It’s that time of year when we’re hosting, taking dishes to loved ones’ homes to share, and cooking and baking more than usual. Organizing your refrigerator and freezer this time of year can help ensure you’re totally prepared for the big holidays that are about to hit!
Step 1: Sort and Purge
I recommend completely organizing the fridge first, and then the freezer so your food isn’t sitting out as long. Begin by going through all of your food in refrigerator, looking for signs of mold, rot and expired dates. Compost, pitch, or put down the garage disposal as needed. Be sure to note when the expiration dates on condiments are listed for when it’s stayed unopened in your fridge vs if it should have been used within a set number of days once opened. For example, mayonnaise is good for 2 months after opening, and chicken broth generally lists 7-10 days once opened. In the future, if you’re not already doing it, I recommend labeling the condiments directly on the container with the "opened on" date with a permanent marker. This is a foolproof method to remember when you opened each container. As you purge the items you don’t want anymore, sort the items that you do want, like with like. Use your kitchen counter to sort onto. Once you’re done sorting and purging then move on to step 2. Remember, you’ll repeat this same process in your freezer once the fridge is complete.
Step 2: Organize and Contain
Now it’s time to put everything back in the fridge! For some people, getting an egg organizer, special bottles for beverages like milk and orange juice and other containers for transferring food into is a dream come true. For others, it’s a nightmare with an additional step. This is completely a personal preference. You know you, and if it’s going to make you happy, then do it! If it’s going to make your life harder, then skip it! No matter what the container is for your eggs, milk and OJ, you’ll want to store like items together throughout your fridge and freezer. I often put vegetables in one produce drawer, fruit in the other, meat and cheese in the skinny deli drawer, maintain an open spot for eggs to live, clear a spot on the top shelf for leftovers to stay together (again dated with the prepared on date is a great way to steer clear of foodborne illnesses). It's helpful to have a tall spot, either in the main part of the fridge or on your door, for large beverage containers. Lastly store condiments in the door, keeping like with like, or on lazy Susans if you have room on a shelf. Clear acrylic, fridge-safe containers can also be helpful to create division on your shelves to contain categories. No matter what, always measure before you buy containers! In a freezer it’s the same idea, like with like: smoothie ingredients together, ice packs all together, dinners together, and so on. You are creating a home for each category to make it easy to find what you need and to put groceries away quickly and easily.
Step 3: Label & Walk-through
Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to get your label maker out and label the containers you put into place. Once you’ve labeled everything, it’s time to give the whole family a walk-through. Show them where things ended up, explain the changes you made and why you made them, and talk about the importance of putting things back in their new homes. The labels will help with this, as they serve as a roadmap to an organized fridge and freezer system. This is also a good time to talk with your spouse/partner about checking the fridge and freezer and making a grocery list before they go grocery shopping to help eliminate duplicates and excess food, which leads to waste and things going bad before you've had a chance to eat them.
I know this will make life easier for you as the holidays approach. Opening up an organized refrigerator and freezer is truly a great feeling!
Happy Thanksgiving & enjoy your newly organized fridge & freezer!
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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