How Refrigerator Organization Keeps Your Food Fresh & Healthy

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couple practicing refrigerator organization
Health And Wellness

Refrigerators do the job of prolonging the freshness of your food by preventing bacteria from growing and spoiling it, and that's where refrigerator organization comes into play.

Plus, refrigerator organization helps you make the most of your healthy foods, so you'll eat them more frequently. After all, who hasn't experienced the irritation of buying fresh produce only to have it spoil before you get to it?

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Refriger organization helps you maintain a healthy diet. 

Learning how to organize your refrigerator is a powerful tool in helping you keep a healthy diet and maintain fresh, organic foods that will nourish your whole family.

As a foodie, I know that real food spoils — period. Which is why so many modern-day foods use chemicals and preservatives to delay decay and prolong shelf life.

These chemical additives help the makers and sellers of your food more so than you, since ingestion of them over time has proven to be problematic for your health.

So while the simple process of cold storage or refrigeration works to keep your foods non-toxic and healthy for your consumption, the process of refrigerator organization can also help you guarantee that those same healthy foods are readily available for you when and where you want them.

After downsizing from a large refrigerator with freezer, I've learned how to organize my smaller, perfect for two, empty-nesters' fridge.

Refrigerator organization helps combat "refrigerator blindness."

Nothing is more frustrating than not finding the black bean hummus you bought the other day. Or how about your partner standing with the fridge door open asking you, “Honey, where’s the _____?”

This is refrigerator blindness in action!

Having things organized so you know its place in the fridge gives you that magical power of knowing without looking. It’s as if you’ve got eyes in the back of your head!

Think of refrigerator organizing as sorting based on food type, size, and frequency of use.

As a general rule of thumb, the fridge door is not the coldest place in your refrigerator, and should only be used for storing condiments, bottled liquids, and butter.

So, it's OK to keep condiments and bottled liquids there. For example, the bottles labeled "refrigerate after opening." Most refrigerators also have door space for butter, which works well since butter is a frequently-used item.

Storing eggs on the fridge shelf is better than in the door, because it's frequently opened and tends to be less cold.

Here are some general recommendations for refrigerator organization:

  • Meats: Keep meats separate and wrapped in the store packaging with an added plastic bag to catch any juices. Keep them on the bottom shelf to ensure any leaks will not drip and contaminate other foods. 
  • Produce: Put vegetables in plastic bags in the crisper draws. Separate fruits from the veggies, since fruit can accelerate spoiling by releasing ethylene gas.
  • Dairy: Place milk and milk products such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream on the shelves on the first shelf with no ice maker, or the second shelf with the ice maker. This  coldest part of the refrigerator and the best place for dairy. 
  • Leftovers: Always use glass or plastic (non-BPA) containers with lids to store leftovers. You can use plastic bags, but glass is best and the least-toxic, although it's heavy and breakable.

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Some foods do not require cold storage.

  • Root vegetables: Root vegetables such as onions, squash, and potatoes can be stored in a cool, dark storage draw, or cupboard. Alternatively, they can be hung in a basket away from the sun.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes should be keep out of the fridge, since they ripen and are sweetest at room temperature.
  • Stone fruits: Peaches, avocados, and plums should be stored at room temperature. If you like your fruit chilled as I do, the trick is to allow slow ripening at room temperature, then place them in the fridge when they reach the desired ripeness for consumption.

It's best to separate fruit from vegetables by putting them in their own crisper. Using plastic bags contains the gases and odors foods release, slows the ripening process, and prevents contamination from odors and juices.

If you’re pressed for space in your fridge, then items such as honey, garlic, and bread do not need refrigeration. They are fine in a dry, ventilated space.

Freezer tips for longer storage needs:

Use freezer bags with the food’s name and date written on it for freezing meat, vegetables, and leftovers (food is preserved for much longer by freezing, but not indefinitely). Use the oldest-dated foods first.

Placed cooked food in the refrigerator right away to cool — don’t allow it to cool on the counter top, as this may cause food-safety risks. Once cooled, you can place in freezer.

Freeze leftovers in small batches to avoid reheating too much food at one time. Never refreeze.

Avoid freezer burn by using plastic bags, heavy foils, or containers designed specifically for freezing foods. Let out the air from the plastic bag before sealing and wrap the food in foil before freezing.

Organizing your refrigerator is straightforward once you know how to sort and why.

It helps you find the foods you're after, while keeping them fresh and edible. The effort put into organizing your fridge's contents results in less wasted food and less frustration when finding your favorites.

No more moldy breads, uneaten cucumbers, or rotten lettuce to discard just two days after purchasing. Plus, you can score high praise for making plant-based meals that are ultra-fresh, nourishing, and delicious.

Refrigerator organization can be so effortless, it's almost magical!

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Dr. Sy Powell is a physician and healthy coach and founder of Conscious Eating, where she cuts through the diet talk and helps you figure out what to eat to make you healthy. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website.