How To Stock Your Fridge Like A Pro: The Ultimate Guide
Like most homeowners, you probably don't give much thought to your refrigerator beyond ensuring it is loaded with food and drinks. But did you know that there is a right way to stock your fridge?
Stocking your fridge can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches. It can also keep your food shopping trips at a minimum. So, if you want to make the most of your refrigerator space and ensure that your food stays fresh, read on for tips on how to stock your fridge!
Know the Temperature Zones
The most important thing to know about your fridge is that it has different temperature zones, and each is best suited for different types of food. The general rule of thumb is the colder the zone, the better.
Your fridge's warm and cold zones may vary depending on the model. Typically, the coldest zone is in the back of the fridge near the freezer. On the other hand, the warmest zone is usually in the front of the fridge, near the door.
For basic freezer-top fridges, where cool air is generated and then circulated, the top shelf is typically the coldest spot, and the bottom shelves are warmer. For fridges with a freezer on the bottom, gravity pulls the coldest air downward, making the walls at floor level the coldest zone.
Side-by-side and French-door fridges are a bit different. These models have vents that circulate cool air from the freezer to both sides of the fridge, providing uniform temperatures to the entire unit and making it easier to store food anywhere.
No matter what kind of fridge you have, there are a few general rules you should follow when stocking it to make sure you are using your fridge to its full potential:
- Cold Zone: Coldest part of the fridge used for storing meat, fish, and poultry.
- Crisper Drawer: The second coolest part of your fridge ideal for storing fruits and vegetables.
- Cool Zone: Warmer area of the fridge ideal for dairy products, eggs, and leftovers.
- Warm Zone: Warmest area of the fridge (usually the door) where you should store condiments, jams, and jellies.
When stocking your fridge, it is important to keep these temperature zones in mind. Storing food in the appropriate area can help extend its shelf life and prevent spoilage.
Store Food in the Right Place
Now that you know the different temperature zones in your fridge, it's time to start stocking it with the right food. Here are some fridge essentials that you'll want to store and where:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables have high water content and are prone to spoilage. The best place to store them is in the crisper drawer to stay fresh—cool but not cold.
The crisper drawer is usually located at the bottom of the fridge and has a humidity control that allows you to adjust the amount of moisture in the drawer. The low-humidity setting is ideal for produce that ripens quickly, while the high-humidity setting is best for vegetables that wilt easily.
To help extend the shelf life of your produce, make sure to regularly clean out the crisper drawer and remove any wilted or rotten fruits and vegetables.
Raw Meats and Poultry
Raw meats and poultry are typically stored in the coldest part of the fridge to ensure that they stay fresh for as long as possible. The USDA recommends storing raw chicken in the fridge for 1 to 2 days before cooking or freezing it, while raw beef and pork can be stored for 3 to 5 days.
It is advised to store raw meats and poultry on the inner part of the lowest shelf of your fridge to ensure a stable temperature and prevent them from contaminating other foods. It is also best to keep them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap before storage to keep them from dripping.
You can store eggs in the fridge for up to 5 weeks if you keep them in their shells. Contrary to popular belief, you should always put them in the fridge's main compartment as the door is too warm and can cause eggs to spoil faster. If you have a lot of eggs, you can store them in an egg holder or carton in the fridge.
Eggs require a stable, cold temperature to maintain their quality. Once they are refrigerated, you should keep them in the fridge until they are used. This is because when eggs warm-up, condensation can form on the shells, making them more susceptible to bacteria.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt spoil quickly if they are not kept cold enough. The ideal storage temperature for these items is between 35 to 40 °F.
To keep your dairy products fresher for longer, store them on the middle or upper shelves of your fridge where it is coldest. You should avoid storing dairy products near foods with strong smells, as they can absorb odors.
Milk can be stored in the main compartment or the door of the fridge and can last 5 to 7 days. Hard cheeses such as cheddar and Parmesan can last for 6 weeks if stored properly, while softer cheeses like feta and goat cheese should be consumed within 1 to 2 weeks. Avoid low-sodium cheese, as it tends to spoil as early as 1 week of refrigeration.
Yogurt has the longest shelf life of all dairy products. Typically, it can last 2 to 3 weeks but check the expiration date. Depending on preference, you can store butter in the fridge or counter. If you store butter in the fridge, keep it in a covered container to prevent it from picking up other flavors.
Condiments and Sauces
Most condiments and sauces can be stored in the pantry and do not require refrigeration, such as fish sauce, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar. However, a few should be kept in the fridge, including mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, ketchup, jams, jellies, and homemade salad dressing.
The door is typically a good place if you need to store your condiments and sauces in the fridge. Unlike other items, most of these products do not mind slight temperature fluctuations.
Condiments and sauces usually last for several months in the fridge, so there is no need to worry about them going bad quickly. But as with all food items, know the expiration date and periodically check for signs of spoilage, such as mold, strange odors, or changes in color or appearance.
If you don't think you will use a condiment within a month or two, it is probably best to put it in the freezer to help prolong its shelf life.
Leftovers are a staple in many households and can make meal planning easier. But if not stored correctly, they can spoil quickly and become dangerous to eat.
To keep your leftovers safe, store them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge as soon as possible after cooking. The best spot for leftovers is on the middle shelves of the fridge, as they require a stable temperature.
Most leftovers will be safe to eat for 3 to 4 days before they need to be thrown out. Once again, use your judgment and keep an eye on expiration dates and signs of spoilage.
Frozen and Processed Food
Frozen and processed food is a great way to add variety to your diet while still having quick and easy meals. When stocking your fridge with these food items, check the labels for expiration dates and storage instructions.
You should store frozen foods at 0 °F or below to maintain their quality and freshness. But not all processed food is created equal. Some don't need to be refrigerated, and others can be stored at various temperatures.
Beverages are an important part of any diet and can help you stay hydrated. When stocking your fridge with drinks, don't forget to check for storage instructions.
Store beverages at 40 °F or below to maintain their quality and freshness. Most juices will last about a week in the fridge, while sodas can last up to 2 months, but again, check the expiration date before drinking. You can store alcoholic beverages indefinitely in the fridge, but their quality will deteriorate over time.
Clean Your Fridge Regularly
Now that you know where to put everything in your fridge, it's important to keep it clean. A dirty fridge can lead to foodborne illnesses and make your food taste bad.
The best way to clean a fridge is to empty it completely. Start by taking out all the food, removing the shelves and drawers, and washing them with hot and soapy water.
After that, wipe down the fridge's inside with a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. You can also use other non-abrasive cleaning methods to avoid damaging the interior. Be sure to clean the gasket or seal around the door to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
Once you are done cleaning the entire interior, replace the shelves and drawers. Put a box of baking soda inside to help reduce future odors. You can also leave a bowl of fresh coffee grounds inside overnight to help eliminate any lingering smells.
Throw Away Expired Items
Keep an eye on expiration dates when replacing your food in the fridge. Throw away any expired items and anything that has gone bad. If an item is close to expiring, it's best to use it up or freeze it for later.
Expiration dates are there for a reason, and it is important to ensure you are using food before it goes bad. Not only will this save you money, but it will also help to keep your fridge organized and free of perished goods.
Use Clear Containers
One simple way to keep your fridge organized is to use clear containers. Not only are they helpful in corraling your food items, but they also allow you to see what is inside each container easily. This way, you can quickly grab what you need without searching through a pile of lids.
Another benefit of using clear bins in your fridge is to preserve your food. Keeping your food items in sealed containers prevents them from drying or spoiling quickly.
Most clear containers are also stackable so that they will take less space in your fridge. This is especially useful if you have a small fridge or live in a cramped space. Removing and cleaning a container is much simpler than cleaning an entire shelf.
One of the most important things to do when stocking your fridge is to label everything, including leftovers, produce, and anything else you might have. Labeling your food lets you know exactly what you have and how long it will last.
Labeling everything in your refrigerator will make life easier for you and the whole family. Not only will it help everyone find what they are looking for in a snap, but it will also ensure that they will put everything back in its proper place.
There are a few different ways to label your food. Some people prefer using masking tape and a Sharpie, while others like to use stickers or pre-made fridge labels. To get organized, you can also invest in a labeling system that includes dates and expiration times.
Implement Food Rotation
Food rotation is one of the most important things to remember when stocking your fridge. This means using the oldest items in your fridge and saving the newer ones later. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it.
When implementing food rotation, organize your food so that the items with earlier expiration dates are in front of the shelf and easier to access, while products with later use-by dates are placed at the back. This way, you are more likely to use up the items that will expire first.
A good way to keep track of food rotation is to label everything with the date it was purchased or made and check before eating or using it.
Keep Track With a List
Another great way to simplify things when it comes to stocking your fridge is to keep a list to track its contents.
You can use a magnetic whiteboard or dry-erase board and place it on the refrigerator door. It will allow you to monitor your stocks without rummaging through the fridge whenever you need to know what's inside.
Simply write down the items in your fridge and the date you should consume them. And whenever you use up an item or purchase something new, do not forget to update the list. This will help you stay on top of things and ensure that nothing goes to waste.
Use an App
You can use an app on your phone or tablet to manage your fridge contents. We recommend using one that allows you to scan barcodes and add expiration dates. It will make it easier for you to keep track of your food inventory and ensure that you are using the oldest items first.
One good example is FoodKeeper. It is a free app created by the USDA that helps you track what is in your fridge and freezer and when it will expire. You can also use the app to create shopping lists, so you will always know what you need to pick up the next time you're at the store.
Organize By Height
When you are stocking your fridge, be sure to organize the food items by height. It will help you make the most of the space and prevent items from getting lost in the rear.
Taller items should go in the back so they are not blocking your view of what is behind them. It will help you see everything you have, so you can easily grab what you need without moving things around.
Put Perishables in the Front and Center
When stocking your fridge, putting perishable items where you can easily see them helps you remember to consume them before they go bad. Products like milk, eggs, and meat have a shorter shelf life and should be used first.
Additionally, putting perishable items in the front and center of your fridge will help you save money by reducing unnecessary food waste.
Don't Overstock Your Fridge
An overstocked fridge can lead to spoiled items and wasted money. It will also result in decreased air circulation, which can affect the quality of your food.
You may be tempted to buy items in bulk to save money, thinking that they have longer shelf lives and you can just leave them in the fridge for months. However, these items will only add to the clutter and may distract you from using up other items close to their expiration date.
Leave Room for Airflow
As mentioned, don't pack your fridge too full. It can cause the air to circulate poorly and make it difficult for the fridge to maintain a consistent temperature. Remember to leave space between items on the shelves and ensure that the vents are not blocked.
It is important to leave room for airflow to keep your fridge working efficiently. Ideally, you should aim to empty about 25% of your fridge to ensure the air can circulate properly and keep the food at a consistent temperature.
Your fridge will have to work harder if it is overloaded, causing damage that may shorten its lifespan. If you find that your fridge is constantly full, it might be time to upgrade to a larger model.
Stocking your fridge the right way can be daunting, but it is essential to keeping your food fresh and preventing waste. With a well-stocked fridge, you will always have something to eat, whether you’re in the mood for a quick snack or a full meal. These simple tips on how to stock your fridge will help you get started on the right foot.
Do you have any other tips for stocking your fridge? Share them in the comments below.