1. Cleanse - To get started, you need a clean palette. This part may take a minute, but once you change you're fridge habits, you'll never have to do this again. Sounds good, right? Start by taking everything out of your fridge. As you pull items out, think about if they should go back in. Be ruthless here. If it has expired, toss it. If you're not sure you'll use it, let it go. Feeling guilty about the food waste? Give that jelly you don't love to your friend, compost those wilted veggies, recycle old containers, and move on. Once you've gotten everything out of the fridge, give it a good wipe down. Now you can return everything worth keeping to the refrigerator. Make sure to wipe down any messy bottles as you restock.
2. Shop Smart - One of the ways that a fridge can get cluttered quickly, is by buying products you already have. Fortunately, you just cleaned out your fridge so you know exactly what is in there. Try to check your fridge before you shop so that you don't get duplicates. And if you accidentally do, make sure to use up the old item before opening the new one. My sister has five different ketchup bottles in hers and it makes me nuts! Another aspect of this is to consider buying less more often. I know this doesn't work for everyone's lifestyle, but I have much less food waste now because I only buy foods I know I'll eat soon. Rather than buying tons of ingredients so that I'll have options, I buy a few basics we use all the time and then any ingredients for recipes I'm sure I'll make that week. Then if I realize I'm missing something, I just run out for that one thing.
3. Put Everything Away Properly After Shopping - It is a lot of work to get organized, but once you do it, it only takes a little work to stay organized. So set yourself up for success by putting everything where it should be instead of just shoving stuff in the fridge. For me this means taking any berries and transferring them to a plate since they last better stored flat (bonus points if you give them a quick vinegar bath first). I also prep for dinner by chopping any veggies I plan to use that day. Cut the greens off radishes, beets, and carrots. Put sturdier herbs like thyme or rosemary in container loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel. Softer herbs like parsley or mint do well upright in a jar of water. Change the water every day or two to keep them fresh.
4. Decant, Decant, Decant - The packaging that most foods come in are not beautiful. And when I open my refrigerator I don't want to be bombarded with brands. So I often transfer foods into beautiful containers to make them more desirable. I mostly use glass jars like these Weck jars. This is also helpful because you can actually see exactly what you have and how much you have left. If you don't want to spend money on new jars, start rinsing out old jelly or pasta sauce jars and use them again. I know transferring food from a perfectly functional container to another one may seem silly (and this step is probably not for everyone), but when I take care to do this step it helps change the way I eat. I end up focusing more on whole ingredients and get more inspired when I look in my fridge.
5. Adjust your refrigerator shelves - This one may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't think to adjust the shelves in their fridges to make them more efficient. Play around with which configuration works best for you.
6. Merchandise - I went to the grocery store recently and the power had gone out so they had limited lighting from the back up generator. Seeing how unappetizing the produce looked without the special lighting was a major wake up call to me. Our choices are based so much on how the options are presented to us. So when you organize your fridge, make sure to highlight the foods you want to be reminded to eat. Cookie dough can probably stay tucked away in a drawer. If you want it, you know where to find it. But, produce? I keep it on the main shelf. I know they make special drawers to keep produce fresh, but how many times have you forgotten about a head of lettuce or wasted perfect carrots because you forgot they were in there? And put your produce in beautiful containers. You probably have a ceramic bowl or a wooden basket somewhere in your house that you could use. Make your healthy foods the most visible and tempting.
7. Organize Every Time You Open It (or at least weekly) - Almost every time I take something out of the fridge I check the date on something or reorganize an area that has been overlooked. This means my fridge is always relatively clean. If I neglect it for a while, I give it a slightly more intentional clean out. Add this to your daily or weekly routine and it stops feeling like a chore.
8. Put A Plant On It - Okay, this one is probably the least necessary, but adding a plant on top of the fridge looks nice. And maybe every time you water it you'll remember to check if your fridge is organized? ;)
Here are some of my favorite containers and storage solutions for the fridge*:
*Most of these contain affiliate links for which I make a small commission. Your support helps keep this blog running.