If I see one more Pinterest or Instagram post of a unrealistic organized refrigerator, I may boycott social media all together. In the last couple of months, I've seen a million posts on how "influencers" organize their fridge - and it's all an impractical, big fat lie. From perfectly stacked rainbow-top Tupperware and chalkboard labeled canisters to immaculate rows of coconut water and stacks of 3 different types of lettuce, these people can't actually think we believe their fridge looks like that all the time? I'm a very organized personal chef who's learned the ins and outs of organization in restaurants and at home to make a food business flow smoothly, and my fridge doesn't look like that. Your fridge doesn't look like that. And no matter what you see on Instagram, their fridge doesn't look like that either.
I want to share with you, realistic tips to keep your fridge clean and organized. Yes, you will notice I do label a lot - sometimes it's fancy, sometimes it's not. Yes, my fridge is very clean - I clean it out and scrub it regularly to keep my business orderly and to keep myself sane. And you'll also notice, I do keep neat rows of similar products together - I practically live in my kitchen and need to know exactly where everything is at all times. Does my fridge get junky and messy? Yes, but when it starts to clutter, I will often take everything out and reorganize. It really doesn't take that long, ya'll. And you'll feel so much better every time you step foot in your kitchen to cook a meal for your family. Here are my tips!
This sounds like a hassle, but it will take you about 30 minutes. Every few months, I take everything out of the fridge and clean the shelves, drawers, and built-in storage containers. Most fridges have removable shelves - if yours does, remove them and wash and dry them like they're dishes. Also scrub underneath them and around the edges of where they've sat - food can find it's way into those cracks. If they can't be removed, scrub them with soapy water and wipe them with anti-bacterial spray and paper towels.
Purge every Week
This is the part I struggle with until I pull two week old meat out from the back of the fridge, then I realize how disgusting it is. At the end of the week, go through and throw away anything you haven't eaten and don't plan to eat. Also take a look at your produce - if it's starting to go bad and you're not going to use it right then, chunk it. This will take you about 5 minutes, and if you do this every single week, you will keep a clean fridge. I promise.
Keep "Like" Items Together
On my fridge shelves, I line my wine together, cocktail mixers together, creams and milks together, etc. I have one, small designated shelf for my sauces, jellies, and jams. My drawer is for cheese, hummus, olives, and any small containers of what I plan to consume that week. I have a produce basket where I keep all my fresh veggies and herbs. I keep all the fats I cook with on one of the fridge door shelves - Crisco, butter, lard, bacon fat. Another shelf is for specialty jars - sun-dried tomatoes, pickles, peppers, cuttlefish ink, etc. Another shelf is for all sauces and condiments - mustard, mayo, peanut sauce, soy sauce, etc. And the list goes on. If you keep similar items together, your cooking will be a breeze.
Buy Produce Containers
Plastic baggies work great too, but I love my little produce containers for leftover onions and tomatoes. They last longer in those containers and look better in your fridge, plus you'll be able to find them easier than a stack of plastic baggies. So you know if you have something in one of them or not, mark them with a piece of tape and the date.
Keep Drinks Separate
Drinks can take up the majority of the room in your fridge, leaving you no room for food organization. I say, they need to be stored separately all together - this will keep kids out of the way while your cooking and guests will feel more comfortable grabbing a drink if they don't have to get into your food supply. If you have room for it (even in another room like the laundry, garage, or a closet), investing in a separate fridge is completely worth it. Mini bar and drink fridges are also a great home addition and very inexpensive. If you don't want to buy another fridge, just keep a designated shelf or drawer for drinks only in your current fridge. We have a drawer that I'm pretty sure is for produce but we keep all our drinks in it. It's separate from the fridge doors so it's perfect for parties - guests know exactly where the drinks are, and they don't have to open our fridge full of food every time they want to grab a beer.
Label, Label, Label
I label and date everything - and I mean everything. I learned this in the restaurant business, took the simple idea, ran home with it and never looked back. My labels don't always look like a Pinterest post, but they work like a charm when trying to keep an orderly fridge. Anything that lasts a long time and I know will be in my fridge awhile, I'll go the cutesy label route - it does look better and makes you feel so neat and so tidy when you open your fridge. For leftovers and anything I freeze, I go the Scotch tape and Sharpie route. Everyone has plastic tape and a permanent marker - move them to a drawer in your kitchen and label your food. It's a game-changer when it comes to organization. And make sure you date it. For anything I freeze, I put the month/year. For anything leftover that I plan to eat that week, I put the month/day.
Freeze Everything you Can
You'd be surprised how many meals actually taste better after they've been frozen - soups, stews, sauces, stocks to name a few. I keep my freezer stocked - always - and on busy weeknights, pulling out a bolognese or soup from the freezer can be a lifesaver after a busy day. The key is to keep it organized and label and date everything. Bring old items to the front each time you add something, so you're more likely to use the older stuff first.
Have More Than One Fridge
I touched on this already with keeping drinks separate, but having an extra fridge or freezer is one definite way to stay organized. I have an extra fridge our laundry room. In it, I keep all my previously cooked frozen weeknight meals, prep work labeled items for photo shoots and clients, already prepared catered meals, and all the food I plan to cook for a party or gathering. My main fridge in the kitchen is only for drinks, basic go-to cooking products, our weekday meal prep, and leftovers. We also have 2 wine fridges - a white and a red - where we store our nicest bottles.
Hopefully, that covers it, but if you have any questions I didn't answer about fridge organization - or any kitchen organization, please reach out!!! Cheers to an organized kitchen!