than maintaining a well-organized refrigerator! Read on for a foolproof process.

1. Purge

Before any cleaning or organizing can begin, you must purge the refrigerator of expired or unwanted items. For a fresh start to eating healthy, sift through the inventory with the intention to replace less healthy items, like ranch dressing or sodas, with healthier alternatives, like pesto and sparkling water. Keep in mind that this step of the process will have to be repeated frequently to keep a well-organized refrigerator.

Remove all items, even those you’re keeping, temporarily for cleaning.

2. Clean

While the refrigerator is completely empty, wipe down all shelves, drawers, and door compartments with warm soapy water. Remove any shelves or drawers desired for a more thorough cleaning – wash removable components in the sink and reach otherwise inaccessible areas while they are out of the way.

Consider having the air filter, water filter, and coils serviced and cleaned annually to biannually.

To help maintain a clean refrigerator, wipe spills and drips immediately, store food in well-sealed glass or plastic containers and bins, and consider placing an open baking soda container or open activated charcoal container inside to absorb odors.

3. Equip

When choosing items that will help you keep an organized refrigerator, try to also keep in mind a few tips that will lead to healthier eating choices. Clear containers will encourage better choices – if you can see healthy options, you’re more likely to choose them. Clear plastic bins are wonderful for organizing multiples, like cans of sparkling water, individual string cheese snacks, or various fruits like apples or oranges. They are also a great way to keep the refrigerator clean. If you store wrapped raw meats in a bin on the bottom shelf, you reduce leaks and cross-contamination. Bins come in various shapes and sizes; some are better for cans, bottles, or jars, some are the right size for fruit, or ever larger heads of produce like cabbage or broccoli, and others are wider or have dividers as a safer way to store your protein. You should be able to find options that fit your lifestyle.

Clear glass storage containers are excellent for leftovers and prepared meals and snacks. Simply remove the lid for reheating. They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, and many types can go in the oven and dishwasher as well.

4. Restock

When restocking and replacing cleaned items to your refrigerator, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, if your goal is to eat healthier, restock with nutritious choices that are visible and easy to access. Store colorful produce front and center as snack options. Keep prepared meals in a tidy, easy-to-grab stack for your daily nutrition, and have healthy beverage options readily available.

Second, organize items in a way that maintains food safety. Take a page out of professional kitchens’ playbooks and organize your food in order of required cooking temperatures from top to bottom, with the top food items needing the lowest cooking temp. For example, use your top shelf for already cooked leftovers, beverages, or dairy items like yogurt and cheeses. Use middle shelves for raw ingredients to be added to recipes, and use the very bottom shelf for raw meats. This way, any drips that occur won’t result in contamination, since the lower foods have to be cooked at higher temperatures.

Also, with food safety in mind, the door is the warmest part of any refrigerator, so avoid storing milk, eggs, or other highly perishable items here. Condiments are fine in this location.

Keeping a clean and well-organized refrigerator does require consistent upkeep, but with the proper planning and equipment in place, you can maintain a refrigerator that makes cooking, cleaning, and eating healthy a faster, easier, and more enjoyable process!

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