3 Ingenious Ways to Organize Your Fridge Without Spending a Dollar

published Jul 20, 2023
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Organized refrigerator.
Credit: Meg Asby

I want to have a tidy refrigerator, but plastic organizers aren’t for me. I understand their appeal; the clear, acrylic sides let you see what you have in stock and won’t shatter if dropped, plus the boxy shapes maximize space down to the inch. Even so, they feel too sterile to me, as if I’m in a store instead of my home. 

That’s why this Stasher bag photo stopped me in my tracks. The brightly lit refrigerator is filled with unexpected warmth. The texture from the baskets, the jars of jam, and the red, green, and orange produce give the fridge a cozy feeling — exactly the vibe I was looking for. (And yes, I was looking for a vibe for my refrigerator.) As both a parent and a home cook, I’ve spent a lot of time looking in the refrigerator, and I deserve to like what I see. 

That said, I knew my fridge wouldn’t look exactly like the photo — I’m not decanting my sour cream into Mason jars, but I’m happy for people who do — but I felt confident I could move in that direction with a few simple steps.

1. Shop your home.

Because I planned to spend zero dollars on this project, I sorted through our serving dishes and baskets to find items I could repurpose for the refrigerator. I tried to choose a variety of textures and shapes to add interest, and my favorite storage solution is the rectangular serving platter I now use as a cheese “drawer” and the wide fruit bowl that makes me smile every time I look at it.

2. Hide the plastic. 

I buy heavy cream in cute glass jars, but our milk still comes in plastic gallon jugs, and I know I won’t keep up with decanting it. Instead, I place a jar of fresh mint leaves in front, which not only hides the milk, but also keeps the herbs fresh longer. As a bonus, I now remember to use the mint, as it’s highly visible. For the rest of the plastic containers, I store them in a wooden bowl with tall sides. This makes it trickier to see what I have in stock, but it also keeps me from buying more than will fit in the container. 

3. Decant, as you’re willing. 

There are things I am willing to decant, believe it or not. We go through almond milk slowly, and I can keep up with transferring it into leftover cream jars. Storing specialty flours and coconut in repurposed peanut butter jars is a no-brainer, because they’re easier to scoop that way. Any other items I’m not willing to decant make their way to the refrigerator doors. 

The unexpected bonus of this transformation is that the refrigerator is much easier to clean now that most of the food doesn’t touch the shelves. If I had extra dollars to spend on this project, I’d probably buy a bamboo tray or two. Round containers waste corner space, and trays would be easier to clean than baskets. 

That said, for a budget of zero dollars, my refrigerator is much prettier (and more my vibe!), and I’m motivated to keep it that way.