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How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro

April 14, 2016  —  Written by Julia 

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What does the inside of your fridge look like? We are the type of household that try to get the main part of our fridge as empty as possible every week. This system started shortly after we finished the kitchen renovation last year. We felt inspired to get our refrigerator super organized and I can’t tell you how much this has allowed us to save money by not having to throw out food that pasts its prime, inspires us to continue to eat fresh, and makes meal planning and snacking a breeze.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

Our long-time partner, Blue Apron (you’ll almost always find them in our fridge), asked us to share how we optimize our fridge space and while it isn’t Cribs worthy, we’re happy to break it down and hope it helps you in your own grocery goals.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

The organization of our fridge is a mix of research on the best places for basic items in the fridge (did you know the door is the warmest spot in the fridge?) and what we found functions for well for us. Here’s how it breaks down:

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

1. Our top shelf is left-overs. We usually have leftovers for lunches and/or dinner once a week. However, we’ve learned if we don’t group all of them in one spot, they become out-of-sight-out-of-mind-into-the-garbage-eventually. I like keeping them on the top shelf because they are right at eye-level practically screaming “eat me!” We also keep a box of baking soda right behind them to neutralize smells–which leftovers put off more than anything–a lot easier to do when they are all together. Using all the same brand of containers (we have two sets of this one) allows for optimal stacking in the fridge and the tupperware drawer and keeps everything looking consistent, too. Getting all matching tupperware will change your adult life.

2. Our fridge shelves are adjustable so we made one larger to accommodate drinks (except milk).

3. We picked up this white bin last summer at Ikea for the sole purpose of accommodating our Blue Apron produce and “knick knacks” (the smaller ingredients provided for the recipes). We are on the family plan (they also have a 2 person plan) which delivers all the farm-fresh ingredients we need, in exactly the right proportions. You can skip weeks or cancel anytime, but we’ve been receiving deliveries (on our own dime) about 2 or 3 times a month for almost two years now. When it’s not in Blue Apron use, we’ll stick other recipe-specific ingredients in there for the week that might get gobbled up otherwise, ie. an apple for chicken salad, cheese for lettuce wraps, etc.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

4. Half of this shelf is dedicated to snacks. It’s right at Greta’s level and she knows that if it’s on that shelf, she doesn’t need to ask to eat it. We aim to keep it stocked with healthy options: yogurt, fresh cut fruit, veggies and hummus. Sometimes I’ll even shift an orange or string cheese up on that shelf since she has been so trained to only look to see what’s there to eat. Ha!

5. Eggs do best where the temperature is most consistent—on the middle shelf. It’s also best to store them in their original carton. We eat A LOT of eggs, so we’ve found it’s most economical for us to get 5 dozen at a time.

6. Deli Meats belong in the shallow meat drawer, which is slightly colder than the rest of the fridge, or (if there’s no such drawer) on the bottom shelf.

7. Milk tends to land on the top shelf or in the door, but it should be on the bottom, all the way in back, where it’s coldest. Yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese fare best on the bottom shelf for the same reason.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

8. Packaged raw meat should go on the bottom shelf where it’s super cold. We purchased this clear bin specifically for our raw meats to keep juices contained so they won’t contaminate the whole fridge. Our Blue Apron meats (this week it was chicken and cod) are also stored in here rather than the upper white bin.

9. Vegetables stay fresh longer with a bit of humidity. There’s generally a drawer labeled vegetables or high humidity–that’s the moistest spot in the fridge, perfect for veggies. On the contrary, Fruit belongs in the low humidity drawer (sometimes marked crisper). Both are best kept in the original packaging or in a plastic bag, loosely tied (citrus is fine with no bag). Quick Tip: Leave vegetables and fruits unwashed until you use them. Water can promote mold and cause bacteria to grow.

Our fridge just has one large drawer, but it is labeled to put vegetables to the left where the humidity is higher and fruit on the right side, where it’s crisper.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

10. Condiments are generally high in vinegar and salt, which are natural preservatives. So ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing are fine on the door–the warmest part of the fridge. The same is true for pickles, salsa, etc.. Butter doesn’t need to be super cold, so they (along with soft cheeses like Brie or goat cheese) can live in the dairy compartment on the door. These are also all things that don’t go through in one week, so it’s nice to have the to the side which allows us to still aim for the goal of cleaning out the main part of the fridge weekly.

Besides organizing everything in this way, we also meal plan. A lot of people look at sales ads when meal planning, which can save a lot of money, but we generally just shop for what’s in season and we base our meals off of our schedules and the weather. For instance, if it’s going to be nice out, Chris will almost always plan on breaking out the grill. If we are both have meetings one night, we’ll plan on having leftovers that evening. If we know that we have to get the built-ins finished downstairs on Tuesday night after the girls go to bed, I’ll plan on heading up dinner that night so I can have it ready right when Chris gets home. Which is where Blue Apron comes in.

While Chris can churn out amazing dishes from his brain, Blue Apron allows me to deliver the same caliber of chef-designed meals while walking me through it step by step–something I need! I’m not a great natural cook, but Blue Apron gives me confidence on those nights where it just makes sense for me to make dinner.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

Instead of going to the only things I know how to make (mostly breakfast food, haha!) I feel like I’m learning new recipes and we’re trying new foods and everything can be made in under 40 minutes.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

This particular night, we had panko-crusted chicken with pea tip salad & pink lemon. It was light, but filling and fresh. And our first time using pink lemons! We have been introduced to so much fresh, unique produce that you just can’t find in Idaho. That alone has us hooked.

How To Organize Your Fridge Like a Pro | Chris Loves Julia

Want to try it? Blue Apron is giving the first 25 CLJ readers two free meals! Just click here.

How does meal planning work in your house? Do you aim to clean out your fridge weekly? What’s one must-have in your fridge? As weird as it is, I love catching a glimpse inside other people’s fridges.

Ps. A look into our kitchen drawers, the full kitchen renovation before and afters and our kitchen appliances.

This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. 

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What do you think?

  1. Beth says:

    Which fridge is this?

  2. Jodi B says:

    Funny how I love to read DIY blogs – because I am getting ready to start my own for the same reasons you have started yours! Then I came across this post – who would have thought I could learn so much about my frig! I am geared up to go home and get organized – starting with my storage container cupboard! Thanks for all your information!

  3. I love having a clean, organized fridge! My biggest issue right now is our freezer; Our house came with a nice fridge, but it has a bottom drawer freezer which I assumed I’d love, and it turns out I hate! It’s impossible to fit larger items like frozen pizzas, and everything is hard to reach, and it needs defrosted constantly. Your set-up seems much more manageable!

    http://danielleandco.com/blog/2016/4/10/design-around-vintage-pink-tile

  4. Allie says:

    Also have that tupperware and love it! It is so great the everything snaps together so it easily stacks. I wish Blue Apron had a one person option or even just less than three meals. As a single person it just doesn’t make sense for me to buy six meals a week.

    • Julia says:

      I have a sister who is the sole member of her household and she does the 2 person meal plan. I’ll see if she wouldn’t mind chiming in with how she divides the food.

      • Allie, it’s just me in my kitchen, and I’m a huge lover of Blue Apron. I thrill in cooking three nights a week, and I like having leftovers for lunch or dinner. (Most often, I save the leftovers for the next night. It feels like a night off, and it’s quick and delicious) Best of all, 7 nights + 6 meals still leaves one night for my own Sunday sauce :)

      • Allie says:

        Thanks for the reply Julia and Victoria! Maybe I’ll just have to try it and see how it works for me! My problem is that usually on weekend nights I end up doing dinner with friends or calling drink specials and apps a meal. However, maybe half the time taking it for lunch could be fun and allow me to spice it up a bit.

        Sometimes I just get leary about hot leftovers for lunch unless it is like soup or pasta. I feel like leftovers (especially meats) are always best when you have more than a microwave to get the job done.

  5. Heather says:

    Oh man you just reminded me of one of the things I will miss the most when we move back to Idaho this summer, the lack of produce variety, especially since we are primarily vegetarian. We are really spoiled here in PA where are are so many farmers who grow such a variety, plus the farmers market where can spend $30/week and have more produce than we can eat. I cannot stand food waste, and I am a definite meal planner, I try to plan ahead for most dinners and lunches and only buy what we will eat in one week. And I absolutely love the snack idea, we usually just let the kids have free reign of the produce drawer especially for fruit, but sometimes they have to rummage in the fridge to find the yogurt and cheese. If we end up in rural ID I will definitely have to look into using Blue Apron to get some great variety. Thanks for all the great posts. And can I just mention how happy I am for you that your blog and other business ventures have really taken off, it is wonderful to see people who work hard at their passions be rewarded for that.

  6. Sam King says:

    Love the info on temperature- never knew there were varying temps inside the fridge!

  7. Corine says:

    I was just thinking yesterday that I would feel so grown up if I organized the fridge and meal planned! It’s a daunting thing for me. This breakdown clears up so much in my head! I’ve loved Blue Apron in the past and I’m feeling like I need to give it another go!

  8. Kate says:

    Organization happiness! Totally agree that it’s worth the small amount of time to set up a system for the fridge. Using a container inside the fridge for meal specific items is a great idea. Thanks!

  9. This post came just in time! I’ve been meaning to tackle the fridge for a while. Yesterday I opened it up and I was thinking, what a mess, I need to organize it pronto! I didn’t know there was so much more to it than just grouping alike items! I also keep a box of baking soda in the fridge for neutralizer and I find that it helps to put the leftovers in the top shelf otherwise they get forgotten about and spoiled. Thanks for all the pro tips on keeping foods fresh and safe for that matter. I will be bookmarking it so that I can come back to it for reference!

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