Updated: Oct 6, 2020
A greatly organized fridge means to potentially reduce your chance to:
Avoid wasting food by extending their shelf time and eat them on time,
Reducing your shopping expense by not double buy items you already have
Prevent food poisoning by making your choices more visible and accessible.
1. Fridge Caring 101
Before organizing anything it is important to make sure to clean and disinfect every surfaces and corners of your fridge to make it fresh and prevent the formation of food borne illness and contamination.
Frequency : at least once every quarter
Empty the fridge
Take all the content out of the so that you can easily remove the shelves and access the frame to wipe away any dirt, stains and spills. Worried about perishable food getting spoiled in the process you can either work in smaller sectios : shelf after shelf or place the fresh food in a cooling bag or a cooler temporarily.
Wipe down all surfaces
You can use a white vinegar spray on a cloth and wipe the fridge surfaces. You can go further and follow with a disinfecting spray in the same manner to complete the process. Take another dry cloth to dry all sanitized surfaces. A thorough clean includes , all shelf levels, their respective drawersn the inside door and its compartments. For the drawers, if extra dirty, start directly with them by remove them and let them soak in a hot, soapy bath. Once every other places are done, come back to your drawers, wipe them down and put them back in.
Reassemble the parts
Now it is the time to put the shelves back in order each at the desired levels.
One extra step is to add a deodorizer in your fridge to prevent unpleasant smells from lingering smells. Natural deodorizer can be used such as grounded coffee or coffee beans, baking soda, half of an apple or a potato.
2. What's going on in your Fridge
Here is a few fact to know about your fridge temperature
The ideal temperature of your fridge should be between maximum 7-8°C on the higher shelf (the warmest part of your fridge). If your fridge has a regulator with settings from 1-6 or 2-7, set the regulator to 1 or 2. This way, your fridge temperature won’t be too cold.
The optimal temperature for your freezer is -18°C. Running your freezer just one degree colder can cause your freezer to use up to six percent more power – an unnecessary waste of energy.
Rule of thumb: If your butter isn’t spreadable, then the fridge is too cold and should be adjusted to a warmer setting.
The air on the top shelves is up to 4 degrees warmer than on the lower shelves. The reason is that cold air drops from the top to the bottom – no matter your settings.
The temperature at the back of the fridge, the closer to the back surface is the coldest and most consistent. As a result, some items placed on the right level can still degrade if too delicate, especially vegetables (salad, should not go near the back as it could freeze and get spoiled).
3. Mindful choice
Take a breath and do not rush back to your old ways.
When placing your items back, consider what makes sense to you and your diet. A good way to start is to think for example about the foods you reach for the most, your essentials for breakfast / lunch / diner / snack.
Make sure they are easily reachable and at the same place: shelf and side on your fridge to reach them effortlessly (eg for milk bottom left, bottom right would be for less used items).
4. What food/drink goes in what shelves
To extend your food life, placing them on the correct shelf level is important. However, some items do not even belong in the fridge as they have a negative impact on other items, such as tomatoes with other vegetables (but more on this on our next point).
Upper Shelf – 7-8°C – Food which do not need cooking
The top shelf of your fridge is well-suited for cheese, packaged leftovers and deli meats.
Medium Shelf – 5°C – Fresh dairy product
The middle shelf is the best spot for your dairy products (yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, milk, etc.) and eggs. It’s also great for opened jars of fruits and vegetables.
Lower Shelf – 2°C - Fish and meat
The coldest shelf is most suitable for wrapped raw fresh fish and meat. Remember: Less is more when it comes to animal products. This location also has the advantage to preserve unnecessary spoilage due to spillage.
Door – 8-10°C
The Door is the warmest area because it is the one which temperature fluctuates the most. It is perfect for ready to grab food with natural preservative like condiments, spreads and jams. Butter can be put on the door as well, but eggs and milk not so much.
Drawers – 7-8°C – fresh fruits and vegetables
Because oxygen, humidity, heat, and light neutralize the vitamins in your fresh product, the drawers at the bottom of your refrigerator are the to go places to protect your seasonal fruits (berries, apricots, cherries, etc.) and vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and asparagus.
5. What does not go in your fridge
For vegetables, most are fridge compatible except of only : tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and pumpkin. Tomatoes will lose their flavor in the fridge and can spoil quicker so make sure to leave them at room temperature.
Many root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, and onions, do not like low fridge temperatures and are likely to sprout if it is too cold for them. It’s better to store them in the cellar or in a dark cupboard.
Vegetables with a high water content (cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.) lose some of their flavor when stored in the fridge.
For fruits, it gets more complicated unfortunately as some types keep their optimum freshness in the fridge, some will be too cold sensitive and others will develop and release the gas ethylene with effect to ripen faster the fruits and vegetables nearby.
Which fruits go in the fridge : Rule of thumb is that domestic fruits such as apple, cherry or plum can be stored in a cool place.
Which ones do not : exotic items such as mango, pineapple, banana or citrus do not belong in the fridge. Exceptions: figs and kiwis. should not be stored in the refrigerator or they will develop brown, watery spots. For orange, lemon, lime... they do not stand the cold so make sure to store them in the open at lower room temperature if possible. Even sliced, they will still last around a week.
Strong ethylene fruit producers : apples, tomatoes, banana, avocados, peaches, apples, apricots and plums. So keep those separated from your other fresh products (and each other) unless you want those to ripen at a quicker pace.
Mushrooms: In the refrigerator, they are better stored in paper bags or dish towel rather than any plastic box and wrap they can be found in at the supermarket. Mushrooms need to breath and the plastic wrap by trapping moisture may cause them to spoil quicker. Also, they absorb odors from other products so make sure to store them away from stinky food. So make sure to not overbuy and eat what you bought within the next coupe of day due to a short shelf life.
Opened cans : It would be unfortunate to contaminate your food through the aluminum material of the can itself. Many cans today still contain the unfortunate BPA. So no need for any risk, empty its content into a glass container, to make it safe and last longer.
6. Shelf Life
Here are some information on how to read the different date label on your food.
Best-before, Use-by date / Mindesthaltbarkeits- und Verbrauchsdatum (MHD) is a recommendation from the manufacturer rather than a strict rule. This date guarantees that the product unopen until this date will keep all of its nutritional values. Passed this date, the product is not automatically doomed to get thrown away. It is usually still edible but would have loss some of its nutrients. As a rule of thumb : rely on your senses : loos, smell and taste. If already opened before the MHD, you can check on the packaging if the manufacturer mentions how long the food can be kept after opening. A good trick will be to keep a sharpie and write on your can when you open the food and the new before date.
Usage date / Verbrauchsdatum (VD) : this date appears on perishable animal products such as raw meat, poultry and fish. If the VD of these products is expired, the consumption of such product could lead to food poisoning, hence, the bin is their only desination by then.
One way no to forget and throw away your animal products is to cut them in portion and freeze them as soon as possible after purchase. In portion will make the food freeze faster so less prone to get contaminated, save energy when defrosting and you will eat what is needed. The fresher the food is stored, the longer it will last and keep its nutritional value.
7. Fridge Management - 10 Tips to Keep in Mind
Do not overload your fridge space to let the air flow
Make sure to set the correct temperature
Place your foods and beverage on their correct shelf level.
Know your food: what goes in and what does not
Inventory system : FIFO = first in / first out, especially for fresh food, put new purchase of an item, behind its old stock.
Do not put warm dishes/leftover in the fridge as it will make the fridge temperature rise.
Make sure all items are wrapped to extend their freshness and avoid spillage, beewrap are the most eco solution.
Create a « Eat me First » box in a bright color for the food you already opened or are about to soon expire.
Keep a sharpie near the fridge so you can label/write clearly on container the open date / Best Before Date of the food.
Glass is better for food prep meal, as plastic can leave some harmful residue on the long run. So if you originally had plastic ones you can reuse them as storing containers for unopened items.