It is the typical rental refrigerator in New York City: old, noisy, white (albeit it is now more of a cream color), and white. I daydream of having a brand-new stainless steel French-door version in my kitchen for hours on end. Ice maker, wine cooler, enormous freezer, etc. At least I’m not requesting a built-in camera here, hey!
However, until that time comes, the only item I do have is a reasonably organized refrigerator. You could, for example, unexpectedly drop by, walk right up to the fridge, and open it without making me jump back in panic. You might even make a comment on how spotless it is, how simple it is to locate the clearly labeled leftovers, and condiments, and how neatly the herbs are kept.
I spend a lot of effort into keeping my refrigerator organized since I can’t cook in anything but a spotless kitchen—countertop, stove, cutting board, everything. I’ve learned a few tips and methods along the way because of my drive for orderliness. Not just to keep my fridge organized, but also to keep things fresher and longer-lasting. Here are a few of them that I’ve found to be effective.
1. Label Each Item
Chefs swear by this approach, and after working in a restaurant, I do too, claims Staff Writer Kelly Vaughan. When did we have these mashed potatoes? is no longer a question you have to ask your roommate or partner after opening a jar and giving it a whiff. You can learn everything you need to know from the label.
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2. Distinguish Specific Fruits and Vegetables
Jada Wong, the market editor, explains that she learned from her mother at a young age to remove fruits and vegetables from any plastic packaging or produce bags before storing them in the refrigerator or setting them out on the counter. It facilitates sufficient airflow to prevent fruit from becoming overly ripe or, worse, from growing mold.
Additionally, she adds, “I store the majority of my fruits and vegetables in the fridge’s middle shelf or crisper drawer. To really eat them, it’s important. And the reason I say most is that I frequently leave “hard” fruit like apples, pears, and nectarines out on the counter. ‘Soft’ fruit like berries, plums, and mangoes should be kept in the refrigerator.
3. Utilize Bins and Baskets
Arati Menon, the editorial lead for Home52, got tired of throwing away condiments, chutneys, and spreads, little containers of takeout sauces, and mason jars of pickled vegetables because her refrigerator was disorganized. She’s probably the best at keeping things tidy, but she was having trouble keeping track of the stuff in the fridge, so she decided to use bins, a storage method she frequently used in other sections of her house but hadn’t considered using there.
The same concepts, zone, label, stack, and elevate, apply to both the pantry and the refrigerator, according to Arati. Why therefore stop at the bins? Why not use every pantry organizer available, including trays, baskets, lazy Susans, and tiered shelf organizers?
4. Handle Softer Herbs as You Would a Bouquet of Flowers
How many times have I purchased fresh cilantro only to watch as its leaves turn yellow and eventually brown? Usually, at that time, I jump in (I’m working on it!) and make a valiant effort to salvage the small number of plants that are still mostly green. In The Best Way to Store Fresh Herbs, author Lisa Kolb advises handling soft, leafy herbs (such as basil, cilantro, parsley, or tarragon) as if they were freshly cut flowers to prevent this.
Simply remove a tiny portion of the stems, then put the bunch in a glass or Mason jar that has water in it. They will last for at least a week if you cover them lightly with a piece of Bee’s Wrap and place them on the middle shelf of the refrigerator.
5. Find a New Home for Pantry Items
I’m going to let you in on something that completely caught me off guard: Several of the things you now keep in your pantry might fare considerably better in your refrigerator. I’m referring, to name a few, to soy sauce, maple syrup, organic nut butter, soy and nut milk, and whole-grain and nut flours.
Which one most surprised me? Yeast. According to this Food52 Hotline discussion, yeast is actually best kept in a cool area, like the condiment shelf in your refrigerator. Yeast is quickly killed by light and heat, which is the cause of this. You may even store yeast (in an airtight container) in your freezer for longer-term storage; it will keep it there for up to a few months.
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6. Keep Every Deli Container.
Rebecca Firkser, the assigning editor, stores all of her leftovers in quart, pint, or half-pint deli containers. They are the only “Tupperware” I own because every size uses the same lid, stacks neatly, and won’t leak if they are inadvertently knocked over. And we have the answer for you if you’re wondering how long to keep these useful storage containers.
7. Allow Dairy and Eggs to Unwind
I used to think that dairy products like milk, cream, eggs, and cheese belonged on the inside door of the refrigerator. That turns out to be a bad idea. These kinds of goods should be kept in an area that is consistently cold, like the top shelf of your refrigerator, to prevent spoilage. Additionally, keeping them here makes it simpler to get them when you’re scrambling to prepare breakfast before leaving the house.