8 Fridge Organizing Tricks That Save Food and Money

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interior view of a messy refrigerator ice box
By Karla Bowsher

How you arrange your refrigerator can affect how food tastes and how long it keeps.

So investing a little time into organizing the fridge can spare you from losing money to prematurely spoiled food -- and extra trips to the grocery store.

Fortunately, implementing the following tips will cost you only a few minutes.

1. Keep things at eye level. The average American spends $522 a year on food that goes to waste, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Check out "13 Simple Ways to Stop Wasting Food -- and Money" for more.)

"Out of sight, out of mind" can be costly when it comes to the refrigerator. So, store produce near eye level if you're prone to forgetting what's in the crisper drawers until it's already spoiled.

It also helps to store healthier foods at eye level if you're on a diet or have a habit of reaching for the least healthy option when searching for a snack.

2. Don't store perishable foods in doors. The doors are the warmest part of the fridge, according to the Ohio State University Extension. So store items like condiments and juice there and keep foods like eggs and meats inside the fridge.

3. Avoid cross-contamination. Poor fridge organization risks the spread of infection-causing bacteria from one food to another.

The Kitchn blog reports that professional kitchens and restaurants store foods based on how much cooking they require to be eaten safely. Foods that require cooking at the highest temperatures are stored in the lowest parts of the fridge.

So raw eggs or raw chicken, for example, should be stored on shelves that are lower than shelves where leftovers and ready-to-eat snacks are kept.

4. Keep fish in the back. This is the coldest part of the fridge, according to the Ohio State University Extension, and fish stored at 2 degrees Fahrenheit will keep for twice as long as fish stored at 41 degrees. The extension recommends storing fish in zipper-lock bags on ice in the back of the fridge.

5. Avoid overcrowding the fridge. Foods can't chill properly without cold air circulating around them, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you can't create enough room in a jam-packed fridge, the freezer can store foods like breads and many fruits and vegetables.

6. Get creative with unusual tools. Don't be afraid to think outside the box when organizing your refrigerator. For example, a shower organizer can help you keep things where they need to be. Smaller caddies designed to be stuck to shower walls can also be stuck to fridge walls to add vertical storage or to corral small items.

A lazy Susan is especially helpful on shelves that have a low clearance, making it harder to reach items in the back.

You can also corral items into plastic bins. This makes it easier to access foods in the back, especially if you use deep storage containers that can easily be pulled out. Use bins made of dishwasher-safe plastic so you can easily clean them.

7. Know what not to refrigerate. Bananas, lemons, limes, melons, potatoes and tomatoes are among the foods that should be kept out of the fridge, according to the Food Network. Their taste and texture undergo "strange changes" when they're stored at too cold of a temperature.

8. Beware of ethylene

Some types of produce emit this odorless and invisible naturally occurring gas as they ripen, according to Washington State University's Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center. Ethylene can also cause other produce to ripen, so keep ethylene-producing foods away from ethylene-sensitive foods to avoid premature spoiling.

Real Simple magazine and The Kitchn report that ethylene producers include:
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
Ethylene-sensitive foods include:
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce and other leafy greens
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Watermelon
Do you have any neat refrigerator storage tips? Let us know below or on Facebook.

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