Your refrigerator may be the most-used and hardest working space in your entire house. Give it the attention it deserves and it will make your life much easier. By spending time starting and maintaining your fridge space with these simple and smart strategies, you’ll save time, energy and money.
Clean the Fridge Before You Go Shopping. You may think you can remember what you have, but it’s much easier to shop frugally if you know what you have. The best way to do this is to clean out your fridge (and freezer and pantry, if needed) before you go shopping. Discard expired, old or unusable items and write anything you need to buy on your grocery list. You’ll see the space you have in the fridge for items you need to purchase and you’ll easily remember which items you need to purchase.
Only Purchase What You Can Use. When we first got married, somehow I thought it was a great idea to purchase items at Sam’s for just the two of us. We threw away more than we used for most things. What a waste! Now I look at expiration dates for items and purchase only what our family will realistically eat (or we can freeze) while the food is still good. We’ve significantly reduced our waste and our making much better use of the food we have available.
Give Yourself Space for Favorites. Our family drinks an abundance of milk. And since I only buy milk twice a month, I need to make sure we have enough space for exactly what we need. Rearrange your fridge to make sure you have enough room for favorite items or items you regularly purchase in bulk. And make sure the shelf can support the weight of the items you’re purchasing.
Tip! Always check the expiration dates of milk in the store. I’ve been known to pull out 10 gallons of milk to get to the gallons at the back with the extended expiration date. (And no, I’m never embarrassed to do this. And yes, I put the others back.) If you purchase milk with different expiration dates, make sure you put the farthest expiration date at the back of the fridge.
Keep Healthy Options Visible. There is a reason that our fruits/veggies are easily accessible. We keep them on the bottom shelf and in a tub so even a 3-year-old can reach them. And guess what? Everyone in the family grabs healthy items themselves for a snack whenever they want. Exactly my intention. Store your healthy items in an easy-to-reach and an easy-to-see location to encourage family members to eat more healthy items more regularly.
Store Leftovers in Meal-Sized Portions. I am not a good judge of quantity, especially when making dinner. I frequently make meals for a much larger family that we currently have. So we’ve gotten into a good system. After dinner, we store our leftovers in lunch-sized portions and eat them throughout the week. By doing this immediately, it makes us much more likely to eat the leftovers and saves us the trouble of trying to decide what to eat for lunch most days.
Actively Process Items. See the upside down bottles in our fridge door? We’re getting every last drop from our sauces and dressings. I’m sure you do this too. We go through our fridge on a regular basis to see what is running out and check the quality of items still available As we see items that need to be used, we rearrange our meal plans to incorporate these items (or we freeze the item for later use). When you process your items frequently (before each shopping trip or as you’re using your Bonus Minutes) you’ll have a much greater success rate for keeping the quality items in your fridge and replacing needed items.
Refrigerate Correctly & Food Safety. You’ll get much better use out of the food in your fridge if you follow these simple tips:
- When thawing meat, keep it on the lowest shelf and thaw it in a container so the juices can’t mess up other foods
- Be careful about storing some fruits and vegetables together, apples tend to ripen other items more quickly than expected
- Store extras at the very back of the fridge, you can bring them to the front when you need them
- Store leftovers in meal-ready piles–keep the leftover lasagna container with the leftover corn container. When you’re prepping your lunch, you’ll have everything together, making it easy to find.
- Hide unhealthier items at the back of the fridge (when we have soda, it’s hidden behind everything in the fridge making it barely visible)
- Keep your fridge temperature between 37 and 41 degrees.