Okay… let’s get down to the business of getting your kitchen organized. Hopefully you all worked through last week’s Kitchen Evaluation to highlight the strengths of the kitchen’s layout and your savvy organization skills and also to help determine trouble areas that hinder a smooth flow in your kitchen area. As we start looking at the nitty gritty aspects of the kitchen though, a good place to start is the refrigerator.
The refrigerator may seem like an odd place to start organizing the kitchen. However, you may be surprised how much more effective food preparation will become once this space has been tidied up.
Why the fridge? Because so much happens inside the refrigerator that we don’t consider. Yes, obviously the main purpose of the of the fridge is to cool and/or freeze things. Let’s discuss its function:
- Condiment holder (BBQ sauce, pickles, parmesan cheese, salad dressings)
- Cold item storage. We’re talking cold foods you buy directly from the grocer… lettuce, cheese, milk and other dairy, lunchmeat, some veggies. These are the items that go straight from the grocery bag into the fridge.
- Beverage dispenser. I’m not even talking about the external water/ice dispenser most refrigerators are designed with nowadays. These beverages are milk, juice, lemonade, kool-aid, tea, juice boxes, soda, adult beverages, etc. And with the array of shapes and sizes, this can become cumbersome and can easily be a space waster in the fridge!
- Leftover storage. Yup, you know all about trying to fit leftover chicken in with the green bean casserole, the pasta salad, a half un-eaten pizza, and the mashed potatoes you thought would be better to stick in the fridge rather than watching your baby smear all over himself. Leftovers can be a wonderful thing, but can wreak havoc trying to shove, force, and fit into a refrigerator.
While the couple drawers/crispers are great in storing fruits and veggies, it leaves the rest of the refrigerator in serious need of help especially when it comes to the random containers we use to store food in. I don’t know about you, but there never seem to be enough of my Tupperware and Pyrex sets (which stack so nicely and look so pretty) or they are not the right size to hold all our delicious nourishment in. And well, the rest of my plastic storage containers are a mix-n-match kind of deal. Plus, I live with someone (who shall remain nameless) that tends to be a pusher. He may be guilty of finding room in the fridge by pushing everything that already shelved to the back.
So in my attempt to cut down on green fuzzy food surprises, healthy up our family, and keep my sanity in check, I decided to organize our fridge and I. LOVE. IT!!! Let’s get to work and do the same for you and your family!
1. First things first… make a plan!
- Open your refrigerator and really look at your space. What is the easiest, most logical, easiest, most convenient, most functional, most efficient way to organize your refrigerator space? (BTW… did I say easiest?) This can’t be a complicated system especially if you have little ones and little time! Check out our fridge and see if some of these tips could come in helpful for you…
- Do you have another refrigerator in your garage or basement that you can use to house some items? We use our garage fridge for beverages (except milk and a pitcher of lemonade) and for extra leftovers, guest event platters, and extra freezer space. (Just don’t forget what you have put in this refrigerator… especially extra leftovers!)
- Are there any spots in the fridge that are just not useful or are awkward to get to? What can you do to make them more functional? Would moving the shelf up or down help? Would adding organizing boxes help? For us, there is a shelf only 8″ under our ‘Lunchmeat & Cheese’ drawer. It is just low enough that bending over to search the shelf is uncomfortable, squatting is overdoing it, and using it is a pain. Anything that gets pushed the back is probably not coming back out, and unfortunately it is a non-adjustable shelf. My solution… organizational drawers! I cannot get over how much these $10 drawers improved the functionality and convenience of our refrigerator!
2. Clean! Now that you have a plan, completely empty the fridge and clean it! How often do you do this? (Ok… don’t answer that out loud.) But seriously, even though I am in the refrigerator every day, multiple times a day, I only tend to clean it when something has spilled in it. So break out your cleaning supplies and give ‘er a good scrub!
3. Restock. Check the expiration dates on EACH bottle that you put back into the refrigerator. I was surprised to find that I had a bottle of Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing that was almost 2 years expired (obviously not a family favorite) or that my mayo had just reached its date. Also, did you know that just because you bought something at the grocery doesn’t mean it hasn’t already reached its use by date?! Yikes! I was abhorred to find the Eggo Waffles I had purchased from Dominicks were a month past their expiration date. Frustrating!
4. Repeat steps 1-3 with your freezer.
- Organizing the freezer will not be as challenging. However, if you are an avid freezer meal maker, you will want to be more detailed to make sure all parts of your meal are paired together.
- Watch the placement of certain things in your freezer. It seems whenever we put ice cream in the door of our garage freezer, it melts and makes a mess. Make sure nothing presses against the automatic ice maker that would restrict the bar from raising/lowering and making ice.
- Don’t forget that bins in the freezer can be extremely helpful as well!
5. Share with your family how you re-arranged the refrigerator/freezer. Show them the new snack bin you made for them (filled with healthy, easy-to-grab goodies). Show your kids where they can put their water cups so they can reach them. As your hubby (or whoever else cooks) to try and help you follow this new system. Emphasize how you are hoping to have less food waste and to be better on top of your shopping list and meal preparation this way.
6. Relax with a cold glass of lemonade!
Congratulations! Phase 1 of mission Kitchen Organization is finished! Enjoy your sparkly clean, newly reorganized refrigerator! You will love how much more simplified meal making will be with this one organizational improvement!
Now get rested up… organizing the pantry is on the plate for next week!