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Organising a fridge - Expert ways to organise a fridge and cut down on food waste

Ideal Home logo Ideal Home 9/17/2022 Jacky Parker
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Organising a fridge can often be neglected, the high turnover in this area means it's rarely a place many of us consider storage solutions and making the most of the space. 

However, organising a fridge well is just as important as organising kitchen cabinets. Even more so as it can help prevent food waste and save money. According to an environmental charity, WRAP we throw away 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste a year in the UK.  Shockingly, the majority, 4.5 million tonnes, is food that could have been eaten. This food is worth approximately £14 billion - or £60 a month for an average family with two children. This food waste is also responsible for nearly 25 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which contributes to the climate crisis. 

'At a time of rising food prices alongside huge public concern about climate change, tackling food waste at home is one way we can all make a difference - and save money,' says Helen White, special advisor at Love Food Hate Waste. 'For the average family with children, the cost of binning food can be more than £700 per year.'

With UK homes throwing away around 3.1 million glasses of milk, 86,000 whole lettuces and 2.2 million slices of ham, plus much more every day - organising a fridge properly is one way we can all do our bit to reduce food waste and save money at the same time. 

Where should things be placed in a fridge?

Before investing in clever fridge storage solutions, or trying out clever new techniques for organising a fridge it is important to first know where things should be placed in a fridge. 

'Certain foods can last longer in specific places in the fridge,' says Helen White at Love Food Hate Waste. This is because the temperature will vary between the different shelves and doors.

Top shelves

As a general rule of thumb, keep dairy and cold cuts on the top and middle shelves, raw meat, poultry and fish on the bottom shelves. This is so that cooked food isn't accidentally contaminated by any raw meat drips. 

The top shelf is also likely to be a slightly warm temperature, making it better suited to things such as deli meats and leftovers. 

Middle shelves

'Place ready-to-eat foods, such as cheese, yoghurts and other dairy items, cooked meats and leftovers on the top and middle shelves,' says Helen at Love Food Hate Waste. 

The middle section is the coolest part of the fridge so is the best spot to place anything that needs to be kept at the most consistent temperature such as eggs and dairy. 

Bottom shelves

'Keep raw meat, poultry and fish on the lower shelves,' says Helen. 'And always cover it and keep it in sealed containers.'

Whether it's mince for bolognese, a whole chicken, chops or fish fillets, this helps to keep it fresh and prevent any drips from leaking or contaminating other food in your fridge. Raw and cooked meats should never be stored next to each other, due to the risk of contamination. 

Drawers

The big drawer or drawers at the bottom of most fridges are best for keeping salad and vegetables fresh but you can store fruit such as apples and oranges here too. Bananas and pineapples are the exception. 

Fridge door

Bottles of milk, water, juice and open jars are best stored in the fridge door for easy access.

Tips for organising a fridge

We've all been there, with limited time to unpack the shopping and go onto the next thing, it's tempting to put food away wherever there's a space, without checking what's already there. Yet a few simple changes can get us into good habits. 

1. Create an 'eat me first' shelf

If you're frequently finding you're struggling to keep track of best-before dates, creating an 'eat me first' shelf is a great way to tackle this.

'Why not use the top shelf in your fridge to store food that is close to its use-by date or close to going off, so you remember to eat it before the fresher stuff?' says Helen at Love Food Hate Waste. 

The top shelf is the perfect spot to house leftovers, and food that is about to go out of date. The best time to sort out this shelf would be just before your next big shop, so nothing gets lost and wasted behind the new products. 

2. Reserve the door for open produce

The fridge door is the best spot to store bottles of milk, juice, cold drinks and jars, but keep only those that are open there. Store sealed bottles of milk on the shelves, so the open ones get used first. 

According to WRAP, most milk is binned because it's not used in time, so freeze any you're unlikely to get through. 'Keep it in the original carton, or decant into an airtight container or ice cube trays, if you only have a small amount to freeze to save on space,' says Helen White at Love Food Hate Waste. 

3. Decant vegetables into storage containers

Berries will keep better in containers lined in kitchen towels than they do in their plastic tubs. As well as lasting longer, decanting berries and vegetables into stackable tubs will make them easier to store in a fridge.

Remove carrots, cabbages, parsnips, broccoli and other veg from plastic bags, as plastic attracts moisture, so the contents will rot quicker. Alternatively, buy fruit and veg loose and line the drawer with a cotton tea towel or brown paper bag to absorb any moisture. 

4. Invest in stackable containers

Stackable glass containers with plastic lids, like those from IKEA, are ideal for storing food so that it lasts longer. The other benefit of stackable containers is it makes use of the verticle space inside a fridge. 

 'A fridge is such high real-estate, they're not very big, no matter how big they are they're still not that big,' says Joanna Teplin, one half of celebrity organising duo, The Home Edit. 'So being able to take advantage of all of the space in the fridge by being able to use clear stackable containers allows you to take advantage of the available vertical space too.'

5. Label sections of the fridge

'Labels are really important for keeping your systems accountable and setting up a set of instructions for everyone in the household,' says Clea Shearer, the other half of The Home Edit. 

However, while it is handy to label specific shelves and containers to guide your family on where to put things, it is key to not be too specific.

'It's really important that you keep your labels broad. So instead of just having a label that says cucumbers, you want to have a label that says veggies. Instead of having a label that is for ketchup, you want a label that says condiments,' explains Clea.  

'So keeping those categories broad but specific is really helpful in terms of keeping up organisation within the fridge.'

6. Consider adding a turntable

A turntable as well as being an excelling kitchen storage idea can work wonders in a fridge too. They are a smart way to store small items such as yoghurts or condiments that don't fit in the door, so you can reach them easily without sending your fridge into chaos.

Amazon sells a range of storage lazy susans for under £10. Before investing in one, however, do check the dimensions and consider what you will store on it.

Now there's no excuse for that forgotten block of cheese at the back of your fridge. 

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