how to organize your fridge to prevent food waste

How to Organize Your Fridge to Prevent Food Waste

Rachel Lark - February 27, 2023

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The week went by, and you didn’t have enough time to cook as much as you wanted. Fresh produce lurks in every corner of the fridge, browning and bruising. After giving up on making them into their intended recipes, the food ends up in the trash. The cycle repeats with every grocery shop, unless you learn how to organize your fridge to prevent food waste.

Many wonder about the answer to the question, “How do I reduce food waste in my fridge?” You can organize a fridge to reduce food waste by reminding yourself what’s available and fresh. Watch excuses disappear and feel relief as your groceries stop contributing to the global issue of food waste.

The Food Waste Problem

Organizing the fridge to prevent food waste stems from one motivator — a desire to waste fewer resources. It’s not only wasted food — it’s money and time too. Understanding the problem at large will let you save precious minutes at the grocery store and dollars in your budget.

Americans waste over 40% of their food, equating to around $408 billion. Though this statistic varies worldwide, the fact highlights a trend. Throwing food away minimizes the efforts it took farmers to tend and grow the food and supply chains and grocers to ship and stock those foods for our accessibility. It also ignores disparities in global hunger, so careless food disposal contributes to more than the environmental problem.

When stacking thousands of pounds of food in landfills, it emits methane. Greenhouse gases like this hurt the atmosphere more than carbon dioxide, which is why the food waste issue is critical.

Now, it’s time to experiment with how to organize your fridge to prevent food waste. It may take time to find the best strategies, but there are plenty of methods to reduce trips to the dumpster. Before investing in new technologies that could optimize a fridge — though they are helpful — try these basic techniques first.

Change the Role of the Door

Take a moment to analyze what’s in the fridge door. Because of shelf depth, most households put condiments, drinks and jars in these thin compartments. Consider how frequently your eyes glance over the door, even if you don’t want anything from it. Let’s capitalize on that instinct.

Most people dismiss rotting produce or forgotten food because it falls to the back of the fridge or current groceries hide them. 

If the food that is open or closer to expiring doesn’t have the chance to disappear, there is a greater chance you will eat it. Most of the time, the food that goes bad is food you want to eat, so try placing condiments and sauces with longer shelf lives in the central area of the fridge and quick-to-expire produce in the door. 

This display does not allow food to sneak behind other objects, so it’s easy to see what foods are the highest priority — and everything that lived in the door before is still easily accessible.

Remind Yourself of Important Dates

One of the ways we unintentionally let food go to waste is because they expire. The simple solution is never to let food go past the expiration dates — how?

Start with education. There are plenty of helpful lists and charts online that you can print and put on the fridge to remember how long foods stay fresh. If you remember the broccoli lasts longer than the lettuce, you’ll be more encouraged to use that sooner. 

Another way is by designating zones in the fridge for food types. You can make an area specifically for foods you need to eat soon, like leftovers or berries that have sat untouched for a few days. Then, those in the household can default to checking this spot when preparing a meal or having a snack.

You can also use labels. If you’re putting a block of cheese or pieces of bacon in a container, date it with when it was first opened. It will help everyone know how long food has sat, potentially becoming unsafe for consumption.

Use Storage Bins

Categorizing food by type is more efficient if there are clear boundaries. Have a place for meats, dairy products, produce and leftovers. It reduces frustration when trying to locate ingredients, and you can analyze the current stock before grocery shopping. Further minimize food waste by shopping from your fridge and pantries before repurchasing everything new.

Ensure everything is as straightforward as possible because to reduce food waste, everyone has to see what’s available — this includes not putting food on top of the fridge, out of view.

Many choose to have clear bins, so they still have a clear view of all the food. It adds a pleasing, aesthetic touch to your fridge and keeps everything cleaner and fresher. Also, if a container topples, spilling a sauce, it’s more contained and doesn’t get on as many ingredients.

Develop Food Organization Mindsets

It’s vital to have mindset shifts guide the fridge organization, so food waste decreases even more. There are a couple of ways mindsets can help your fridge stay organized after the initial overhaul.

One of the most obvious is to see food as money. Throwing food away every week costs families countless dollars a year, and organizing your fridge adds more money to your wallet. 

Though seeing your food as nutrition and happiness should be the goal, it’s helpful to be reminded of how many work hours and dollars go into stocking a fridge. It helps ground us in our food habits by preventing complacency. 

Also, remind yourself of the global food waste problem. Individual habits need to change to become a better steward of the planet. The fridge must stay organized for the betterment of the earth, and repeating this mantra will make it easier to maintain an organized fridge.

Appreciate the Food in Your Fridge More

Organizing a fridge to prevent food waste is one of the most impactful ways to reduce your carbon footprint. It helps you get the most out of your money, but it also relieves any stress on your conscience about wasting food every week. 

Reducing food waste with simple actions like this can also improve our relationship with food, making every cooking and eating experience more enjoyable. We appreciate food more the more we take care of it, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by learning how to organize your fridge to prevent food waste.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.