Tuesday, August 23, 2016

58 Organized Counter Depth Fridge & Freezer Drawer with Tips and Favorite Products

What is it about the back-to-school season that lights a fire to just get things done? I feel like I am nesting all over again, which is odd because I am actually prepping to send my kids off each day...


We typically do our grocery run on Sundays to shop and meal prep for the week ahead. We are typically weekly shoppers and stock up on sale items on occasion. This week when I returned home from the grocery store, Bryan and the kids helped to put away the recent grocery haul.


This sight really is not all that unusual for us over this past year.  We purchased a counter depth fridge (this one) as part of our kitchen renovation, and organizing it proved slightly more challenging than the regular depth options we have owned in the past. We did ditch our freezer chest in the garage, and replaced it with our previous kitchen side by side fridge and freezer (this one). Both needed a little organizational attention, but the one we actually use each and every day was first on my list.

My biggest dilemma was the freezer drawer.... In fact, it made me regret our purchase for far too long. Opening the drawer gave me literal chills, even though I liked to call it our hot mess express.



Yeah, I didn't even know those frozen berries and ice cubes were way back there until I went to take these before photos... #yikes

Most weeks I would open the fridge and think to myself, "I really should do something about this" and then I would convince myself that it is just a fridge and I had bigger fish to fry. But then I realized that I couldn't typically find the fish I wanted to fry, or that I accidentally over purchased the fish because I wasn't aware of what I had on hand.

With school on the horizon, I knew I had to finally take back control of the fridge and freezer situation (plus a few of you have been asking for this post which was another nice push, so thank you).

The one thing I loved most about our previous fridge and freezer situation, was the ability to use my favorite organizing bins. I tried to use them in this fridge as well, but with 6 less cubic feet to work with, only two of the bins fit. Those two bins were really the only part of the fridge that was organized and functioning properly. I later took my own advice and added a small lazy susan for some of our jars, and that was also a small organizational win. It was time to tackle the rest of the shelves and bins.


Prior to working on this project, I had taken measurements of our fridge and freezer and had been looking for new bin options. I prefer to organize with bins because it allows me to categorize food types which ultimately makes things easier to find. And in the freezer drawer, bins are helpful in preventing objects from being lost at the bottom.

After a lot of searching, I picked up a stack of bins from Target for just a few dollars each.


I was elated to see that I could fit a total of 7 of these bins in my two small freezer drawers!



In fact, elated doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. Remember, I live for this stuff. And now that I finally had organizers after a year of rummaging through expired and freezer burnt food, I couldn't wait to get things categorized.

As I removed items from the freezer onto the counter, I sorted them down into general categories. I also used this as an opportunity to check all dates and wipe down the interior of the freezer.  I then placed items into the bins, keeping categories a little general and flexible.


Remember, we have a second freezer in the garage, so the intent with this freezer is to store all of the foods we will reach for over the course of the week. The garage should only be used for anything much too bulky, massive plan-ahead-cooking and freezing sessions, and items we purchase in large quantities due to a good sale price. Prior to grocery shopping, I will restock the inside freezer with items from the garage freezer, and then continue to plan the rest of our meals for the week.

Inside the top three bins, I categorized out the following:


  • Gluten free bread and waffles
  • Frozen veggies
  • Frozen meats

The bottom four bins were categorized with the following:


  • Frozen treats 
  • Breakfast items (croissant, hash browns, sausage patties, etc...)
  • Frozen quick meals (chicken breast strips, breakfast burritos, etc...)
  • Add-on items/sides (rice, soup, etc...)

Again, the bins are pretty flexible in terms of their contents, their primary purpose is to prevent anything from becoming lost in never never freezer land. 


Just as I removed everything from the freezer, I took the same steps with our fridge. I also added some superfabulous grey stripe Fridge Coasters.


Are your heart shaped eyes increasing in size like mine?


The liners will help keep fridge cleanup easy breezy, while the stripes will make us smile every time we open the fridge.


The fact I can finally see and find everything only makes that smile bigger. I mean seriously, do you hear the fridge angels singing?


After a little research, I realized that I was storing a few things incorrectly. I found this darling infographic to be particularly helpful in where I returned items to the fridge.

via

The biggest "ah ha" was to store our meat and dairy in the center of the fridge.  But let's just take a quick tour of all of the shelves.


The upper left shelf holds our jarred condiments, and with a quick spin of the lazy susan, they are all easily accessible and nothing is becoming lost in the back. A few stacked tubs of sides also live on this shelf.

The next shelf holds our washed grapes and my version of fruit snacks. There are mixed feelings on washing and storing fruit, but I find we eat it so quickly that I have never had a problem with it going bad or becoming slimy.


Do your kids watch The Crazy Russian Hacker on You-Tube? My younger two boys are always giggling and learning something new, and I admit to being sucked in from time to time as well. Well, my boys were watching one day and informed me that I needed an onion chopper because I am always adding raw onions to my dishes (poor Bryan) and I cry every time I need to cut up the onion. The chopper makes it quick and easy to cut up an onion, and even allows me to store the onion for a few days in the fridge. I decided to give it a try and it really does chop an onion in a flash, but I had to be sure to add a box of baking soda to the fridge because that smell will try and linger.


The next small area of the fridge offers just enough room for leftover containers and eggs. And honestly, with three growing boys, we have very few leftovers. Sometimes I will make a salad of some sort to add to the kids lunches throughout the week. I do love these glass containers, which also allow me to use a dry erase marker on them to add the date of the meal.


Just below you can see that now our dairy and meat live right where they belong, in the middle of the fridge. And they are easy to find because everything else is out of the way organized in the other parts of the fridge! #calmdownjen #easilyexcited


Another shelf now holds two bins which are intended for school lunches and snacks. One corrals sides like yogurt, fruit squeezers and cheese sticks, while the other stores their juice boxes. By taking these items out of their original packaging, I am able to save space in our fridge and create a "drawer" that is easy to grab from while packing lunches each day.


We have used this can holder for a few years now, and really like that it prevents any cans from rolling around in the fridge while conserving a few inches as the same time.

As I mentioned, my favorite bins did find their way back into the fridge; again for breakfast items and our yogurt obsession. In this case, I didn't fix what wasn't broken. I just added a couple new labels and continued on.


Our fridge has a couple of drawers that are also labeled for specific tasks, one we use as a veggie crisper and another for fresh fruits.



For leafy veggies, such as herbs and lettuce, I remove the vegetable from its packaging and wrap it in a clean paper towel and place it inside of a zipper bag. The paper towel seems to prevent the vegetables from becoming soggy during the week.


Another trick I recently learned is that celery and carrots can be stored in water to keep their freshness and to prevent them from drying out. I picked up two of these tall bins and just be sure to switch out the water every day or two.


Because I also like to pre-wash my fruits (two reasons; I don't trust that my boys will remember to wash everything before they eat it and I just find it more convenient to reach for prepped fruit over the course of the week), these ventilated containers aid in maintaining their freshness for longer.

Below the fruit and veggie drawer, there is another drawer that we like to divide in half to use for our meats and cheeses. Again, meats and dairy are being stored in the central part of the fridge, and the divider easily slides to offer some flexibility.


Another weekly prep item I like to do from time to time, is whip up some pancake batter and store it in the fridge for a quick morning breakfast. This batter dispenser is fun for creating shapes and easy enough for my boys to make their own, however, I only trust the freshness for a day or two so we need to do pancakes early in the week.


The other door is pretty typical and does a good job holding our dressings and condiments, again very loosely categorized.


Are those liners still making you smile?


Who knew that organizing 20 cubic feet would require so many words and photos!? #whew

A few more quick talking points:

  • We don't store much food in the fridge in the garage, typically it is just used for extra beverages. However, it does come in handy when entertaining and looking to store larger bowls and dishes.
  • Speaking of the other fridge, I am sure we could find a way to make this one work all on its own if we had too, but having the old fridge as a back-up in the garage has really made this smaller counter-depth fridge more manageable for a family of five.
  • We opted to purchase the fridge with the water dispenser inside of the fridge vs. in the face of the door to save on storage space (and don't regret that decision one bit).
  • Frozen pizzas really didn't fit well in our freezer drawer, so we began utilizing either tortilla shells or pre-made pizza crust (which we store in our pantry) and making our own fresh pizzas instead. 
  • Our optimal fridge temp is 38 degrees and freezer temp is generally set to 0, however, it did rise while taking photos which is why you may have noticed the higher number.
  • I could have went on a labeling frenzy, but decided this should be easy enough for all of us to grasp and maintain. If anything starts to fall apart, I will add a label or two down the road.

And to finish up my ramblings, the glorious before and afters of this fun and rewarding organizing task:










*affiliate links used


58 comments:

  1. Could you do a post about organizing a freezer chest?

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    1. I definitely need to do a post on that, I really disliked using a freezer chest and trying to reach and dig to the cold bottom. They are so tricky. I will have to see if one of my family members will let me work on theirs as we were quick to give ours the boot! ☺️

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    2. One tip for the organizing process of a deep freezer (which always takes time): wear rubber dishwashing gloves! You won't get freezer burnt hands, esp if you have lots of frosty ziplocks!

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    3. In the meantime Elieth, Alejandra Costello of Alejandra TV has a video about freezer chest storage/organizing here http://www.alejandra.tv/blog/2012/11/video-deep-freezer-organization/

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    4. The answer is to buy a stand up freezer. All that storage and no trying to reach the bottom.

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  2. This looks SO good. I'm doing a lot of things wrong (wine on top, dairy in door!) so it's also been very informative. Love that infographic. Thanks for sharing it all Jen!

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  3. I got too excited this morning as I scrolled down and realized, hey, that's my fridge! LOL. Not exact, but I think the only difference is that our wide drawer doesn't have a divider. We've only had our fridge for about a month, and I am still struggling with moving things around, trying to find the optimal spot for everything. It is only my husband and me in the house, so our food haul is obviously different, but this post helps a bunch! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. It looks like i will be making a trip to the container store today. Haha This is a great post and everything looks great per usual

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  5. This looks awesome!! I was just telling myself last night that I need to clean out our fridge and change some stuff around, but it was Monday and I wasn't about to tackle that when trash day isn't until Friday morning lol I am totally going to order that lazy susan for ours though! what a great idea and I really like those containers in the door for the celery and carrots. Looks like I need to make an order from the Container Store. Thanks for sharing

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  6. Hi Jen, which size bins do you use from the container store?

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    1. Hi Candi! I typically gravitate to the medium size (which is what I used here). They are so versatile!

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  7. Okay, I'm totally motivated to go tackle mine! and go to the grocery for some better snacks!! I see all the fixins for a famous Jones wrap!! ;) and of course I was checking out what your fave Trader Joes items are, too! ;) xoxox

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  8. Wow even your before picture is better than mine. Our freezer is an avalanche waiting to happen. You make it looks so good and easy!

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  9. Ugghhh I have that exact fridge and i HATE it because it is too dang SMALL!! We are in a rental so I have no say in it and we have no garage so there is no back up storage space. What I have learned is that I will NEVER EVER EVER get a counter depth fridge, should the opportunity arise. Thank you for this post because now I can use some of these ideas to attempt to get more organized with what little space I have. Is it bad that I secretly hope our fridge craps out and can offer the landlord to buy one ourselves so we can get a real-sized fridge again?? Haha! A girl can dream...

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    1. Hi Jaime! I agree it takes some getting use to, but there are definitely ways to maximize the space you do have. Good luck, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions along the way.

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    2. So after seeing this, I went home and adjusted where we store the milks (we keep 2 kinds plus half and half) and despite not altering the actual amount of items in the fridge, just shuffling things around opened up more space...like magic!! ;) We had all the milks (largest items) stored on the top shelf but I moved them to the lower one like you show here and voila! I still am grumpy about the size, but this has helped!! :) Thank you! In my last home, a teensy, tiny condo (750 ft sq) my cheapo fridge was MUCH larger than this fancy one, so it was frustrating! haha. I am cracking up at the UK'ers below commenting on how tiny their fridges are...its so true when you put it that way. Us Americans and our oversized everything! ;)

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  10. Looks great. Another near way we store I pancake batter we put it in a ziplock freezer bag and freeze it. When we make pancakes after its thawed we cut the bottom corner and sqeeze it out in the pan.

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    1. Love doing this as well. Thanks for sharing Amy!

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  11. Amazing! I love your work. Regards from Spain ;)

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  12. Beautiful post, Jen. Do the ventilated fruit containers really make a difference? I've been tempted to buy some for strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries that don't last very long, but I didn't want to spend the $ if it doesn't do much more preservation than the little plastic containers the fruit comes in. Are they worth it?

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    Replies
    1. I had heard and read good things about them, but I really think we just eat our fruit so quickly that we really don't have a problem with it going bad very often, if ever. I would guess you might get an extra 2-3 days out of the container, just be sure to dry your fruit as much as possible before refrigerating.

      xoxo!

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  13. I had to smile at Jaime's comment about how small she thought the fridge is - here in the UK that would be counted as very much on the large side (and extremely well stocked!). Whilst 'American style' fridges are growing in popularity here, a lot of our kitchens just can't accommodate them size-wise.

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    1. I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing!!!!

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    2. Ditto. The previous owners of our house left us with an integrated under counter fridge, which is minuscule. I checked something comparable looking online and it was less than 5 cubic feet.

      This post explains why my choices were so limited when looking for containers to organise our fridge recently - they were all US imports and mostly far too big.

      (We weren't left with a freezer, or space for one in the kitchen. So that's in the garage along with the washing machine. Fortunately, in classic British style, the garage is too small to fit a car.)

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    3. Ditto. The previous owners of our house left us with an integrated under counter fridge, which is minuscule. I checked something comparable looking online and it was less than 5 cubic feet.

      This post explains why my choices were so limited when looking for containers to organise our fridge recently - they were all US imports and mostly far too big.

      (We weren't left with a freezer, or space for one in the kitchen. So that's in the garage along with the washing machine. Fortunately, in classic British style, the garage is too small to fit a car.)

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    4. I have heard that as well. It is so interesting to hear about the differences, and the food/meal types!

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    5. It's the same here in France, this fridge would be a dream come true since our biggest fridges are probably half it's size! (If you are lucky enough to live in a house...) In a flat, tiny under the counter fridge+freezer is the norm... And honestly, we have no issues to live with it. I would even be pretty scared to have so much stuffs like dressings and dairies in my fridge since we would never finish anything before it goes bad!

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  14. Do you add-on extra shelf to your fridge? If yes.. please gimme a how-to & what-to-used please

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  15. Store your chopped onion in a glass jar in the fridge - no smells :)

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    1. Thanks Paula! That is what I had done in the past and agree that I never had any problems with the smell, I will just have to start transfer the chopped onion to a jar. :)

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    2. Any ideas on how to store chopped onion in the freezer? The smell wafts throughout the fridge. I've bought frozen onions from the supermarket and they don't leave a smell but if I buy onions and chop them myself to store in the freezer - they leave a horrid smell.

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  16. Hi Jen! Awesome job once again! I have two quick questions… After washing your fruit do you make sure its dry before storing in the fridge? I have been doing this and its such a pain when you have a lot to do. Hoping you tell me I don't need to ;) Second question.. how do you get your kiddos to not eat the school snacks/drinks on a regular basis? My kids don't seem to grasp that concept.

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    1. I do try and let the fruit strain and sometimes will toss it in a flour sack rag to get it a little dryer. I do find that it really helps in adding an extra day or two and keeping fruit less soggy.

      I am still working on the kid thing, but I find if I give them freedom in other areas, they understand that they can't touch specific bins (otherwise their lunches will end up being lame because I always remind them I only go to the store once per week and when something is gone, it is gone).

      xoxo!

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  17. I would have never imagined that a beautifully organised fridge could make my heart beat faster :) It would be interesting to know why the infographic suggest not to refrigerate onions. I find I cry less when I chop a cold onion so I always keep them in the fridge :)

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    1. That's interesting, I always try to store food the way I find it at the supermarket, so I have never refrigerated onions until after they were cut. The crying thing is intriguing to me, I cry ridiculous amounts while cutting onions, even when I try all of the "tricks".

      And yes to this type of thing making a heart race, I am glad to hear I am not the only one! :D

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  18. Did you have to trim the fridge coasters to work in the counter depth fridge? Thanks so much for this post!!

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    1. Hi Katrina,
      The fridge coasters come with a few perforated edges so they can easily be sized down to your fridge dimensions, but they can easily be cut as well. :)

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    2. What size coasters did you buy? I have a similarly sized refrig.

      Thanks.

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  19. I'm working thru the house purging and organizing two spaces (small, like a drawer or shelf) each week. This makes me want to bump the fridge up to the top and do the whole thing. I will follow your lead and purge and measure first; then decide what size containers will work for organizing the freezer section.

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  20. It's ironic that you posted this, because I recently have been cleaning and sorting our fridge, freezer and pantry items. As someone who has been following your blog for years, I appreciate each hint! Thanks Jen! (I may have to share what I did last night with labeling my baking supplies!)-Vanessa :)

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  21. Those liners! You got me so motivated, just cleaned out, cleaned and repacked my whole fridge :D
    But I have a question. What would you use to store frozen fruit? I only have a small freezer in my fridge (around 40x30x20 cm). I always buy bags with frozen fruit, but they're so bulky and stuffy. Any ideas?

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  22. I dice all my onions and store in the freezer. They don't clump together and stays fresh. Easy to measure out and use for recipes and add when browning hamburger. That's fast too and no smelly fridge odors!

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  23. This is awesome. Love the fridge coasters, now hunting for some in the UK!

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  24. Oh I've been waiting for this post! I'm totally going to store celery like this now - but perhaps when it goes on special as it was $5.50 per bunch the other day! Ah the beauty of living in the tropics. I do have to say though Jen, that you are an absolute organising genius! I'm often borrowing your ideas and tweaking them to suit my family. So thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!

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  25. Thanks Jen! I literally ran out to Target to get the same containers for my freezer. I had been using the InterDesign Fridge Binz, but they were too big. Two of these clear bins plus three white ones I found fit perfectly!

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  26. Wow, great job. You've inspired me to tackle mine! So excited to see you have Organic Valley products. We are OV milk producers! My mom gave me a tip for the onion crying problem. Just turn on your oven draft and cut them near it. It sucks up the "fumes"!

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  27. Great post! The info graphic places eggs in the freezer, but I see you store your's on a middle shelf in the fridge. Is that a typo? I'd never heard of storing eggs in the freezer.

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    1. Hello,
      Eggs can be stored in either the fridge or the freezer, generally in the main body of the fridge. Here is a helpful article if you are looking for more specifics: http://www.eggs.ca/eggs101/view/39/egg-storage-freshness-and-food-safety

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  28. I just took a break from work and re-organised my fridge according to your handy chart!

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  29. LOVE!! This is my exact fridge. I struggle with keeping it organized. I just added plastic containers to store yogurt, applesauce, etc. I love the lazy Susan on top. I'm also keeping my milk in the wrong spot. �� Just yesterday a friend & I were in the Container Store. I didn't buy anything, but now I will go back with a list in hand. I also have a side-by-side outside. I do it a bit differently. I keep all frozen meat, veggies & ice cream out there. Each in its own basket. I'll try your method & see if that works better.

    BTW, I love the Schwans labels (I order too) and the Tazo Chai tea in the door! ��

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  30. Hi Jen, Is there a reason why you moved away from keeping your milk in glass jugs?

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    1. Hi Sara! I really love using glass in the kitchen, but I found that we were going through milk so quickly that I wasn't keeping up on the transferring any longer. I still transfer the milk and orange juice to chilled glass decanters on Sunday brunch days so they keep cold on the table longer. :)

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  31. Our biggest fridge issue is milk - with three boys aged 7 and younger, we go through 4 gallons a week. We have the smallest possible upright fridge/freezer combo thanks to the cabinet configuration in our kitchen, so 4 gallons takes up over half of a shelf. 😬

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  32. I started using fridge coasters after I saw them on your blog in another post. They are probably one of my most favorite products ever!!! I've used some of these same bins and techniques in my fridge and freezer. It makes the biggest difference. Thanks for the inspiration!!

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    1. That's so great to hear Emily! The fridge coaster make my heart race every time I open the fridge, those stripes!! ♥

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  33. I'm so glad you did posted this! I did a fridge organization post a while ago but have struggled with how to tackle the freezer drawer. Mine is a little different than yours but I'm going to see if those Target bins will help solve my own hot mess express! LOL Thanks for inspiring me to do some more organizing!
    http://missfrugalfancypants.com/an-organized-fridge-less-waste/

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  34. Hi Jen!
    We are in the market for a new fridge, and I was wondering if you could go through your process for choosing the fridge you did? Why did you choose french door, bottom freezer, counter depth with interior water spout? Is there anything you'd change if you had it to do over again? What decisions are you so glad you made? We can't even decide which style to choose (french door, freezer on top, side-by-side, etc.) because we can't even begin to understand all of the implications. Any suggestion would be super helpful!

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    1. Hi Meagan!

      That is a great question. We did a LOT of fridge research and review reading. And of course, we also had some limitations that played into our ultimate decision.

      Limitations being the counter depth size, which really weeded out quite a few options. Our new kitchen layout just would not accommodate a larger fridge. I also wanted something with bar pulls (vs. a curved pull), it was important that I liked the aesthetics of the appliance and that it matched other aspects of the kitchen. After looking at the interiors of a lot of the fridges, I noticed that a door water/ice maker took up a lot of real estate, so that took away even more options. A lot of my great readers mentioned they like the options that a french door fridge offered, and the reviews on this particular model were quite good (and it was in our budget). I knew I was sacrificing on the freezer, but I also like a good challenge and figured there must be a way to make it work since so many people swear by this type of fridge style. After we decided to keep our previous fridge in the garage and ditch the reach-in-freezer chest, I felt really confident in our decision to purchase this fridge and being able to make it work for our weekly grocery stock. I still don't love the drawer, but now that the fridge itself is organized, it really holds a lot of food and has been working really well for our family.

      Best of luck to you as you hunt for the perfect model and please let me know if you have any additional questions about the pros and cons of the model we landed on.

      xo!

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