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Stocking Up? Here’s How to Organize Your Refrigerator

Our illustrated guide shows you where to store fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and more in your fridge so they last longer.

You’ve stocked up on fresh produce, meat, eggs and more. Next stop? Your refrigerator. But before you stash your haul just anywhere, consider this: Location matters. From doors to drawers to shelves, there’s a simple art to organizing your fridge — and there’s an optimal spot for everything. Keep reading for our storage secrets, so you can enjoy perfectly crisp salads, creamy cheese and even last night’s lasagna for days to come.

Why is organizing your fridge important?

It all comes down to one simple principle: temperature. Inevitably, some parts of your fridge are going to be warmer or cooler than others. Think about it. When you reach in to grab something, the storage space along the doors is the most exposed to outside air. Other spots, like the crisper drawers, are more protected. Being aware of these fluctuations is key to keeping your food fresh.

If you don’t already, it’s a good idea to monitor your refrigerator temperature. For food stored in your refrigerator, the USDA recommends refrigerating food at 40°F or colder. This keeps your food out of the “danger zone” (40 – 140°F), where bacteria is most likely to grow. If your refrigerator does not have a built-in thermometer, consider installing one.

Illustration of produce stored in refrigerator crisper drawers.

Produce Drawers

The produce drawers — aka crisper drawers — in your fridge are ideal for storing fresh fruits and vegetables. The humidity in this space is actually different than the rest of your fridge, and it helps to preserve the flavor and texture of your produce. Think of it as a mini-controlled environment. Here’s what to consider storing here:

Fruit: Berries, grapes, apples, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes)
Vegetables: Lettuce, bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, fresh herbs

Some produce drawers also allow you to adjust their humidity level. Without getting too scientific, lower humidity is preferable for fruits, while higher humidity is better for vegetables. If your drawer doesn’t have a setting, no problem. Either way, your produce will get the TLC it needs. For storing tips about specific fruits and vegetables, see our produce storage guide.

Illustration of condiments and juice stored on refrigerator door

Doors

While we recommend keeping your fridge closed as much as possible, the door space tends to be warmer than other parts of your fridge. It’s best to keep all your nonperishables or hardier foods with a longer shelf life here:

  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo)
  • Pickles
  • Preserves
  • Salsa
  • Salad dressing
  • Juice (except freshly squeezed) and soda

Does your refrigerator have a designated spot on the door for butter and eggs? Think twice about storing these foods there. The USDA actually recommends storing your eggs in their carton on the shelves in the main compartment of your fridge. Here’s the way we see it — if it’s perishable, store it elsewhere.

Illustration of meat, milk, yogurt and eggs stored on refrigerator shelves.

Shelves

The shelves, located in the main compartment of your refrigerator, are where the temperature is the most stable. For that reason, you’ll want to store perishables like meat, dairy products, eggs and leftovers in this space. Here’s the other part to consider — most fridges have multiple levels of shelves, so the order of the foods you’re storing is also important.

Raw meat, poultry and seafood: Store on the lowest shelf. To prevent juices from spilling, wrap meat securely or place on a plate or inside a sealed container.

Eggs: Store on the lowest shelf. Keep eggs just as they came — in the carton.

Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt): Due to space constraints, milk is fine to store on the lowest shelf. But for cheese and yogurt, you’ll want to store these on the middle or highest shelf to keep them separate from raw meat.

Leftovers: Store in a sealed container on the middle or highest shelf to keep separate from raw meat.

Organizing = Self-Care

Organizing your fridge may seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to practice self-care in your home. Knowing that the foods you love — like juicy grapes, sweet berries and crunchy pickles — are in their rightful places gives you a sense of accomplishment. Plus, you’ll be reminded of your hard work every time you open the fridge. Get more simple self-care tips here. Get more simple self-care tips here.

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