The 8 Worst Ways You’re Wasting Space in Your Fridge and Freezer

updated May 7, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

You don’t need us to tell you: You only have so much fridge and freezer space. Aside from having a bonus unit in the basement or garage, there’s not much you can really do in the way of creating an overflow space. (You know, like how you might hang a shelf for extra pantry ingredients or add a peg board for extra cookware.) The space you have is the space you have, so you don’t want to waste any of it. At the same time, you don’t want to cram your fridge and freezer so full that the appliance has to work too hard to do its job or you can’t actually find anything. It’s a balancing act! And we’re here to help you find some equilibrium.

With that, here are some of the biggest ways you might be wasting space.

1. Using round food storage containers.

Round food storage containers are hard to avoid when you’re buying a set, but being mindful of how they affect your fridge space can help you decide when and how to use them. If you’re low on fridge space, choosing square or rectangular containers allows you to store more at any given time. Note: We make the exception for deli containers because, well, they’re magical. Just be aware of the footprint they make in your fridge and freezer and try to store things around them.

2. Stacking items in the freezer.

Rather than stacking bags of frozen veggies and packages of meat on top of each other, try to “file” everything vertically. This way you can see what you have and you can grab everything (without causing an avalanche of food) and put it away easily. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Not stacking things in the fridge.

On the other side of things, you’ll end up wasting space in the fridge if you don’t stack things. Some shelves just offer a lot of vertical space that often doesn’t get used. Add a cutting board or a baking sheet on top of a bowl, casserole dish, or even a bunch of yogurts, and you have more storage space.

Read more: I Started Keeping a Cutting Board in the Fridge — And You Should Too

4. Leaving things in their packaging.

Do you really need that box the chicken nuggets or mozzarella sticks came in? Too often, these boxes are bigger and bulkier than what’s actually inside. Get rid of the packaging; if you need the cooking instructions, just cut them out and tape or clip them onto the bag.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Failing to freeze things so they’re flat.

Things like soups and sauces freeze especially well. But if you’re using freezer bags and placing them in the freezer to solidify into whatever shape the bag takes, you’re wasting space. Instead, freeze bagged food flat on baking sheets. When the items are frozen, the baking sheet can be removed and you can do that filing trick. (This also works very well when you’re portioning out ground meat.) Storing a collection of flat frozen food vertically makes it easy to see and grab.

Related: How to Freeze and Defrost Ground Beef

Credit: Kitchn
Freezer Zones Stock a Freezer

6. Throwing things in there randomly.

What seems like a better use of space: things thrown in all willy-nilly, or a bunch of containers lined up neatly? If you have items placed wherever there’s room, you’ll have a jumbled, unorganized mess in no time. Plus, you’ll forget what you have and end up buying duplicates, or you won’t see the leftovers tucked on the top shelf and they’ll go bad before you can use them. Bonus tip: Take things a step further and label the shelves.

7. Skipping organizers.

They don’t have to be fancy (you can use a few cheapo magazine holders and it’ll be a big improvement), but you do need organizers in both your fridge and your freezer. Baskets can help hold small things that would otherwise get lost (string cheeses, pouches, etc), bins can group things together, and risers (or cutting boards or sheet pans) can add space.

Credit: Kitchn

8. Not taking advantage of the walls.

We’re all about squeezing in more storage wherever we can, which brings us to the walls inside your fridge. Use a suction-cup caddy to create bonus shelf space for small packets of sauces and little bottles. Another way to use the walls? To keep track of what needs to be used up ASAP. You just need a dry-erase marker.

Got anything else to add to this list? Leave your ideas in the comments below.