Thursday, June 21, 2018

32 Quick & Easy Tips to Organize Your Refrigerator!

The refrigerator is meant to keep things cold, but it is one of the "hottest" spots in the home! This is where much of the food is stored that nourishes our families, and it is accessed multiple times a day. Knowing that, I always recommend that folks invest a small amount of time creating a few easy systems that aid in streamlining the meal planning and food preparing process. And I am not talking anything fancy, just really obtainable and sanity-saving ideas that save time with fewer trips to the grocery store and provide quicker meal making over the course of a busy week.



GE Appliances recently invited me to Louisville, KY, to help a family of five organize their new high-capacity fridge. Just like us, this family has three growing boys in a variety of activities, and needed a larger fridge and some organizational tips to simplify their food storage just in time for the hectic summer months.

Now, we have all seen those organized fridges that go viral because they are perfectly styled with rows of bins filled with flowers, colorful fruits and pretty cans of fizzy water. I could look at pictures of fridges like that all day long, and I always appreciate a good bin, but I do have to wonder, where is all of the food? The meals for a large family, the leftovers, the snacks, the breakfasts and lunches that last for the entire week? I really wanted to offer up some of my favorite usable and practical tips to help this family, and you, take control of the fridge.

When I arrived at the family's home, I was welcomed with a new, large capacity fridge and a week's worth of groceries straight from the grocery store.


I showed up with a few of my tried and true organizers and got right to work assessing what a typical week's worth of groceries looks like for this family, and how I can best set up their fridge to accommodate both the food and their lifestyle. My number one goal was to put a fridge together that is easy to maintain, offers future versatility, and remains functional week after week.

The fantastic team at GE Appliances was there to see how it all went down, and they put together a quick video of my ten go-to, no fail refrigerator organizing tips. Check it out below!




Here is a quick recap of the video's talking points:



Although I generally encourage folks to empty a space first, when it comes to the fridge, I actually recommend the opposite. Fill your fridge just as you would on a typical week, or maybe even shop and plan for those times when you have more food than usual (think extra kids visiting or a party or eating home every night of the week, etc...). This is really helpful in setting up your fridge to work for you week after week and to consistently accommodate your routine and lifestyle. This is also the best way to plan for any organizational bins and storage you may wish to add.



Whether you are organizing an entire room, a cabinet, or the fridge, I always recommend keeping like items with like, and sorting things into general categories. By placing items back in specific locations, you create a bit of muscle memory and can quickly find things time after time. Keeping the fridge categorized is also quite helpful before heading to the grocery store. Just open the fridge and do a quick visual scan to see what foods and condiments need replenishing.


In this specific fridge, I did condiments in the door (even divided out spreads, juices/beverages, toppings & dressings, and garnishes), salsas and sauces on the top shelf, kits on the next couple of shelves, main dishes and leftovers alongside milk & eggs in the large middle area, followed by veggies, fruits and deli items in the drawers below.



These days refrigerators help you easily store the majority of your items in specific temperature controlled areas. That said, it is good to know the ideals temps and locations for storing your food, to be sure to get the most out of that food. Take advantage of the specific drawers for keeping your veggies crispier, your fruits fresher and your deli meats and cheeses ready for lunch making.


Beyond that, I have read a few different articles that also recommend keeping your milk, dairy, and meats at the center of the fridge where it is coldest. The door is not recommended for eggs or milk because that is generally the warmest location and can cause early spoiling, but this location works great for juices and dressings. Also, there are a lot of fruits and veggies that actually do better stored outside of the fridge, and knowing which ones with help to free up even more space for the items intended to stay nice and cold inside.



I have been a long time kit maker and kit cheerleader! And for this fridge, I spent no more than ten minutes putting together five fuss-free kits.


Kit number one was a breakfast bin to hold yogurts and rolls. It can also be a place to store some berries, spreads, toppings, etc... whatever you relate to breakfast specific meals. Kits 2 - 4 were snack kits; one filled with finger veggies portioned into snack bags (snap peas, carrots, sliced peppers, celery, etc...), one filled with finger fruits portioned into snack bags (berries, melon, orange slices, etc...), and the last with some grab-no-go snack cups. Finally, a tray to hold deli meats and cheeses that can quickly transfer to the counter for sandwich making (I also like to add some other sandwich toppings to the tray such as sliced tomato, onion, and avocado).


Investing a few minutes after grocery shopping to put together these really quick solutions saves so much time for the entire crew over the course of a week.



You may have noticed, but the majority of the bins used throughout the fridge are clear! That's because clear storage gives you that quick visual and reduces time spent looking through and for things. Before heading to the grocery store, just open the fridge and you can see which bins are running low without pulling everything out.


Another bonus for using bins for corralling the majority of the fridge contents is that they can be individually removed and cleaned at the sink, which is much quicker and easier than trying to scrub down the entire interior of your fridge when things spill and leak.



Not only do bins help to categorize your fridge contents, they also act as additional drawers!


To make the most of a fridge, it is best to adjust the shelves throughout, but that may limit your ease of accessing the items near the back. Extra long bins help to bring those foods to the front in one quick motion. I also recommend selecting bins that have handles or are lightweight for portability.



Why label? Because it keeps everyone on the same page and allows the entire family to quickly identify and locate where things are. Even if you put a variety of breakfast items into a clear bin, your little one may not know what everything in that particular bin has in common without the help of a simple label. Labeling also helps everyone put things back in the right "zones" and to keep general order.


As much as I love a good label, try not to over-label. The goal is to keep the fridge flexible yet simple from week to week, so general categories are best.



Just like deep bins, turntables are another really wonderful solution for preventing items from getting lost near the back. They are especially great for heavier jars or bulkier containers.


We have used a turntable in our fridge for quite some time now, and I absolutely love it. But this larger version with a lip really stole my heart and I will be upgrading immediately. It makes better use of an entire shelf and also reduces the risk of items falling off and breaking or spilling. So many wins.



I divide my utensil drawers, my junk drawer, my dresser drawer, so why wouldn't I divide the drawers inside of the fridge?


Smaller open-top bins and baskets are a great way to prevent fruits and veggies from rolling around. They also work well for separating out the contents of the deli drawer.



Did you know that you can write on most glass and plastic storage containers with a chalk or dry erase marker, and then just erase it away when it is time for a change? I love this so much, it is so easy to label our food storage containers with the meal contents, prep instructions and the dates that they were prepared or purchased. (Be sure to test your marker/bin combo in an inconspicuous spot a few times just to be sure they are compatible.)


No more questioning if the food in the container is yesterday's dinner leftovers or last week's science project.  #beenthere




So there you have it! I was so thrilled that GE Appliances asked me to help this family setup and organize their new fridge. As you may have noticed, this specific fridge had more space than I was even able to fill, which was a first for me with the many different refrigerators I have organized over the years (this particular model has almost an entire cubic foot more space than most refrigerators in this class). I am obsessed with how many main dishes, leftovers, and sides were stored throughout, and the flexibility there is for adding additional items for cookouts, birthday parties, entertaining, etc... But what tickled me most about this whole experience was watching the homeowner open her fridge and point out all of the details, and getting excited about the solutions I whipped up for their clan. There was a bit of relief, and she also expressed how easy it was to find things and transfer items to the nearby counters. That is the best feeling ever.

There are a few products that continue to be superstar workhorses for me each and every time I organize a fridge, and I have sourced them for you below.






** This post was created in collaboration with GE Appliances to share my favorite fridge organizing tips. All of the ideas and opinions shared are my own. I sincerely appreciate brands supporting my content and work! **


32 comments:

  1. LOVE this and so wish I could do this in my fridge - unfortunately, my fridge is too narrow so none of the drawers or trays fit well. And we don't have too many fridge storage options in South Africa x

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    1. Thanks Caley-Jade! I always find it interesting to hear how appliances differ from country to country (and food storage too).

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  2. Great ideas! I recently added a dream drawer divider into the deli section of our fridge and it has been life changing! I always wish we had a bigger fridge but when I take the time to organize it I realize the size is actually ok. I'll be using these ideas for sure, I love the idea of snack bins and love how you pointed out they can help contain all the spills!

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    1. Love this! It's the little things right?! :)

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  3. I always enjoy your great tips! Good job on the video too!!

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  4. What are your thoughts on organizing the freezer? We have a similarly shaped fridge, and I don't know how to organize when the freezer is so deep. Especially since I tend to buy meat in bulk and freeze meals ahead.

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    1. I like to use magazine files or narrow bins and baskets to create freezer categories (frozen fruits, veggies, meats, breakfasts & treats). I do find freezer drawers a bit more challenging to recommend product for, as they are all sized so differently and it takes specific measuring to troubleshoot each specific one (there are no one size fits all bins that I have found yet). Sometimes you can get extra dividers from the fridge manufacturer, the kind that clip inside of the drawers to offer a little more separation.

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  5. This is a helpful post as my fridge could use an organizational refresh. It's an old fridge so it doesn't have as many built-in drawers, but I can "make" drawers with bins as you've shown here. It had some good tips I can apply to my pantry too, though as you know it's super deep, so I've been having trouble figuring out containers to suit the space. I always appreciate your help!

    It's so fun to see you on video! You present very well. You should consider doing more of these, if you enjoy them. :)

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  6. Holy cow! I didn’t know you could use a dry erase marker on containers like that. Definitely adding one to my container drawer.

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  7. How did you label those label holders? It looks wider than label machine tape?

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    1. I used my Label Maker (this one: https://amzn.to/2tmX2v1). It comes with a variety of tape and font options. :)

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    2. Thanks so much! I had no idea tape came that wide.

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  8. Which model is this particular fridge?

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    1. Hi Susan, here is the link to the fridge: http://products.geappliances.com/appliance/gea-specs/GFE26JSMSS

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  9. I'm sorry, this is completely unrelated but, I thought you looked so much like Scarlett Johansson in the picture! Beautiful! And I love your top!

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  10. I have a question about the spin tray - I looked it up but it didn't indicate how wide it was - could you give the inches it needs? Thanks for your posts - they're always so helpful.

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    1. Hi Elaine! The spin tray is 13" diameter. It's a great size for an upper fridge shelf.

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  11. Oh my goodness this is amazing! We are about to move to a house with a huge fridge (I'm so excited), and I've been brainstorming ways to organize it. This will help so much!
    www.holycitylife.com

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  12. Hope you got to enjoy Louisville! We love our town!

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  13. We just got a new refrigerator that is similar to this one. My first thought: "must find I Heart Organizing tips on how she organizes her fridge/freezer"! Thanks for the tips!

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  14. Hello Jen,
    Lots and lots of love from Sri Lanka!!
    I've been following your posts for a while. Love your ideas!!

    Mariola

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  15. It seems like a lot but I guess you only have to do the labeling and the sorting once and then you're all set after that . . ? :)

    Noelle
    http://elle-no.com

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  16. Love this! These are my favourite types of posts from you. The dry-erase marker tip is such a good idea. Thanks for all the tips! :)

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  17. Love the ideas, organization in a refrigerator is always a great thing :)

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  18. The lazy susan for the fridge is such a good idea!

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  19. Hey Jen, great video! I heart that fridge! Our house came with a brand-new side-by-side fridge, which I don't heart...at all. It seems like we never have enough room for all of our condiments, so I took your great advice and added a lazy susan. I found a two-tiered one on Amazon (side note: I'm using the little center to hold our sour cream, which is always one of those ingredients we tend to forget whether we have it or not, so we then buy more. Great to have its own little spot). The lazy susan is definitely helping to corral like items, which I heart.

    Going back a few posts ago, you had a great tip about using cabinet bumpers to prevent drawer trays/dividers from slipping. I, too, have trays/dividers that struggle to stay put and based on your tip ordered some bumpers and voila - no more tray slide n slide! :)

    Thank you for your tips and tricks! I didn't want to comment initially on both the lazy susan and bumper ideas...I wanted to wait to say great idea AND I implemented them in my own home! Thank you that two pf my minor household "problems" are now solved!

    My hubby has been working hard finishing the downstairs of our split-level home and several weeks ago we were able to move two of our girls into their new bedroom downstairs! I would love any ideas for how to set-up and organize an under-the-stairs closet as that is what they have for their bedroom closet. Such a great depth of space that I want to make sure we use.

    Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Kristin,

      Your testimonial means the world to me! Thank you so much for sharing how you are able to use the tips shared here in your day-to-day life. That is always music to my ears! ♥

      Jen

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  20. I love this post! When I was done reading it I literally turned to my husband and said "I love this post!".
    I especially loved the snack kits you made. It is always a struggle to get my kids (and husband) to snack on the right foods, mostly because they aren't easy enough for them to grab. So this was just meant for me.
    We live in Scandinavia and everything here is a lot smaller then what you have over there, so even though the fridge is somewhat of a dream scenario, the principals are the same and probably even more important when you have a small fridge.
    One thing that is really important for us is that the fridge is divided into categories that the kids (4 and 7) understand. So that when they "help" in the kitchen my husband or I don't have to spend extra time and energy putting things back right afterwards.

    Thanks again for always great content.
    Kristine the Dane

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    1. Thank YOU Kristine for taking time out of your day to leave that comment and share what you took away from this post. I appreciate that so much! And I agree that these tips can be applied to any fridge of any size, thank you for reiterating that.



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    2. I just watched the video again and I still love it. Haha. Have a nice day!

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