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Organizing tips for the refrigerator--please chime in!

After reading all the inventive and thoughtful kitchen organizing tips, I am hoping we can move to my nemisis: The Refrigerator.

I am the Imelda Marcos of condiments and my refrigerator shows it.

Condiments--they are all indispensible (;-p), but they leave precious little room for anything more . Like meats, breads, nuts, leftovers. (we do have a three-day rule on leftovers, and DH and I are good about using them for lunches, so they don't become science experiments. Very often.

I have adjustable glass shelves, so condiments are organized by type and bottle height. Very small or short jars go into the door shelves and all have permanent homes. It's the larger bottles and jars that are my nemisis. I purge about every three months or so if something bought at the spur of the moment has not been used more than once.

I have a meat drawer that's used for lunch meats and cheeses and two crisper drawers, usually full.

There are just DH and I in the household and it is a fairly large single door fridge with a bottom freezer.

What strategies do you use to manage your fridge? DH is pretty exasperated at the stacking that goes on....any help would be appreciated.

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  1. Lately I have been ruthless about the stuff in my refrigerator. It's like a knife in my husband's heart when I throw out leftovers; he has this belief that the refrigerator is like Oz, when nothing ever gets any older.

    I've been grouping stuff by frequency of use and rapidity of deterioration. The most important thing is moving through the leftovers and keeping them at eye level so I don't forget them. I try to make sure I check those little containers every day, otherwise they just become part of the scenery.

    1. The Mrs. is always on my case with all the condiments I have in the door shelves, and all the other items I "stuff" on the shelves. (That does have its advantages though, she got so aggravated with all the stuff I had in the fridge, that the other night she cleaned out all the old food and cleaned and organized the fridge. The only downside was that she insisted on throwing out all my cheese that might have had a little mold on it.)

      My basic problem is that although the fridge has all of the appropriate shelves and drawers to store the various items, I just buy too much food and condiments. I have come to the conclusion that the only acceptable solution is going to result in acquiring about two more refrigerators, and a seperate full height freezer. I am just waiting to win the lottery.

      1. I have a condiment addiction. I'm slowly learning to curb the urge to buy something & just using it once & than having it sit in my fridge for 6 months. What I do to keep my fridge clean is I'll go through everything & plan a weeks worth of meals using any & all condiments & leftovers.
        Have a lot of salad dressing? pasta salad. Use it as a marinade. Use it for your sandwiches. Add some to some already cooked rice.
        I bought some of those veggie crisper bags..they keep veggies fresher longer so there's no longer that pressure to eat all of it within a certain timeframe before they get funky.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sugarbuzz

          great idea--use them to mealplan. I guess that means getting less extemporaneous, though. eek.

        2. We have a similar problem with too many sauces and condiments, which is only partly controlled. One thing that helps a little is that we put a plastic shoe box (without lid) in the fridge to hold all the different mustards, because they kept getting lost in the back (especially short jars getting stuck way back under that cheese/lunch meat drawer) and we wouldn't remember that there was already a jar of whole-grain or dijon mustard so we'd end up with two or three "active" jars. We also use another storage bin (I think it was designed as soft-drink storage) for salad dressings.

          I find that keeping like condiments in the same bin keeps them from getting separated as I'm trying to squeeze in something else, so they're less likely to get lost, and DH and I both know where to find those particular condiments. Doesn't help with the seemingly dozens of bottles of oyster sauce, sambal, chutneys and Indian sauce pastes, and so on, though...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Allstonian

            I do use a like box for my nuts, which are often in ziplock bags which defy organization. Works well.

            1. re: Allstonian

              I like the idea of storage bins -- my European family and friends all keep a large flattish tupperware just for cheese that wont fit in the deli drawer (that space is full of cold-cuts, bacon, sliced cheeses, etc. and sometimes cut limes and lemons because it's right at eye level and otherwise they'd be forgotten.) The cheese-box is easy to pull out when friends stop by.

              1. re: Allstonian

                I do this too - one whole door shelf of my side-by-side is reserved for mustard. For the "seemingly dozens," (*sigh*) - the best I've managed is a shelf for savoury (e.g., mayonnaise, tomato paste, pesto), shelf for spicy (hot sauces, chile paste, wasabi, horseradish), and shelf for sweet (jam, honey, maple syrup). It works, sort of.

                1. re: spigot

                  spigot, i don't understand. you do NOT have to refrig : mustard, jam, honey, maple syrup, hot sauce. they all have either vinegar or sugar that preserves them fine at rooom temp. i have had all these at room temp for the 40 yrs i have been cooking, and NEVER had a problem. you could be freeing up so much of your refrig space this way.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    I have always left the honey and the hot sauce out, and it may be useful knowledge that mustard can be left out as well - I'll have to try that. But I have had LOTS of jams spoil if not kept in the fridge, and had problems with maple syrup as well.

              2. We buy and make our own condiments and yes! they are the bomb!
                Two tricks we use: a)we break down condiments into portions and freeze for future use and b) we keep a rubbermaid box with lid inside the refrig JUST for condiments.

                Hope this helps :)