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fridge organizer ready to go in fridge

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge, According to OXO Chef In Residence JJ Johnson

Organize your fridge like a professional chef. From what to put where to proper storage techniques, here's what you need to know.

8 min read

Let’s face it: Nearly every kitchen has a hidden mess, whether it’s a pile of mismatched silverware or a drawer crammed with rubber bands, batteries, and takeout menus. But for many home cooks, the real chaos lurks in the fridge, with its sticky jars, leftover containers, and bags of I’m-not-sure-this-is-still-good greens. And while it may seem daunting to tackle straightening out this hot spot, it's truly doable.

To help, we’ve got smart refrigerator organization ideas from our OXO Chef In Residence JJ Johnson, a James Beard award winner, owner of NYC restaurant Fieldtrip(Opens in a new window), and author of The Simple Art of Rice:(Opens in a new window) Recipes from Around the World for the Heart of Your Table. Johnson insists that mastering this process is worth the effort: “Organizing the fridge makes you cook better,” he shares—and who wouldn’t want that?

Read on to learn how to take advantage of your fridge’s layout as well as the best products to help you customize it to your eating preferences.

Why an organized fridge matters 

Are you constantly having to take out half the items in your fridge just to locate that jar of mustard that somehow got stuck at the very back? Do you forget about items that are out of view until they’ve started to go bad…and you can’t figure out where the smell is coming from? Sure, organizing your fridge may start off as a chore, but try not to view it as drudgery, urges Johnson. “Organizing your refrigerator gives you a clear mind and allows you to see everything inside,” he says.

You’ll also have less stress, Johnson adds. “You need a method to your madness so you can understand your own fridge.” A neat fridge also saves time (no more hunting for capers) as well as money since you’ll see you already have parsley and won’t add it to your shopping list again.

An organized fridge can also help with food waste. “Most of the time we don’t realize what we have and things can end up spoiling before we get around to using them,” he notes. And here’s a bonus benefit: Refrigerator organization ideas can be transferred to other parts of the kitchen like the pantry (that jumble of cans!) and freezer, which is often a black hole for meat and leftovers.

Focus on personalization when organizing the fridge

Customization is key when it comes to organizing the refrigerator, says Johnson. The first step is checking the shelves’ heights to see if they fit your needs, like making sure you have enough space for that carton of milk or your water filter.  “Look at the interior and gauge how tall or short the storage is—you might want to get rid of some of the shelves that come with your fridge to fit what you need.”

Are you a wine fan or eat a lot of yogurt? Make your fridge storage work for you. “Let’s say you’re a can person, like my wife who drinks ginger ale,” explains Johnson. You can make room for this habit with the refrigerator beverage mat that’ll hold lots of cans or bottles without slippage. Then double your storage while improving your line of sight with an adjustable shelf riser.

And in a house with little ones (or tweens or teens), having an organized spot for their favorite snacks is smart to avoid having the whole fridge ransacked in search of the lone string cheese. “If you have young kids—or even for yourself—you can create a snack container that you can pull out with special items that are stocked and ready to go,” he suggests. One to try: a refrigerator storage bin for holding apples, clementines, yogurt tubes, or cheese sticks.

organized fridge

Know your fridge’s temperature zones

If you’ve never paid much attention to the different temperature zones inside your fridge, now’s the time. “The crisper drawer really does hold your berries and the gem lettuce you want to eat all week for a longer shelf life because it allows enough air to circulate around each item,” says Johnson. (If your crisper drawer is overflowing, stash your produce in one of these.)

Leftovers and prepared foods should be in the center at eye level as these need eating first. Condiments belong on the door, one of the warmest spots. Be sure to place similar items together, like salad dressings in one group and hot sauce in another. This way, you’ll “see all of your fridge and won’t end up buying something again because it was piled in the back,” he points out.

Reserve the lower, colder shelves for meat or store it in an under-shelf drawer to catch drips. Eggs also need a cold zone and clear storage is a plus. “Most people don’t remember how many are left in the carton—you might find only two when you need half a dozen,” he says. Use a clear egg bin and stock up. “Eggs last a while and buying 18 or two dozen at a time is cheaper.”

Check in weekly and wipe as you go

Once all the cheese is in one spot and your beverages are corralled, make an effort to check on your fridge’s organization at regular intervals. Since lots of home cooks shop for groceries once a week, that’s a good time to wipe shelves and do a weekly stock check to see how much hummus is left, for instance, and decide whether you really need more mayo.

And by checking in, you can assess your fridge’s storage so you don’t overfill it. Maybe you’re good on blueberries this week afterall. Lastly, for the neatest fridge, strive to clean as you go. “I’m constantly running a jam jar under hot water and wiping it clean and putting the ketchup upright, so it doesn’t leak on its side,” says Johnson. The micro cleaning sessions will pay off because when you open your fridge next—voila!—it’ll be in perfect order as you get ready to prepare the day’s meals.

 
Want to tackle a similar kitchen project? Check out these tips for organizing a French door refrigerator and our advice for tidying up your fridge’s freezer or a chest freezer.

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