My former boss used to say that “work expands to the time allowed”, meaning that however long you have to complete a task is how long it will take you. As is true with most of his mantras, I have found this concept to be true – and applicable to more than just work. One example being refrigerators. Food will expand to the space available in your fridge. Think about it. Have you ever seen a fridge that had large, empty space? I haven’t. And while I’ve come close, I’ve also never seen a fridge that couldn’t be shut because it was too full. Whatever space we have, gets filled. Bottom line.
That being said, when we were remodeling our kitchen and searching for a fridge, I started with the biggest models and worked my way down. We had the advantage of working with a blank slate, meaning that we didn’t have a pre-determined space in which it had to fit. That was pretty awesome. We have the Kenmore Elite 29.8 cubic foot (!!!!) French Door refrigerator. I fell in love with it when I saw it on the showroom floor. My husband looked at the price tag and then told me to keep walking. We ended up in the clearance section where we spotted the same fridge that had been returned to the store because it had numerous dings on the front. Josh and I talked about it and decided that sacrificing the aesthetics of a non-dinged fridge to get the size and features we were looking for at a fraction of the cost was worth it.
We love it. I see the dings every day and think “I don’t care. I love the inside too much to care about the outside.”
And I fill all 29.8 cubic feet. Looking at it empty on a showroom floor, I never thought I would. But I do. Every week.
A few weeks ago, it got to the point where I was approaching not being able to shut the doors, which meant that it was time to pull everything out and do some re-evaluating of where stuff went.
I found this infographic on Pinterest a few years ago and, generally, try to stick to these principles when deciding where items will go in our fridge.
My problem didn’t originate with throwing stuff in there haphazardly. What got me in trouble was not using the (plentiful) space I had well, which led to haphardly stuffing things in there because I didn’t have a better spot for them.
This was the whole sad state of affairs
Some fridges are made to fit gallons of milk perfectly in the doors, but that is one of the warmest spaces in the fridge, which can cause milk to spoil easily. Also, the shelves on the inside of the refrigerator doors serve as built-in containers and, from an organizing standpoint, are the perfect way to corral small items such as dressings and condiments. Milk isn’t any harder to grab from the inside of the fridge than it is out of the door, but you can’t say that about a bottle of ketchup.
I also didn’t need to do anything with the meat and cheese drawer. You can see how that’s organized here.
I knew that I wasn’t going to dramatically change what was in the crisper drawers or the doors, so I emptied the rest of the fridge and cleaned it out. That is a LOT of space. How was that ever full?!
Then, it was just a matter of figuring out what worked (Milk on the lower shelf, leftovers on the top, yogurt in the middle) and what didn’t (overfull fruit & veggie drawers, not fully utilizing top shelf space & containers).
When it was all said and done – Ta Da!
Here’s what I did that made such a big difference:
- I had way more fruits and vegetables than I had space for in the two crisper drawers. I used to cut up fruits and veggies when I got home from the grocery store, but had got out of the habit. Any of those that needed cutting up or were good grab and go snacks got put in containers in the new fruits & veggies section. I cannot say enough about the value of uniform containers in maximizing fridge space. It allows them to stack easily, which utilizes the vertical space you have. For any food that doesn’t get reheated, we use these plastic containers. Now the drawers have fruits that don’t need anything done to them (i.e. blueberries) or are surplus and vegetables that are for supper and will be prepped when I make that meal. We are so much more apt to grab a container from this shelf and snack on these than we are to open a drawer, pull out a veggie, cut or peel it and then eat it. It’s really quite lazy, but it’s true.
- Extras that didn’t need to be accessed, such as eggs and yogurt, got put in the very back. This is how you utilize the depth of the fridge. Don’t put stuff back there that you need to get to, but use it as surplus storage.
- The miscellaneous dairy products that were only using half of a bin, but an entire shelf got redistributed to spots that fit their containers. I pulled a fridge bin that I had in storage out and it now holds any dairy products that were too wide for the shelves in the door.
- Individual yogurts got put in the bin where they are now corralled.
- I took care of stuff that needed to be taken care of. The chicken breasts got put in freezer bags and put in our deep freezer. Old leftovers were tossed. Leftovers that were in containers that weren’t ours got taken out and put in our containers so that they stacked nicely to maximize that space. We use these glass containers for our leftovers and cannot say enough about them.
None of these are huge tasks. None of it required an organizing degree (if there were such a thing…..). Nothing needed to be purchased. The entire project took me less than thirty minutes, and the payoff was huge.
What do you find is the hardest part about keeping order in your fridge?