Is the inside of your refrigerator Instagram-worthy, with neat bins and matching storage containers? Or is it a bit more chaotic, with food, drinks, condiments and more put in any open spot? No matter what the inside of your fridge looks like, odds are you could improve how you’re storing your groceries.
Where you’re stashing different foods inside your refrigerator directly affects how long they last. Storing foods in the wrong places can lead to premature spoiling – but changing your habits and how you organize your fridge can help you enjoy your groceries for longer.
Here’s how you should organize your fridge to maximize food freshness and longevity.
Keep dairy products at the back of your fridge
Admit it: if you opened your fridge right now, the milk would be sitting right in the door.
One of the most common places to stash milk and other dairy products like butter is inside the refrigerator door. It seems like the perfect place: it’s convenient, it fits cartons and gallons, and you can always find items quickly.
But putting your milk in the fridge door can cause it to spoil faster. The fridge door gets opened frequently throughout the day, meaning milk is exposed to inconsistent temperatures. Every time the door opens, your milk gets hit with warm air.
To avoid these temperature swings and keep your milk at its prime for longer, take it out of the door. Instead, store it on the bottom shelf and place it towards the back of the fridge. According to temperature tests conducted by CNET, you’ll get colder, more consistent temperatures here.
Store eggs alongside dairy products
Eggs are another popular fridge door item – and some refrigerators even have built-in egg storage spots located in their doors. But you really don’t want to expose your fresh eggs to the frequent temperature changes that happen every time you pop into your fridge.
Like milk and other dairy products, eggs should be stored in a cool, consistent spot like the back of your fridge. You can keep your eggs and dairy together so these finicky foods are always getting the consistent cold they need.
Keep condiments and drinks in the door
After you’ve taken your milk, eggs and other dairy products out of the fridge door, you can replace them with condiments and beverages. Drinks like juice and water are perfectly safe to store here, and so are salad dressings and other condiments. If you’re keeping cooking oils in the fridge, you can also store these in the door.
In temperature tests performed by Consumer Reports, refrigerator door temperatures tended to be a few degrees warmer than the rest of the fridge. So, you’ll want to reserve all of your door storage space for items that are more stable – or items that can survive at temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beverages and condiments are the perfect picks, as they don’t always need to be refrigerated. Plus, condiments are tough enough to survive frequently being taken out of the fridge and returned, so they’ll handle the door’s temperature inconsistency without any issues.
Separate fruits and veggies
Plenty of people keep all of their produce inside the fridge, but not all fruits and vegetables actually belong here. Certain kinds of produce thrive better outside of the fridge.
For the fruits and veggies you do store in the refrigerator, it’s important to know which can be safely stored together and which need to be separated.
You can organize your fridge produce into two groups: ethylene-sensitive and ethylene-producing. All ethylene-producing foods create a gas (ethylene) that makes ethylene-sensitive foods ripen and spoil faster. So, if you keep these two kinds of produce together, you’ll find that some fruits and vegetables wind up going bad in no time at all.
It’s best to keep ethylene-producing fruits, which include apples, bananas, pears and mangoes, outside of the fridge and on your kitchen counter instead. Ethylene-sensitive fruits and veggies can stay inside the refrigerator in your crisper drawers. These include broccoli, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce.
If you need to keep both ethylene-producing and ethylene-sensitive foods in your refrigerator, put some space between them. You can place the producers on the top shelf and stash the sensitive items inside your drawers.
Put meat where your fridge is the coldest
Fresh (or raw) meats like beef, poultry and different types of seafood have to be carefully stored in your refrigerator in order to stay safe from potential spoilage. When stored improperly, these foods can develop potentially dangerous bacteria – and they can go bad quickly.
So, to prolong their lifespan and keep them at just the right temperature, you’ll want to store all fresh meat inside its store packaging and place it in the coldest spot inside your fridge. In some refrigerators, this is on the bottom shelf at the very back. However, in other refrigerators, the top shelf is the coldest. Use a thermometer to determine where your coldest spot is, and make that your go-to fresh meat storage destination.
To find the coldest locations, you’ll also want to look for your refrigerator’s vent placement. There are often vents at the back of the fridge that you can’t easily spot, and placing food near these vents keeps it extra cold. Try to place your beef, poultry and fish near these vents, whether they’re at the back of the top, middle or bottom shelves, for the best cold storage.
If your refrigerator is fancy enough to have a separate temperature-controlled drawer just for meat, that’s also a fantastic place to keep all fresh meat, poultry and fish. You can set a lower temperature if you’d like for extra-safe storage.
Stash leftovers and non-temperamental foods on higher shelves
Wondering where everything else goes? The top and middle shelves, or the uppermost shelves, of your fridge are perfectly fine places to store other items. Place items that aren’t too sensitive to temperature or don’t need special considerations – like snacks, cheese, and deli meats – here.
Higher shelves are also a great storage spot for your leftovers. Leftovers don’t spend very long in the fridge, so they don’t need to be extra cold or stored for longevity. You can utilize the top and middle shelf just for your leftovers or prepared ingredients you made during your weekly meal prep.
Rotate older food to the front
Once you’ve rearranged the food inside your fridge, you should also make sure to reorganize, or rotate, your food every so often. As you purchase new groceries and add them into the mix, make sure to bring older items to the front.
It’s easier to grab and use items you can see and reach without rearranging your entire organizational setup. So, if you buy a new gallon of milk before the old one is finished, make sure to pull the older carton to the front so it’s visible. You can do the same with leftovers, eggs, meat and anything else that needs to be consumed before it spoils.
Don’t overfill your fridge
Here’s one last tip that’ll help you keep your refrigerated food in its best possible shape. As you organize and fill your fridge, make sure you aren’t overfilling shelves and stacking food in as tightly as possible.
Overfilling a refrigerator can prevent it from effectively cooling – which has a direct effect on the temperature your food is stored at. Packing too much food inside can block air circulation, cover up key cooling vents and alter the interior temperature at every shelf and storage point.
Aim to keep what’s inside your fridge visible and easily accessible. No matter how you organize your fridge, you want to be able to see most of what’s on each shelf. It should be easy to reach in and move items around. To check the temperature, you can also keep a separate thermometer inside your refrigerator to give you a quick gauge of how well food is being cooled.
Discover more about keeping food fresh and properly stored whether it’s inside your refrigerator, freezer, or pantry: