Organize the refrigerator for healthier eating and less waste. Yes, it takes a little dedication, but it’s all about streamlining and creating new habits!
The Picture-Perfect Fridge
Those picture-perfect fridge pictures you see on Instagram these days are just that, picture-perfect. It’s kind of like how you stage your home before selling it and get dressed up in coordinating outfits for family photos.
The reality is, most of us don’t have refrigerators that look that perfect, at least not most of the time. My fridge looks pretty good on the rare occasion that I clean it, go grocery shopping, and food prep all in the same day. But even then my refrigerator doesn’t stay Insta-pretty for very long!
Of course, there is something to be said for a well-organized refrigerator. It can help you eat healthier while also reducing food waste.
Minimizing Food Waste
I’m currently working on keeping our refrigerator more consistently organized. The same goes for reducing food waste. We go through phases of doing really well with minimizing food waste, and then all of a sudden the compost is overflowing. This is usually because I didn’t serve the leftovers in time, went grocery shopping without a plan, or forgot about said food item as it sadly wilted or expired in the back of my fridge. Having a well-organized refrigerator can definitely help you minimize food waste.
Organize the Refrigerator
To reel in on these habits, I came up with 9 tips to organize the refrigerator for healthier eating and less waste:
- Keep it clean. It goes without saying that a fresh, clean refrigerator is more inviting than a messy one. Clean up spills immediately. Wipe shelves weekly.
- Designate spaces for each type of food. While doing your weekly wipe down, take a moment to organize content that may have been shuffled around during the week. Just as with the rest of the house, everything should have a home. Choose designated areas for different types of foods and stick to them.
- Use, freeze, or toss. Take a look at expiration dates and give some love to any foods that have been hiding in the back of a shelf or bottom of a drawer. While many condiments seem to last forever, it’s the foods that don’t that you need to take care of: the produce, the leftovers, the homemade pesto, and the fancy local _(insert item)_that you forgot you bought.
- Do some prep. While I don’t wash and chop everything right away, partly because I don’t have the motivation and partly because most produce actually keeps better unwashed, I do wash and chop some of it. For example:
- Salad ingredients: Greens and certain veggies get prepped right away so that I will be ready for dinner, lunch boxes, and appetizer plates. I usually store prepped lettuce in reusable plastic bags and veggies in glass containers.
- Fruit: Certain fruits, like melon and pineapple, are much more likely to be eaten if I chop them and store them in clear glass containers. With berries, on the other hand, I wait to wash them until we eat them. (Washing them and then storing them in the refrigerator can increase spoilage time).
- Additional foods you may want to prep include:
- Grilled or roasted chicken: keep on hand for adding to salads, making chicken salads, or fixing up quick dinners. Cooked chicken will last for 3 days in the refrigerator; freeze for longer storage.
- Cooked grains and roots: I usually cook an extra batch of quinoa or brown rice to keep on hand in the refrigerator during the week. I also love to have roasted root vegetables on hand. These ingredients are perfect for quick lunches or last-minute dinners.
- Homemade nut milk: Love, love the taste of homemade nut milk. Though these days I most often buy ready-made oat milk or another plant-based milk at the store.
- Mason jar salads: Another great use for those mason jars is salads! Add dressing to the bottom of the jar, then layer in the heavy ingredients followed by the light ingredients. Need some inspiration, check out this recipe.
- Bliss balls: little bites of energy for those on-the-go days.
- Date it! Whether it’s leftover veggie chili or an opened tetra pack of chicken broth, put a date on it so you remember when you made it or opened it. That way you don’t have to play the guessing game of deciding whether or not it’s still ok to eat.
- If it’s not working, change it. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to think outside the box. Maybe you find that produce gets lost in the bins and you want to keep it out where you can have a better view. Maybe you toss the bins completely. Or maybe you need to organize and label the bins or drawers.
- Less is more. Just like an edited, streamlined closet makes it easier to find outfits to wear, an organized, edited refrigerator will make it easier to find foods to prepare. Err on the side of buying less. If you love to have extra food on hand, invest in an extra freezer for more storage. It’s easy to jam-pack our refrigerators with so much food that we can’t see the back.
- More frequent grocery trips. Wait, what? Yes. If you find that buying enough food for 5-7 days is overwhelming or leads to wasted food, consider shopping for just 1-3 days at a time. The key during these mini visits is sticking to your list and avoiding impulse buys.
- Meal plan. Yes, planning your meals really does help with everything–eating well, reducing food waste, and keeping your fridge appropriately stocked. But again, you don’t have to plan and shop for a full week. Do what works for you!
- I often buy 4-5 days worth of basics (fruits, veggies, milk, eggs, yogurt, etc.), that way I have breakfast and lunch covered.
- And I usually only buy 1-3 dinners at a time–partly because I prefer to get my meat or fish as fresh as possible and partly because I haven’t fully planned my week!
How do you organize the refrigerator? How do you reduce food waste? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions.