You might not have thought that there is a strategic way to organize your fridge. When we put our groceries away, many of us simply place our food items where they fit and are easily accessible. However, if you are just tossing your food in the fridge, you may be tossing away your money at the same time. The average U.S. household throws away up to 31.9% of the food brought into the house. The costs of wasted food can add up.
Improperly stored food can end up going bad much faster and can force you to throw away your food much earlier than necessary. Once you understand the best way to organize your fridge, you can keep your food in your fridge longer, enjoy it more, and save your money.
Proper Settings for Your Refrigerator
Your refrigerator is designed to prevent the growth of bacteria on your food, which can ruin the quality and even make you sick. Food safety rules state that food should never remain in the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This range is where bacteria growth thrives, so you want your refrigerator to keep your food below it. To account for variability and opening the fridge, consider setting the refrigerator just a notch below — at around 38 degrees.
Not every refrigerator has a numerical temperature gauge. Keeping a standing thermometer inside can help ensure that it remains at the right temperature, especially in warmer climates.
Even after your refrigerator is properly dialed in, it does not exactly maintain the same temperature throughout the entire space. Since cold air sinks as hot air rises, the coldest part of your refrigerator is at the bottom. Although, if your fridge has an icemaker at the top, the coldest air will be at the top.
There can be quite a bit of variability based on how often you open the refrigerator and how efficient it is. As a result, organizing your fridge to store and preserve your food properly requires a little bit of strategy.
How to Store Different Foods in Your Refrigerator
Because of the variability in temperature around your refrigerator, there is an art to where your food is placed in the fridge. Your routines for storing food have an important impact on its quality and its shelf life, so taking the time to organize your fridge properly will pay off in the long run. The following tips will keep your food fresh and better tasting.
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How to Properly Store Meat
Storing meat should be taken the most seriously out of any of the other options due to the risks. Beef, fish, and poultry all follow the same guidelines. If stored at too high of a temperature, meat can easily develop harmful bacteria like salmonella. Therefore, it is best to store meat in the coldest part of the fridge — the bottom shelf.
It is also a good idea to store meat on the bottom shelf because of the potential for the juices to drip from the package. If juices from raw meats drip from a higher shelf onto other items in the fridge, it can cause a significant health hazard, as well as create an unexciting cleaning task on your to-do list. Unless there is already a Styrofoam tray in the initial packaging, place a plate or tray underneath.
Tips for Storing Dairy and Eggs
Dairy and eggs should be treated similarly to meat. If you have ever had milk that sat out in a warm temperature too long, you’d understand why. Although dripping dairy products is not as large of an issue, you do want your dairy products to be colder than some other items in the fridge.
Keeping these products on either the bottom or middle shelf protects them against vastly fluctuating temperatures, which are not kind to dairy products or eggs. These products can also tolerate the middle shelf depending on how much space you have. If you have room on the bottom shelf, consider putting your eggs there to protect other foods in case they break.
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How to Store Fruit in Fridge
Although you may not always be able to tell by your local produce section, a lot of fresh fruit, like apples, berries, and grapes, last longer in the fridge. By following a few tips, you can preserve these fruits for as long as a week, if not slightly longer.
These fruits are best stored in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, also known as the crisper. This area keeps them cold and away from the risk of cross-contamination. If your fruit is in a plastic bag or container, make sure it has small openings to let out any excess moisture and preserve the fruit longer.
There are a couple of don’ts as well. First, do not refrigerate your fruit before it is ripe. Refrigerating fruit too early can prevent it from getting ripe or delay the process. Second, do not wash your fruit before storing it; only do so before you are ready to eat it.
Not all fruits need to stay in the fridge. For example, citrus fruits will do just fine at room temperature. Just make sure to keep anything not in the fridge out of the sun’s path through the window. Regardless of where you keep your fruits, keep them sorted with the same fruits. Different fruits can release gases that can speed up the aging process of others, so always sort your apples with apples and your oranges with oranges.
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Storing Techniques for Vegetables
Vegetables can be finicky. One moment they look crisp and enjoyable, and the next, they are limp and not worthy of even a soup. Despite the challenges that come with storing vegetables, a lot of them can be overcome by proper storing procedures.
Vegetables are similar to fruits in a few ways. Keep refrigerated vegetables in a ventilated plastic bag to allow for air circulation. Also, try to avoid washing your vegetables before storing them if it is not absolutely necessary, as excess moisture can cause mold.
For crisp vegetables, like celery, carrots, or green onions, it is best practice to store them in water. After all, vegetables can be up to 95% water themselves. This technique keeps them fresh, crisp, and crunchy. Fresh herbs, like parsley, cilantro, and basil, can also be stored in water to preserve their freshness.
Root vegetables, like onions, garlic, and potatoes, can be stored out of the fridge and in a dark cabinet to maintain their shelf life longer. Tomatoes should be left out at room temperature and should be set out without any packaging so that they are not kept out of the fresh air.
If you have already cut up and prepared vegetables, you can put them in the fridge in a container that maintains at least a little moisture, so they do not dry out.
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How to Store Leftovers in Your Fridge
Some of us get more excited about leftovers than others, but proper food storage may slightly change your opinion of your next day’s food. If not handled correctly, your leftovers can go bad and ruin tomorrow’s backup dinner option. To store them properly, start by placing them in airtight, leak-proof containers.
Once you finish cooking your meal, you should eat your portion and have the rest put away within two hours. At room temperature, your food is sitting in that temperature danger zone over 40 degrees. Waiting longer than two hours to put away your food gives plenty of time for harmful bacteria to develop and ruin your food. At that point, you should just throw it away.
Since they are already cooked, leftovers can reside on the top shelf of the fridge. Try to eat your leftovers within three to five days. If you know you are not going to get to them, they can last in the freezer for around three to four months, depending on the food.
Which Food Item Should Be Stored on the Top Shelf?
Since warm air rises, your top-shelf food is going to face the consequences every time you open your refrigerator door. Therefore, you should reserve the top shelf for your low-risk foods. These include foods like your leftovers, deli meats, and prepared meals.
Since these foods are pre-cooked or without raw ingredients, they are less likely to develop bacteria. Of course, they are not exempt from food safety rules, but you have a little bit more leeway. Even with the temperature fluctuations that can happen in your fridge, they are not likely to grow bacteria in these small windows.
Additional Tips for Storing Food in the Fridge
In addition to understanding how to properly store each of the most common foods in your refrigerator, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind. Keeping these tips in mind will minimize your food waste and allow you to make the most of your grocery shopping.
Beware of the Door
As you may be able to guess, the door is the warmest part of the fridge, so use those shelves with caution. Although it is convenient to leave your eggs or milk on the door for quick access, you may regret it when you taste the effects.
Instead, use the door for items like ketchup and other condiments. Condiments have a far greater shelf life than other items in your fridge. That doesn’t mean that you should leave them out as you please, but you can have a little bit more grace with them.
Freezing Is Your Friend
If you do not expect to get to your foods within a few days and you want to avoid throwing them out, you can take advantage of the freezer. You may be surprised at how many foods can benefit from the freezer.
The freezer option can come in handy quite often. You can freeze cut-up fruits or vegetables, uncooked meats, and your leftovers. Even bread holds well in the freezer if you have extra, and it maintains its freshness after it is thawed.
The freezer can extend the life of your food by months. Once you thaw something, be sure to cook and eat it as soon as possible. If it helps, you can imagine freezing as a pause in the food’s lifespan. Once the food is thawed, that timeline continues where it left off.
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Follow the First-In, First-Out Rule
If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know this phrase well. First in, first out means you use any old food you have before new food. Obviously, the stuff that you have had longer is going to go bad first, so you should use it first. Whenever you return from grocery shopping, place all the new groceries behind the old ones, so you use them after. Create a system that works for you to help you avoid hidden food that will go bad.
Explore Resources for the Best Refrigerator
How you store your food plays a critical role in keeping it fresh. By storing food items in designated parts of the fridge, you can preserve their quality longer and save yourself the time and money that comes from throwing away spoiled food. To expand upon the best ways to organize your fridge, make sure you have a refrigerator that fits your needs and find one that has the right size and output to match the needs of your home or office.
If you are hoping to learn more about the best way to organize your fridge and the options you have for quality refrigerators, RefrigeratorHQ.com can help. We have several resources to help you understand what to look out for. For honest reviews about refrigerators, freezers, and accessories from the top brands in the market, visit RefrigeratorHQ.com.