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How to Organize
a Fridge

January 15, 2021

Whether your fridge is a high-tech wonder or a basic model you’ve relied on for years, it always looks better after it’s been cleaned and organized. Many of us clean up spills right away and remember to wipe down the outside when we tidy our kitchens, but how much attention really goes into fridge organization? Probably not enough.

Before we get started, you should know that an empty fridge is bad, but an overstocked fridge can be worse. Packing your fridge with food can lead to things falling out when you open the door, difficulty finding items, and most importantly, blocked vents and reduced airflow. To keep your fridge working efficiently and your food stored safely, your goal is to keep your fridge two-thirds full.

If you frequently buy condiments you didn’t know you already had, or find leftovers that have gone bad, you may be the victim of a disorganized refrigerator. Keep reading to find out why refrigerator organization is so important and how our field-tested tips can help you take your fridge from messy to organized and clean.

Why Is Fridge Organization So Important?

When you learn how to organize your fridge, your condiments, fruits and vegetables, and leftovers will be easier to find. That can mean less time spent in the kitchen, less food waste, and even a lower grocery bill. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, up to 40 percent of the American food supply is discarded. That means Americans spend $161.6 billion a year on food that gets thrown out!

Learning how to organize a refrigerator can make cooking easier and save you money, but it can also mean a safer way to store your food. Did you know most refrigerators have temperature zones designed for storing specific foods? Many refrigerators are the coldest at the back and bottom and less cold near the doors, for example. The best way to organize a fridge is to know how to use these temperature zones correctly. We’ll begin with the doors and work our way through the fridge.


Refrigerator doors are usually the warmest part of the appliance. This is where you want to keep ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, and other less perishable condiments. Be aware that those fridge doors can become a catch-all and get disorganized quickly. Store like condiments and sauces together and put other food items where they belong.

Top Shelf

The top shelves of refrigerators are typically warmer than the middle and bottom shelves, so use these to store foods that don’t have to stay very cold. These shelves are perfect for items you’ll likely use soon, like berries, tomatoes, pies, and cakes.

Middle Shelf

The middle shelf is where you want to store dairy products, packaged foods, leftovers, and prepared salads. Being front and center, the middle shelf is also good for storing healthy snacks and foods you need to eat before they go bad.

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Bottom Shelf

Because the bottom shelf in your fridge tends to be the coldest, it is ideal for perishable items like eggs, raw meat, poultry, and fish. These items will stay colder and you reduce the risk of cross-contamination by keeping them away from other food in your fridge.

Crisper Drawers

Most refrigerators have crisper drawers for storing fruits, vegetables, and other items. These drawers have manual humidity settings you can adjust depending on what you’re storing to keep food fresh and safe.

Store food that can rot in a drawer with low humidity—think apples, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers. Store food that tends to wilt, like herbs, broccoli, lemons, and strawberries in high humidity.

Now that you know where the best spots are for particular food items, you’re off to a good start with your fridge organization. Even though you’ll be storing food items in different temperature zones, it’s critical to make sure your refrigerator is set to the optimal overall temperature. According to the FDA, the safest and most efficient temperature for a refrigerator is at or below 40°F (4°C); the best way to check the temperature is by using an appliance thermometer.

Refrigerator Organization Begins With a Clean Slate

Now that we’ve covered the fridge organization guidelines, it’s time to move on to how to properly clean your fridge.

Oh, you didn’t think you were just going to move some things around and call it a day, did you? We wouldn’t let you end up with an organized fridge that is dirty, would we?

We’ll start with decluttering.

The first step for refrigerator organization is to take everything out of your fridge and put it all on your kitchen counters. Even the best fridge organization ideas will only work if you purge your fridge items first. Check the dates on condiments, sauces, dairy products, and other dated food items. Throw out any expired foods, old leftovers, and anything else you know you’ll never eat.

The next step is to clean out the inside of your fridge. If you want to clean your refrigerator without using harsh chemicals, mix up your own safe, all-purpose cleaner:

  1. Mix a half-cup of distilled white vinegar, the juice of one lemon, two cups of water, and a half-teaspoon of dish soap.
  2. Spray and wipe.

For tough stains and buildup, use a plastic scrub pad. If it’s been a while and there’s a lot of buildup, pull out any removable shelves and drawers, soak then wash them in the sink.
Before you place everything back in the fridge, consider lining your shelves first. I know it sounds crazy, but they will totally save your fridge from messy spills that are a nuisance to clean up. You can use plastic placemats that you can cut and shape to the space you need or silicon fridge liners, both do the trick for keeping fridge shelves looking clean and food from sliding all over the fridge.

Now you can place everything back where it belongs and begin restocking your fridge according to the temperature zones, storing items that go together in the same area. This is a good idea whether you’re working on fridge organization or stocking up with new groceries. Some examples of storing like items together are deli meats and cheeses, eggs and milk, and other popular combos. Consider your regular eating habits and find the pairings you’ll use most often. You’ll spend less time searching for ingredients and have a better idea of what’s in your food inventory.

Next-Level Refrigerator Organization Ideas

Understanding where and how to store food items and purging stuff you’ll never use will give you a more organized fridge. But when you take your organizational efforts to the next level, you can optimize your food storage even more.

Label refrigerated food like restaurants do.

Dating lets you know what’s been in your refrigerator for a while so you can eat it before it goes bad. While dating your food may seem like overkill, once you make it a habit, you’ll probably find that you’re throwing out less food and buying fewer groceries.

Putting this into practice is easy. Whether you’re storing leftovers in a food container, vegetables in a zip-top bag, or a piece of pie in aluminum foil, use blue painter’s tape for a label. Write the use-by date and the name of the food with a permanent marker. If you store food in disposable containers or wrappers, you can skip the tape and mark your date right on the packaging. We know you can do it!

Use storage containers to make more room.

You probably already know the convenience and organization you get with using storage containers in your home, so why not extend that convenience to your fridge? Use airtight containers for leftovers and cut-up fruit or vegetables. Store snacks in a separate food container for easy access and longer shelf life.

Use a beverage container with a spout for water, juice, milk, or other beverages—it’s easy to find beverage containers to fit the space you have. Use mason jars for storing herbs, sauces, condiments, and other foods.

Hang on to empty egg cartons to wrangle your condiments.

You probably have condiments and sauces in your fridge door, at the back of shelves, and all over the place. Why not free up space, make condiments easier to find, and recycle all at once by using empty egg cartons?

Put one or more egg cartons in a refrigerator door, turn your condiments and sauces upside-down, and nestle them in their own spot. Genius, we know! Your fridge will be better organized and your condiments will be ready to go. Just make sure the lids are tight before you flip them over. Been there, done that!

Get your fridge clean and organized, make the most of the space you have, and make a commitment to keep it that way. Want to know more about getting organized and keeping things clean? Check out our extensive library of helpful cleaning and housekeeping guides.

The Maids is committed to making your home a healthier, cleaner place to live. Find out how affordable maid service can be when you get your online estimate today.

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