How to Make It Easier to Find Things in Your Fridge

Three Parts:Starting with a Clean SlateRestoring OrderRemembering to Use Food on Time

A messy fridge can make it harder to find ingredients during cooking, keep track of leftovers, and sort out spoiled foods. Tidying up your fridge is a great step towards a neater kitchen overall.

Part 1
Starting with a Clean Slate

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    Clear out everything in your fridge. Throw away anything that is expired, spoiled, or otherwise inedible. While you're at it, you might want to clean your fridge. This is time to start anew!

Part 2
Restoring Order

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    Categorize your fridge items. Keep this simple, so that it is easy to remember and use. Depending on your household, you may have different categories, but these basic classifications can help you sort your items:
    • Fruit (needs less humidity than vegetables and some fruit cannot be refrigerated successfully, such as bananas)
    • Veggies (often kept in the vegetable crisper drawers as they require the humidity to keep them in good condition but not mushrooms, as they turn slimy)
    • Meat, poultry and fish (always keep in a separate compartment or on the base shelf, so that blood or juices do not drip onto other food, risking contamination)
    • Eggs and dairy
    • Leftovers and prepared food. This might also include opened jars of jam/jelly, pickles, preserves, etc.
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    Label your shelves. Write out labels on note cards and stick them to the shelves, or write on masking tape and affix the tape to the shelf edges. This will help to remind you where to keep each food type, as well as making it easier for others to put food back in the right spots.
    • There are scientifically proven areas to store foods in a fridge for optimal cooling effect.[1] The exact optimal positioning for foods depends on the make of your fridge, but in general, the door is warmest (and hot air hits those items every time the door is opened), so more resilient food should go there, such as condiments. The shelves nearer the freezer are usually the coldest, while the crisper tends to create a warmer barrier that causes the shelf above it to be warmer. Meat and fish is often best mid-level to avoid freezing or warmth but this will depend on space availability and likelihood of dripping. How far you want to take this approach is up to you; often experience will tell you best!
    • As well as labels, consider adding a few permanent containers for certain items like syrup, opened pasta sauce containers and preserves. Having permanent containers for such items makes it easy to pull them out and to locate them. Customized long containers are available for fridges from specialist stockists. Label these too.
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    Put the food back in an orderly fashion. Follow the categorization you've come up with and the shelving placement. If you find anything doesn't fit the way you wanted it to, make adjustments until you're satisfied that it's going to work well.

Part 3
Remembering to Use Food on Time

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    Use Post-its or other sticky notes to date the leftovers. You may also want to use this method for other foods.
    • Leftover food should always be covered to retain freshness and prevent cross-contamination with odors or bacteria, etc.
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    Done. Try to keep to the categories and encourage other householders to do so too. Have regular clean-outs of old or over-dated food so that you don't miss the fresher additions––weekly quick cleans are recommended over monthly longer cleans.


  • Fridge odors can be reduced by removing all rotting food first, then cleaning with vanilla extract. Add an open box of baking soda to absorb future odors and replace every few months with a new box.
  • Do a thorough clean-out of the fridge with each change of season. This is in addition to regular weekly checks and cleans.
  • What is in your fridge says a lot about your health. Use the clean out and categorizing of foods as a chance to check that what it is in your fridge is mostly healthy and nutritious.
  • Keep butter covered and in the butter compartment; it will absorb odors very rapidly otherwise. It is a good idea to freeze half the butter if it is not used quickly, rather than having it sit in the fridge for over a month.
  • Got a whole lot of old veggies? Make a soup; soups are very forgiving of a mixture of odd flavors. Blend it all and add a good stock, some salt and pepper and your usual flavoring and you won't know what went in!
  • The fridge doors are the warmest place for food; bear this in mind when deciding where to keep foods. The best things to put in the lower door level are drinks, as they are the least likely to be affected by the increase in warmth when the door is opened.
  • Eggs can be kept out of the fridge as well as in it. Cover them if kept in the fridge and use the door compartment for them. This applies more to European and UK eggs, or if you get them from backyard chickens - there's a legal requirement in America that eggs that are sold are washed first, which weakens their protection against outside contaminants. If your eggs have been washed, keep them in the fridge (though the door should be fine).


  • Never overfill a fridge; this reduces its efficiency and prevents good airflow. Equally, too little in the fridge can cause uneven temperatures through the fridge.

Things You'll Need

  • Cleaning gear
  • Labels and marker
  • Special fridge containers (optional)
  • Post-It notes or similar for labeling

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