5 Things to keep your fridge organised
The way to a fabulous fridge starts with the right temperature. The UK’s Food Standards Agency says the ideal temp is 3 to 5 degrees Celsius. Putting things where they belong also helps to prevent bacteria from spreading and making you ill. Packing your fridge will make it work better and last longer. It will also save you money since food won’t go off so quickly, and you won’t buy things you didn’t know were hiding at the back of the shelf. So let’s get it done!
The professionals order the fridge contents by cooking temperature. If it’s cooked already or doesn’t need cooking (leftovers, sliced sandwich ham), it goes at the top.
The bottom shelf is the coldest. Keep wrapped raw meat and fish there. They’ll cook at a high temp, which will kill any bacteria.
If you have a middle shelf, use it for dairy – yogurt, cheese, butter, and milk.
Your fridge might have a drawer (or two drawers) at the bottom, and many people don’t know what it’s suitable for. It’s more humid in there because it’s closed. That’s perfect for food that wilts or loses moisture quickly, such as greens, salad, fresh herbs, and veg with soft leaves.
Your fridge door might have handy space for containers, but don’t keep the milk there. It’s the warmest part of the fridge. Keep the door storage for things that contain preservatives or have a long shelf-life: sauces, jams, juice. Milk should be in a colder part of the fridge.
If you have two drawers, use one for veg and the other for raw meat. If you have to put raw meat above other food, keep it on something like a clear plastic lid to catch seeping juices. If you don’t have a drawer, make sure leafy veg and salads aren’t close to the back where they can stick (tight to clean off).
Pick a cold day, and get your cleaning kit ready. Disinfectants contain strong chemicals that can make you sick if they get onto food, so use the dish-washing liquid in warm water for wiping inside your fridge. Or go natural with a paste of bicarb (great for severe stains), an old toothbrush (for tight corners), and white vinegar to wipe down the stainless steel.
Once you’re all set, unplug, and empty the fridge. Soak removable drawers or shelves in warm water with dish-washing liquid. You can leave the bicarb paste on a stain for up to an hour and then wipe it off.
Don’t forget the fridge door’s rubber sealing. It might not be tightly closed if it’s dirty, and mold can grow in the rubber folds.
When everything is dry and clean, get ready to repack. Line your drawers with paper towels for easy cleaning and change them every two weeks or so.
The queen of organizing, Marie Kondo, says your fridge should never be more than 70 percent full, so you’ll have room for buy-bulk-and-saves or leftovers. In an overfull fridge, the air doesn’t circulate freely, making the temperature uneven.
Put the same thing, such as bottles of cold drinks, in a row, one behind the other. Place big stuff at the back so you can see it easily.
See if you can find long, flat containers that you can stack to use the full depth of the fridge. Glass is best (also for the environment), but good, see-through plastic will do.
You could keep similar items in bright baskets for quick grabbing. Put squeeze bottles (tomato sauce, mayo) upside down in an empty egg carton. The box catches drips, and you’ll never have to smack the containers to get the last sauce out.
IN OR OUT?
Besides berries, most fruit and vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, carrots, roots) ripen and last better outside the fridge and out of direct sunlight. If eggs were room temperature when you bought them, keep them out as well.
Let food cool down completely before putting it in the fridge. Heat in the refrigerator will raise the temperature and can lead to food poisoning. Don’t put open tins in the refrigerator since they can rust. Empty them into a container and seal.
Know what to freeze. It’s no for juicy fruit and veg, dairy (except ice cream, obviously), and fried food doesn’t freeze well. And it’s yes for pancakes, waffles, nuts, berries, muffins, stock or broth, meat, seafood, and stews.
Freeze meat and fish in containers and stick to the rule of first in, first out. Three to six months is as long as most of them will be okay.
Don’t shove the entire chicken value pack in there. Divide them into meal portions and freeze separately in containers or freezer bags.
Flatten every item as much as possible, which makes stacking easier. Air circulating frozen foods inside a container can cause freezer burn, so pick one closest to the right size, squeeze the air out of zip-up bags or wrap tightly with two layers if you’re using tin foil.
Every six months to a year, or when ice is 5mm thick in the freezer, it’s time to defrost. Also, dust or carefully vacuum the grid at the back of the fridge. The dust building up there can make your fridge struggle to maintain its temperature.
Keep track of what’s in there by writing the freezing date and content on containers with a permanent marker. Give everything – meat, leftovers, frozen veg – a specific space. If you have more than one drawer, keep meat separate.
Ice cream belongs at the back, where it’s the coldest, so it doesn’t melt a bit every time the door is opened.
While an overfull fridge is terrible, a freezer works better if it’s quite full. When you open the door, cold air escapes and the freezer has to work twice as hard to bring the temperature down. A packed fridge has less space for air.