8 Bad (and Avoidable!) Fridge Habits That Are Costing You Money

updated Sep 30, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

From leaving lights on when you’re not home to setting the thermostat too high, there are a number of mindless home habits that add up over time and spike your utility bill. But did you know that your kitchen could be a significant culprit? If you want to save money and energy — not to mention, your groceries — start with your refrigerator.

Here are eight of the most common and costly fridge habits to break ASAP. (Also, consider unplugging your coffee maker and toaster when they’re not in use. Because, vampire power!)

1. Over-filling your fridge.

Storing too much in your fridge can get costly fast. Excess items can block vents in your fridge, and having too much stuff crammed in also makes the appliance work harder to stay cold when you open the door. 

2. Under-filling your fridge.

Like an overly stuffed fridge, an empty fridge can also cost you money. Because cold items in your fridge play a part in keeping the temp low when you open the door, too few items means the appliance has to work overtime to maintain the right temperature. Aim for a fridge (and freezer) that’s 75 percent full.

Related: One Mindless Kitchen Habit That’s Costing You Money

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Setting the temperature incorrectly.

If your fridge is too warm, your food will rot more quickly. But if the temp is set too cold, your items will freeze. Avoid spoiled or icy food by keeping your refrigerator temperature set between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. (If your fridge doesn’t have specific temps on the dial, you can invest in an inexpensive fridge thermometer.)

Credit: Anna Hoychuk

4. Setting the crisper humidity incorrectly.

Did you know there’s an ideal humidity setting for your crisper and deli drawers? Use them correctly and your produce is likely to last longer (no more wasting money, throwing out food that’s spoiled!). Leafy greens and herbs, specifically, are at a high risk for wilting if the drawer is too humid. 

RelatedWhat to Store in Your Refrigerator’s Humidity Drawers

5. Storing older items in the back. 

The idea here is simple: You will be most likely to eat what you see. If you store older items, like leftovers, toward the back of the fridge, you won’t see or use them. Save your food (and money) by developing a “first in, first out” system. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Storing perishables on the door.

If you store perishable items (like milk!) on the door, it will go bad faster — it’s the warmest area of your fridge, and the temp takes an even further dip when you open the fridge. To keep your food and drinks from spoiling too soon, store your condiments and other less perishable items in the door instead.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Opening your fridge too much 

For obvious reasons, standing in front of your fridge with the door open is never a great idea, since the temperature will go up rapidly and cause your fridge to work harder to get back to its normal temp. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

8. Chopping too much food before you use it. 

While there’s nothing wrong with a little food prep, there’s one rule you shouldn’t break: Don’t chop up too much perishable food too far in advance. Cut-up meat, fruit, and veggies will spoil faster than whole foods. Prep what you’ll eat in a week and nothing more.