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Every few months or so, I clean out the refrigerator, tossing items that have expired, wiping down grimy surfaces, and reorganizing everything. It can be a daunting task, but there are ways you can organize your fridge to make both retrieving items and cleaning much simpler. These hacks can also help you get the most out of food, maximize freshness, and maintain an overall much neater look.

Here are some tips and hacks for both keeping your refrigerator organized and simplifying cleaning.

Take produce out of bags and plastic containers

If you shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, chances are you place them in clear plastic bags or they come in cardboard or plastic containers. Take everything out when you get home and organize them neatly in the crispers of the fridge. Put fruits in one crisper and vegetables in another, for example, or store items that emit a lot of ethylene gas away from those that will ripen quickly because of it.

If you prefer to keep small items like raspberries and blueberries neatly organized, wash and place them in your own Tupperware and put that in the crisper. Keep an eye on fruits and when they getting close to becoming too ripe, place them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer and draw from that selection to make smoothies.

Store small items in the doors, use an egg carton

The door storage areas are ideally suited for storing small and bottled items that you need to access frequently versus tucking them in the back of the fridge’s main area or leaving them at the front where you have to push them out of the way to get to other things. Organize them from tallest bottles to smallest, or by use (e.g. hot sauces on one shelf, condiments on the other, marinades on the next, and so on).

A neat trick is to place a portion of an empty egg carton on the bottom of a door storage area. Place condiment bottles upside down on top of it to keep them from toppling over as well as so you can get every last drop out of them. If you’re like me and love to keep those little packets of ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, and dip from fast food restaurants, keep them together in a small Ziplock or container in the door storage area as well.

condiment bottles

To go the extra mile, buy a set of condiment bottles that you can label (or that come pre-labeled) and transfer condiments to them to keep things neat and tidy in the door instead of maneuvering bottles of various shapes and sizes into a storage bin.

Put meat, poultry, and fish on the bottom shelf

When you come home with a fresh selection of meat, poultry, and fish, store it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. This is for a number of reasons. First, it’s the section that tends to be the coldest as well as the largest for fitting big trays. Second, this also prevents juices from potentially leaking onto food below.

Put the most frequently used items at the front

fridge hacks frequently used items

Regardless of their size, put the most frequently used and perishable items at the front of each shelf, like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., for quick and easy access. This will make it easier to grab them and prevent you from forgetting those yogurts way at the back that end up expiring before you can eat them.

Use stackable Tupperware and Ziplocks to organize items

stackable tupperware

Use Tupperware to organize things in the fridge (and it absolutely has to be stackable Tupperware!) and if you want to be extra-organized, consider labeling and dating everything.

If I know I’m not going to get through a huge pack of chicken breasts or ground beef, I like to transfer it to individual serving sizes stored in Ziplock bags that are clearly marked with what’s inside as well as the best by date. Roll things like ground beef and pork flat so they don’t take up as much room and stack them neatly. This also makes it simple to check the eyeball the best buy date and if necessary, transfer items to the freezer where they can be kept safely until you’re ready to defrost.

fridge hacks frozen ground beef

Use a Lazy Susan on the top shelf

lazy susan

If your fridge is like mine, it is fully stocked with condiments and, thanks to my husband and his obsession, multiple bottles of hot sauce. If you have the space, consider adding a Lazy Susan to the top shelf to accommodate these items, which will leave your door storage areas open for other things. Organize items like sauces, herbs, chopped nuts, and things used for cooking or spicing up dishes so you can quickly rotate and grab the one you need instead of digging through a wide selection and knocking bottles over in the process.

Store items used together close by

Whether it’s the fresh peanut butter and bottles jam or deli meats and cheeses, store them together so you can easily grab and go when it’s time to make a sandwich and you don’t keep the refrigerator door open for too long as you hunt for each item.

baking sheetUse a baking tray to divide shelves

Maybe your fridge has three shelves but the bottom one is spacious and high. If you use door storage for tall bottles like milk and juice, you can maximize that height by using a baking tray to turn one shelf into two. Then stack multiple things on top of others and remove the tray when you need to get what’s underneath. Keep essential items you access all the time on the top and place items you might use less frequently underneath. This leaves the back of the fridge free for those truly once-in-a-blue-moon items like Maraschino cherries used exclusively for Christmas baking or cornmeal you break out a few times a year when the inspiration for cornbread or homemade English muffins hits.

Use natural cleaning solutions

To avoid a chemical smell but keep your fridge fresh and clean, use natural cleaning solutions like baking soda lemon, vinegar and water. To absorb odours in the fridge, open and place a carton of baking soda at the back of the fridge. I do this consistently and swap them out monthly. You can also slice a lemon, put the slices in a bowl, and leave that in the fridge. Of course this doesn’t replace cleaning, but it can freshen things up in a pinch if needed.

Remove shelves entirely for cleaning

Instead of reaching as far as you can to try and scrub off the caked-on spill at the back of a shelf or crisper, remove them entirely to clean. Scrub, rinse under the sink, dry off, then place them back and re-load with your food. Removing everything shelf by shelf will also let you clean little by little, getting rid of items you don’t need or that might have expired in the process. You can also add cute designed paper liners to the shelves that you remove, discard, and replace, to help keep the actual shelves clean.

Bottom line

Sometimes, organizing food in your refrigerator can seem like a game of Tetris you just can’t win. But there’s a lot of cool hacks that can not only make things neater, and easier to clean, but can also help you get the most out of your food. You can potentially keep food fresher, longer, reduce the amount of food waste, get every last drop out of condiment and sauce bottles, and fit more inside to allow for creative meals.

Check out a wide selection of refrigerators at Best Buy Online, including models with plenty of useful storage options, including door-in-door, four- and five-door designs, French doors, adjustable shelves, and more.