How do I keep our new fridge organized and relatively clean?
May 6, 2019 5:04 PM   Subscribe

We're getting a new fridge! This seems like a good time to improve our refrigerator upkeep habits. How do we keep this new one nice and clean and organized? Give me your tips!

The fridge is a french door refrigerator with a freezer drawer on the bottom. It also includes a "refrigerator exterior drawer" which I guess is basically the crisper. We've never had a fridge with this set up before. It also has a water dispenser and ice maker.

Possibly relevant points: We're a vegan household, and usually have a lot of produce in the fridge. We also have a lot of condiments: pickles and mustards mostly.

What new practices should we adopt to keep this fridge really nice and not lose stuff? It's like this question but I'm also interested in making it easy to keep up on cleaning.
posted by kendrak to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
One day about a year ago, in a fit of pique, I bought about $100 worth of mDesign bins and I have zero regrets. Some of them are on the high shelves of my cabinets but most of them are in the fridge (with some similar bins I picked up at Daiso and Aldi later).
posted by Lyn Never at 6:09 PM on May 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have a lazy susan on the top shelf of my fridge and I adore it. It manages to hold SO much stuff while keeping all of it easily accessible. Don’t know how I got by without it.

I also have two bins for the lowest shelf that hold a) infrequently used jarred condiments and b) various odds and ends that would be unruly on their own loose in the fridge (eg. a tube of tomato paste, a Costco size mesh bag of Babybel cheese, etc).

I have a magnetic whiteboard on the front of my fridge where I record leftovers and perishables so I remember to use them up in a timely fashion. There’s a second whiteboard for the freezer (which tends to be an overcrowded jumble).

Our municipal green bin (compost) pick-up is once a week on Wednesdays, so every Tuesday night I go through the fridge and clear out anything that’s no longer edible.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:26 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I purchased these cloth things to put under my condiments on my doors- cut them to fit. And I also bought these things for my vegetable drawers. I can take them out when they get dirty and wash them with my other kitchen linens.

I also keep a sharpie marker handy, and write the date that I open something on top of it- that way I can get rid of things that have past their prime.
posted by momochan at 8:30 PM on May 6, 2019

I plan and shop for a week at a time, and prep my groceries as soon as I bring them home. Even if I won't cook until the night of service, I'll wash, trim, cut, and par-cook (if applicable) as much as possible, then pack into a few standardized containers labelled with contents and date. I keep labelling tape and a marker by the refrigerator for this purpose.

I often divide stuff into multiple smaller containers so that the refrigerator will empty out gradually instead of accumulating mostly-empty containers that obscure my view. It's also easier to pack multiple 0.5L containers onto a shelf than, say, a few 2.5L or 6L containers.

I have adjustable shelving, so I configured it to be just the right heights for my containers. And I only use a few containers of standard sizes so that I don't have to play tetris.

I keep my long-term stuff segregated away from the perishable stuff so that it's easy to scan for leftovers.

One thing I'm trying to start doing is freezing things more aggressively. Sometimes I'm reluctant to add a freeze-thaw cycle, which often produces a mushy texture, or I'm too optimistic about how fast I'll eat something.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:31 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have two things that work well for me (but I'm sure I'm Doing Things Wrong). The first is to put all my condiment and small jars into a lidless plastic container so that you stop losing small jars of this and that at the back of the fridge. It also cuts down on drips. Then I started using plastic containers as drawers for everything else and my god it makes cleaning up a breeze.

And the second (and more controversial) is that I don't put vegetables in the crisper drawer. I keep bottles of water and cans of soft drink there because as far as my household is concerned, the crisper is the oubliette of the fridge. I have lost count of the amount of fruit and veg that I have put into the crisper with the best of intentions only to pull out a science experiment a week or two later. Instead, the fruit and veg are brought home in the mesh resuable bags I got from Amazon (instead of using plastic produce bags) and I can wash everything in the mesh bag and put it straight into the fridge. Some things I will transfer to snap-lock containers instead (berries etc). But regardless, it all goes onto the top shelf of the fridge where it can sit and shame people in full view.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:05 PM on May 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

Thirding bins. I thought it was a ridiculous idea (why put in more stuff that takes up more space?) but exactly like Lyn Never I started using them* in a fit of pique and am never going back. We eat mostly vegan at home and they are a godsend for corralling condiments; we have one for curry/miso/pepper pastes and another for ketchup/mustard/vegenaise, plus one that’s labeled “eat now” where I put things like carrot sticks/berries/things about to go bad. They make that one shelf that’s always ‘too narrow to see what’s back there’ fully functional.

*i just shoved some clear shoeboxes that I hadn’t yet used in the fridge to test proof of concept; they’re still in there and working great. I see a lot of things that would work as fridge bins at TJ Maxx if you wanted to test it on the cheap!
posted by stellaluna at 10:59 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am watching this thread with interest because my fridge game could definitely improve, but one decision I am happy to have made is that we have all the same kinds of food storage containers and they all stack well and close securely. Maybe you're already beyond this but I grew up in a household that reused the containers other foods came in instead, and it's a freaking luxury to know that any given plastic tub contains exactly what it says it does, not random surprise leftovers, and to not deal with flimsy plastic collapsing everywhere.

(Regretfully however I must admit that Fresh Works do indeed seem to work for produce. I have one for berries, and it makes me want to further break my one-container-type rule and get additional.)
posted by teremala at 5:31 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remembered the other thing I did that revolutionized my freezer a lot and my fridge some: I ditched almost all of my round/rounded storageware and switched to single-compartment meal prep containers (sadly, it looks like Fitpacker's XL 38oz size is not available now, as they nested with and used the same lids as the 28oz - I have like 48 containers in the space I could keep maybe 12 Gladwares).

The big plus is that the size is standardized and except for the roundish corners (my set is older and they're very nearly perfectly rectangular but that also meant they shattered if you dropped a full one on a corner) they maximize the space they take up. They stack very well and fit in most insulated lunch carriers. You can write on the frosted lid with a whiteboard marker but it can get rubbed off, so I just have a strip of masking tape that I write with fine-point sharpie and it largely disappears in the dishwasher and I just write over it until the whole thing gets murky and I put a new piece of tape over it. You could also label the sides using masking tape so you can see on the shelf what's in each one. They just fit SO nicely and you can grab one out of the middle of the stack pretty easily. It's enabled me to keep a lot of prepped meals in the freezer, I also have one box that just holds surplus spices in baggies, it lets you use ALL the space. On average it's taken about 2-3 years to deplete my supply, they do get brittle over a long life of freezing/microwaving/dishwashing, but a lot of them end up living a second life as seed-starting supplies in my garden or craft workspaces before they are absolutely trashed and go in the recycling.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:57 AM on May 7, 2019

I also have Fridge Bins and they are great!

One thing that helps me is to always look through the fridge before doing grocery shopping. As I'm figuring out what to add to my list, I toss things that are old or expired. Make sure to open the crisper drawers too!
posted by radioamy at 3:06 PM on May 7, 2019

Best answer: I have a reminder set up once a week to go through the fridge and get rid of anything rotten, freeze anything that won't be eaten immediately and to make note of anything that needs to be consumed asap. The reminder coincides with my weekly meal planning.

We eat a lot of leftovers so we also have a system for the shelves. The topmost shelf is the stuff that needs to be eaten first, the second shelf can be eaten second, third shelf etc.

My favorite food storage containers are the Rubbermaid Brilliance, as recommended by The Kitchn.

I also make use of bins A LOT and now I'm gonna get a lazy susan for my fridge.
posted by Brittanie at 8:58 PM on May 7, 2019

My biggest fridge hack is my biggest pantry-storage hack overall - as you're using up a thing, decant it into a smaller size container when you can. This reminds you that it's there, conserves space, and lets you see what's behind it easier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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