Day 7: The Refrigerator
Yesterday, we cleaned and organized the pantry. To any home cook, an organized pantry is a relief for meal prep, meal planning, and grocery shopping. The same is true for the refrigerator.
The refrigerator, however, has an added component — food safety and freshness. It’s not just organizing to be pretty and efficient, it’s organizing to keep food safe and fresher longer.
And as always, there’s a method. A simple 5-Step method — we’ll walk you through that guide. Be sure to watch the video near the end of the post.
As you know, the kitchen area will be split into 5 days.
Day 5: Cupboards and Drawers
Day 6: Pantry
Day 7: Refrigerator (today)
Day 8: A Junk Drawer
The FDA advises home refrigerators should be kept at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F. They also recommend purchasing an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer for both the refrigerator and freezer to monitor cold temps, and to check them often.
FDA Refrigerator Strategies: Keeping Food Safe
In addition to keeping the temperature in your fridge at 40 °F, you can take additional steps to make sure your refrigerated foods stay as safe as possible.
• Avoid “Overpacking.” Cold air must circulate around refrigerated foods to keep them properly chilled.
• Wipe Up Spills Immediately to avoid cross-contamination.
• Keep It Covered.
• Check Expiration Dates On Foods.
• Clean The Fridge Out Frequently.
How Long Can I Keep Food in the Refrigerator?
The FDA has produced a handy guide, which I keep in my “Control Center,” in my household notebook. Print it off for a handy reference.
The FoodKeeper App from FoodSafety.gov
5-Step Guide to Refrigerator Organization
1. The Door
The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. So foods that require the lowest temperatures should be kept here. That includes most condiments, butter, and cheese. Eggs and milk require colder temperatures and should not be kept in the door.
• Cooking oils
2. The Cooked Meat/Deli Bin
This storage option is most common on French-door bottom-freezers, where it typically sits beneath the crisper drawers. Items belonging in this area are:
• Deli meats
• Hot dogs
3. The Drawers
On many refrigerators, there are at least two drawers dedicated to fruits and vegetables, with adjustable humidity levels. Dedicate one drawer to each and adjust the humidity level from low to high.
• Fruit Drawer: Low-Humidity
• Vegetable Drawer: High-Humidity
4. The Lower Shelf
The lower shelf, usually located in the middle of the fridge, is the coldest part of the refrigerator. This makes it ideal for storage of items that are more susceptible to developing harmful bacteria, including the following:
• Eggs (in their original carton)
• Milk – Toward the back of the refrigerator
• Raw fish, meat, and poultry (on trays to catch drippings so as not to contaminate other foods)
5. The Upper Shelf
The upper shelves, conversely, are the warmest part, with temperatures often reaching up around 40 °F. Leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt, cheese, and deli meats).That’s too warm for milk and eggs, though yogurt is okay because it’s fermented. Here’s the complete list of what to store on the top shelf.
• Jam & Jelly
• Peanut butter
• Snacks (like hummus and fruit cups)
• Yogurt and other ready-to-eat foods (like cheese, deli meats)
Objective: To clean and organize the refrigerator and freezer — following the food safety 5-Step Guide — to keep food fresh, safe, and accessible.
• Remove food and place on a counter or in a cooler. Check dates on packaged foods and discard expired items.
• Remove shelves and drawers and set in the sink.
• To clean and eliminate odors: mix a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda to 1-quart hot water and wipe down the interior. Dry thoroughly.
• Clean the shelves and drawers with the same solution, dry thoroughly and return to the refrigerator.
• Wipe down the outside of the refrigerator, including the top.
• Return food to the refrigerator, placing them according to the 5-Step Refrigerator Guide.
• Repeat steps with the freezer.
How to Clean and Organize a Refrigerator
A Junk Drawer
GET THE BOOK:
Organized Pantry Inspirations
Container bins help keep small items together and create more space. Container Store storage ideas.
Soda Can Organizer
Plastic Bacon Keeper
Glass Food Storage