8 Ways to Rearrange Your Fridge So That You Actually Eat Everything You Buy

published Oct 8, 2021
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Credit: Chloe Berk

You know how it goes — you buy a cart full of groceries with the best of intentions, from bags of spinach to those shiny cherries on display in the heart of the grocery store. But then your week gets busy, and that produce starts going bad in the fridge. It’s the worst feeling to throw out or compost food before you can use it, but it happens to the best of us.

Food waste is a real problem; the FDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the United States’ food supply is wasted every year. This means wasted resources and more food in landfills, not to mention the fact that plenty of food could have gone to people in need. But there are ways to use up your food faster so you don’t have to deal with produce guilt or moldy yogurt containers. Take a look in your fridge and see how you can best optimize the space to make using up your food a priority.

1. Keep it front and center. 

If you see it, you’re more likely to use it! A recent viral TikTok by therapist KC Davis showed one unique way to organize a fridge, with produce in the fridge door and condiments in a drawer for more space and clearer visualization. Though there are some reasons to keep certain foods in colder or warmer parts of your fridge for food-safety reasons, don’t feel pressured to put things where they “should” go if it means your method will help you use food efficiently. Optimize the fridge for you and keep the things you want to eat (or use up) right where you’ll see them when you open the door, or so you don’t have to dig for them.

2. Organize by meal. 

You’re less likely to throw away food if you make a plan for it. Before you go shopping, sit down and plan out a few days’ worth of meals. You don’t have to do a full week; leave some room for impromptu dinners out or long days that end in takeout. Once you’ve done that, organize the fridge by meal so the ingredients are all grouped together and you don’t have to rummage for what you need. 

3. Learn what to store where. 

Your produce will taste better if you stick to some general rules of storage. Some fruits and veggies are best kept on the counter at room temperature, like tomatoes, peaches, eggplant, and apples. It might also be worth keeping broccoli and cauliflower in a separate fridge drawer away from other produce; the ethylene they release can make other veggies go bad faster. (The more you know!) You’ll save precious space in the fridge and enjoy more flavorful fruits and veggies that last longer.

4. Make it easy for yourself. 

As soon as you get home from the grocery store or farmers market, prep any veggies and fruit for use, then store them in clear containers so you can easily see what you have, and grab those pre-cut strawberries or cucumbers for a snack when you’re hungry. If you’re always hungry for a turkey sandwich, keep the meat and bread together so it’s easy to satisfy your craving. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

5. Know your habits. 

If you’re a snacker, keep grazing-friendly produce like grapes, carrots, and chopped cauliflower right in the front so you can easily find something healthy and delicious for a quick fix. If you prefer to make long, complicated meals, try to meal prep on a certain day of the week and keep ingredients stored and at the ready so you can save time and still use that fancy veggie or expensive fruit you bought for that extensive recipe. Knowing how you’ll likely use the produce throughout the week makes it easier to store and use up; you’re playing to your strengths!

6. Group similar items together. 

No one wants to spend precious time digging through the fridge to find that miso sauce or Greek yogurt. If it helps, try storing similar items near one another; keep sauces, dips, and spreads in one section, bread in another (if you keep bread in the fridge), leftovers in another section, and dairy products like milk, eggs, and yogurt in yet another space. It’s a simple way to remember where things are when you need them, and use them up faster.

7. Keep herbs at their freshest.

Don’t just toss herbs in the crisper drawer and pray for the best! Plastic grocery store bags and boxes aren’t the best way to store them in your fridge; our friends at Kitchn recommend keeping soft herbs in a glass of cool water and harder herbs in a damp paper towel to keep them at their best. Place them on a shelf instead of in the drawer so you’re more likely to see (and use) them.

8. When in doubt, head to the freezer. 

The freezer should be your BFF when you’re worried about wasting food. If the spinach is about to go bad, freeze it for smoothies. Not sure you’re going to get to that ground chicken this week? Freeze it for later when you have more time; you’ll enjoy a meal in the future and won’t have to worry about waste.