A little clutter never hurt anybody, but it is nice not having to rummage through a jumbled pantry or chaotic fridge when it’s time to eat!
Here are some tips for keeping yourself organized and clutter free…
- Check the temperature of your refrigerator, which should be set to 40°F or below to keep foods safe
- The coldest parts of the fridge are on the bottom shelf and in the back
- The warmest part of the fridge is the compartments inside the door
- Use these strategies when putting away your groceries
- Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream should be stored in the coldest parts of the fridge, on the bottom shelf or in the back
- Packaged raw meat should be stored in its original package on the bottom shelf, as this is the coldest area of the fridge—place a small plate or paper towel underneath to catch juices if they drip
- Deli meats should be kept in their original wrappers in the shallow middle drawer, which is colder than most of the fridge, but not as cold as the bottom shelf
- Eggs should be in their original container on the middle shelf, where the temperature is consistent
- Butter and cheese don’t have to be super cold, so they are fine to store in the butter compartment on the door—if you have a lot of cheese, you can store it in the shallow middle drawer with the deli meats
- Fruits stay fresh longer in a drawer with low humidity—keep in a drawer with the humidity slider moved to “less”
- Vegetables stay fresh longer in a drawer with some humidity—use the vegetable drawer or move the humidity slider to the “more” side and wrap herbs with a damp paper towel to keep them fresher longer
- Condiments and juices usually contain some kind of vinegar, acid or salt, which are natural preservatives, so OJ, pickles, ketchup and mustard can be stored just fine in compartments inside the refrigerator door
- Hang a white board on the fridge and use it for shopping lists or timing when you put a pot roast in the oven
- Label containers with their open date—use tape and a marker to identify what is in the container and when you opened it
- Cover your refrigerator shelves with plastic wrap or placemats—when a spill happens, just peel off and wipe clean or toss away!
- Keep an open box of baking soda on the back shelf to absorb odors and keep your fridge smelling fresh!
Keep your freezer set to 0°F or below—food will last longer when kept between 0 and -20°F and decline more quickly when kept between 0 and 32°F.
- Use your freezer like a frozen pantry and create zones for different freezer categories
- Vegetable zone contains all those bags and boxes of frozen vegetables
- Bread zone keeps all those loaves of sliced bread and baguettes fresh
- Meat zone is great for stocking up on chicken, ground beef and bacon
- Freeze food in serving sizes
- Use 1-quart plastic containers or ziplock freezer bags, which allow foods to freeze quickly, avoiding freezer burn and defrosting only what you need
- Freeze foods flat
- Freezing soups and stews in freezer bags allows them to be stored flat, taking up less space and freezing quickly—remove the air from the bags before sealing
- Label each container with the name of the dish, serving size and date of freezing
- As with the fridge, the freezer door is the warmest spot in the freezer—use it for items such as nuts, liquor and coffee beans
Start by taking everything out of your pantry. Vacuum all the crumbs and wipe down the shelves. Now you can start fresh.
- Create zones for the different pantry categories
- Baking zone for flour, sugar, cake mixes, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and cornstarch
- Pasta zone for all those interesting pasta shapes you find at that specialty grocery store and pasta sauces when they go on sale
- Condiment zone for mustards, Worcestershire sauce, your hot sauce collection, pickles and salsas
- Can zone for canned fruit, tomatoes, beans and vegetables
- Snack zone for chips, pretzels, mixed nuts and candy—this works great if you have kids…small or big…so they can find what they need and not tear up the entire pantry
- Breakfast zone for cereals, oatmeal and breakfast bars
- Pet zone for all the cans and bags of Fluffy’s favorites!
- Beverage zone for coffee and tea—buy that coffee on sale and stack those boxes of varietal teas to indulge everyone’s beverage choices
- Organize by “expiration” date, putting items that expire first in the front so they will get used first
- Store the heavy items, such as containers of oil and soda, on the bottom shelf
- If you have room, use wire baskets or bins to store potatoes and onions—the pantry is usually a dark and cool place, perfect for keeping those vegetables fresh
- Use a shoe organizer on the door of your pantry to store boxes of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, storage bags and napkins or keep those little things that get lost or fall through the shelves, such as envelopes of taco seasoning and ramen soup
- Lazy Susans are great to utilize those deep corners that usually become “lost in space”
- Use crates to store bulk items, such as toilet paper and paper towels
- Glass or plastic containers are also a great way to store bulk amounts of flour, sugar or grains so you can take advantage of bulk buying while being able to see at a glance what you have available, and the containers are pretty to look at—keep a measuring cup or scoop in the jars for easy measuring
- Use stacking wire shelves to stack canned goods and wire hanging under-shelf baskets to store bags of sliced bread, bagels or English muffins
- If you have extra wall or door space in your pantry, use it to hang bulky or seldom-used tools, such as rolling pins or grilling tools