Habits of Healthy Eaters: Organize the Fridge and Freezer

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/8/2010 10:01 AM   :  91 comments   :  22,112 Views

You've started cooking at home, and you stick to the perimeter of the store when grocery shopping. You even measure portions. So why are so many of us wasting healthy food and reaching for takeout menus?

Open your fridge and freezer, and the answer might be simpler than you think. If you're spending good money on healthy food, but your fridge and freezer are messy and disorganized, it's going to make healthy cooking more of a chore.

In the videos below, I share my tips for keeping my fridge and freezer organized. Every night, at least one of my boys has a sporting event, academic club meeting, or some other activity. Family meal time is non-negotiable, but every minute is valuable. Instead of spending time rooting around in the freezer for the frozen broccoli, I can use that time to whip up a healthy stir fry and spend more time with my family.







What is your best tip for staying organized in the kitchen? Do you organize your fridge and freezer?


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Comments

  • 91
    Thanks for the video. I didnt know about the cheese either. I have a small refridgerator that is from the 70's. I live in a apt too. It seems easier and higher to have the fruits and veggies front and center. I have them in the bottom drawers and waste them a lot. Looks like a new fridge is in order.
    :) - 3/18/2012   8:59:23 AM
  • 90
    Oh I wish I had storage like that in my tiny side by side. Great suggestions, especially the cheese. If I ever get a big enough freezer space I'll definitely use some of those other tips. - 3/13/2012   4:22:15 AM
  • 89
    I have always kept my cupboards and fridge and freezer in order as I am a baker and rarely ever buy out. My kids cook too. I figure that if everything is easy to get to you can start a receipe faster and be done with having to "find" ingredients. lol - 9/28/2011   10:08:55 PM
  • 88
    I have an upright freezer now, so it's not an issue, but when I had a large chest-freezer, I bought several plastic 'milk crates' in a couple different sizes. They were stackable, and easily washed off outdoors with a hose (which I would do whenver I did a defrost). It was a great way to keep the freezer organized, plus because I would have trouble reaching down into the bottom, I could lift out the lower crates to get to everything when I wanted it. - 3/8/2011   7:10:27 AM
  • 87
    hmm My freezer IS a mess, my fridge a little less since I am single and don't keep so much around (but need to freeze a lot of it). I never thought this could impact my 'cooking' or 'eating habits'.... Food for thought indeed. Thanks for the heads up on that one. =) - 10/13/2010   12:13:46 PM
  • 86
    Loved this blog! Just great tips. I am going to re- organize now. Thanks - 6/23/2010   1:41:09 PM
  • 85
    How do I stay organized ? I try not to buy more than I can eat in a week. Oh, I do stock up on certain non perishable items like canned tomatoes, cereal, tuna, etc... however, I only buy whatever veggies I can eat in under a week. Most green veggies won't stay fresh longer than a week. That's one way to save on space. Also, anything older than a couple of weeks gets tossed out. I try to clean my frig regularly. - 6/14/2010   8:56:30 AM
  • 84
    Freezing milk is not new to me as this is how I used to stack up on them until we had a hurricane some years ago and had to be careful not to open the freezer unnecessarily...as it can keep items frozen for 4-5 days.....so this is how I discovered milk in the tetra pack which does not need refrigeration until it is opened....so now I can buy a case of milk and save this space in the freezer for something else.
    I have a reasonably size fridge and live alone but many times I can't find space in my freezer and fridge because when I find a nice cut of meat I buy at a good price and do quite a lot of bulk buying. The tips here will certainly help me to better organize my freezer.

    My pantry cupboards are even worse....many times I can't find what I am looking for and so just go to the supermarket to buy what I am looking for rather than to pull out everything to find whatI am looking for....do you have tips for this as well? - 6/13/2010   3:44:53 PM
  • 83
    My fridge is a routine disaster even tho it's full of healthy stuff, and is smaller and plainer (less expensive model?) rental model, apt fridge. I've gotten into the FlyLady habit of routinely cleaning a shelf a day. Or at least every other day. But something is still wrong, and I need help.

    I'm going to try applying some of the principles shown in the two vids, like organizing condiments and contents by uses or grouping by type, etc., even tho I basically already do that, so not sure how much that will help me, and even tho I don't have the divided sections and pull out basket-drawers and divided drawers. I have the old-fashioned crisper drawers in bottom (one fruit, one veggie), dairy/lunch meat smaller drawer higher up for the processed meats I DON'T buy & other dairy, 3 condiment railings on the side door, and freezer on top.

    The freezer on top of the fridge is the easiest for me to organize; it does have a built-in shelf for stacking frozen veggie bags, so that's not an issue. Plus I use Tupperware Freezer Mates (TFMs stack and are rectangular for maximizing use of space, and are designed to circulate air around for quick freezing and keeping frozen storage well-frozen). TFMs are like making your own shelves, and they are modular. I use TFMs for all batchcooking and leftovers like: homemade sauces, broths, bulk cooked poultry, browned and raw ground beef, crockpot soup, dried beans cooked from scratch, brown rice cooked in bulk, leftovers like Chef Meg's adobo peppers, herbs, etc. It is a good way to reuse & recycle instead of throwing away the paper, foil, and plastic bags, too.

    Safeway has some organic strawberries on sale for $1.99 a lb this week, so I'm going to buy extra and flash freeze some strawberries on the long shallow TFMs (definitely NO room to do it on a cookie sheet!!, TFM just perfect), then after they are frozen, store in one of the deeper and larger TFMs, with veggie bags stacked on top of it's flat surface (like having an extra shelf). TFMS are great for batchcooking year around, summer produce, and opened things like adobo peppers and diced tomatoes, fresh cloves of garlic whirled in mini food chopper with olive oil and then frozen, fresh herbs frozen in ice, etc.

    I watched it a second time, especially the fridge portion of vid, and am thinking of ways to make it work with the drawers I have. I can't do the eye-sight-level thing though I do do that on a lower shelf with all leftovers together, so I don't grow experiments. - 6/12/2010   8:53:15 AM
  • 82
    We have a very small fridge/freezer which makes organizing (esp the freezer) difficult.
    But, after reading this helpful article, and looking around on the web, I found a kitchen organization forum and was then taken to this link:

    http://www.containerstore.com/shop/
    kitchen/cabinetOrganizers/upperCabi
    nets?productId=10000699


    I am definitely going to purchase one for our freezer, which would then give it two levels - rather than having frozen bags of veggies & fruits falling on top of one another.....
    I might get something similar for our cabinets, too - especially for organizing our spices, etc...

    Thank you Chef Meg for posting your article & videos! Organizing our freezer and a couple of cabinets will save me LOTS of time in getting the necessary ingredients to prepare a great meal !

    I LOVED your tip on freezing leftover sauces, etc.... That's going to be EXTREMELY HELPFUL : ) ! Thank you for sharing!

    Peace & Love,
    Denise






    - 6/11/2010   2:27:00 PM
  • 81
    Loved this blog! Our fridge appears to be a disaster; however it is organized with fresh veggies in the bottom drawers, and lower shelf. Middle shelf has condiments in the back on the right hand side, left overs in containers labeled on that same shelf(middle to left side), and the top shelf (left side) always has thawed meat still packaged ready for grilling or other prep. The right side of the top shelf contains milk, rice dream, foods safe for my daughter who has severe food allergies. There is a mission to what appears to be madness. Pretty darn good for an individual who has ADHD~my attention span isnt long enough to organize it as pretty as the scene in the blog, and with three different diets to cook for in our house~there are endless labeled containers. Works for us~ :o). That is what matters the most. - 6/11/2010   1:05:40 PM
  • 80
    thank you for the advice but sometimes i do ( those are rare times)
    and sometimes i don't. they are not messy but i can find things faster
    that way. - 6/10/2010   3:09:28 PM
  • 79
    Thanks for the great tips-learn something new everyday! - 6/10/2010   2:26:14 PM
  • BONFIREBABE
    78
    did not know you can freeze milk, going to give that a try for sure, do you use just for cooking, or is it still drinkable-of course once thawed. - 6/10/2010   9:53:43 AM
  • 77
    My husband would be devastated to know that someone else out there would fuss at him, too. I am consumed by organization. Although I suffer from OCD, and it requires more work, I love how much easier it makes my life. I'm a happier person when things can be found in the dark...or much quicker by the light of the fridge! - 6/10/2010   4:40:17 AM
  • 76
    I totally obsess over organization too, but not just the fridge... the cupboards, the pantry... I totally go off if someone just throws clean tupperware in the cabinet without organizing it properly. Good to see someone else who acknowledges organization as useful and not just anal. - 6/9/2010   10:49:48 PM
  • 75
    Wow, those tips are good ones, thank you. - 6/9/2010   10:07:03 PM
  • 74
    I see a weekend project ahead! Love the idea of pouring leftover sauce into a ziploc bag, freezing, then slicing off just what you need for a meal. I got tired of dumping spoiled milk down the drain, so I started buying lots of smaller (quart or half gallon) cardboard containers of milk and storing all but one in the freezer. (In about 3 years, only 1 has ever cracked on me and a tiny bit escaped. I set the cartons inside plastic bags as an extra precaution.) I never run out of milk or throw any away anymore. - 6/9/2010   10:05:34 PM
  • SG4INFO
    73
    I have to say WOW! How does she keep it organized to that extreme without kids/hubbie/etc. messing up her prefection in the fridge? I have found wierd things in my fridge (keys, tv remote, etc) that my husband (now ex) has forgetfully put there by accident. Also, she has a huge fridge. I am organized but I think she takes it to the next step. I give her credit, if she can keep it up! - 6/9/2010   7:58:24 PM
  • CASEYJO200
    72
    I am always organizing the fridge and freezer. I love throwing out food that has sat in there too long for my liking. My husband and I eat differently so I find myself throwing out his rotten food. yUK! I love an organized life. - 6/9/2010   7:00:53 PM
  • 71
    If I had food to organize, then I would be organized. I don't have much in the way of food. Just one more month of tight debt and I can see the light. Overall though I'm organized and always have been. I have my cupboards and utility shelf organized when I buy lots of dry goods. I organize the freezer and fridge mainly because I live in apts, so there isn't much room to mess around. Plus I rarely have that much, so it's really simple. - 6/9/2010   6:40:42 PM
  • 70
    I learned something! Even at the ripe "old" age of 62, I've been keeping milk in the door of the refrigerator. I'm stopping that tonight! :) - 6/9/2010   6:07:34 PM
  • 69
    Great advise. Especially re: cheese & asparagus!!! - 6/9/2010   5:53:44 PM
  • 68
    Loved the suggestion about wrapping cheese in parchment paper. Didn't know that mold was an issue, but I guess most of the cheese goes fast in our house (we have four teenagers). I have heard about keeping nuts in the fridge, but didn't know about the freezer. Good suggestion, and I'll try and make room in my freezer for them. I have two refrigerators and one chest freezer. I keep one fridge stocked and the freezer pretty full, but the other fridge only holds extra bottles of milk and occasionally some extra juice cartons or bottles of water. I use the second fridge mainly for storing food when I'm throwing a party. Have to say that I'm envious of Meg's freezer-on-the-bottom. My folks have one like that, but we went with a side-by-side when we replaced our old fridge last year. I am regretting it. Not enough room! I will probably never buy a side-by-side again... - 6/9/2010   4:46:53 PM
  • 67
    Awesome little videos. I'm happy my refrigerator is almost as perfect as hers. Freezer needs major work, however! Great to know about the cheese and milk. - 6/9/2010   2:48:26 PM
  • GAARAMA
    66
    Thanks for the tips on cheese and flour.
    - 6/9/2010   2:36:47 PM
  • 65
    A suggestion for those who (like me) have freezer much smaller than Chef Meg's... My freezer (apartment - who knows how many prior tenants) had no shelves when I moved in. It has a small area for ice cube trays, but the rest of it is one open compartment. I bought a shelf with legs cheap at Ross, the same sort you'd use in your cupboards to create more shelves, and put in in the freezer. It only takes up about half of the width, so I have room beside it for larger boxes. This makes it much easier for me to get everything in the freezer and keep it pretty organized. It still doesn't look like Chef Meg's, but its a huge improvement! - 6/9/2010   2:00:48 PM
  • 64
    This was a great video/blog, Meg! I "try" to stay organized and you gave me a couple of good ideas--thanks! - 6/9/2010   1:45:25 PM
  • 19PITSY53
    63
    I need to get my frig and freezer organized. With my DH putting things into them I don't know what's still in there or if it needs to be discarded. - 6/9/2010   12:42:54 PM
  • 62
    Great tip on keeping cheese from molding too fast! Now I know why my cheese never seems to last. - 6/9/2010   12:05:40 PM
  • 61
    I HAVE NEVER EVER THOUGHT TO ORGANIZE THIS . LOL THANKS FOR THIS TIP. I ESPECIALLY LIKE THE CONDIMENTS FOR FLAVOR ARE RIGHT THERE. ALSO THE TIP ON CHEESE WAS GREAT DID NOT KNOW THAT THANKS PASTOR - 6/9/2010   11:27:21 AM
  • 60
    Great tips! I do organize both, but it usually doesn't last. I will have to try to keep it that way and not let the hectic schedule cause it to look like a toronado hit! :-) - 6/9/2010   10:51:51 AM
  • 59
    I really need to clean out both my fridge freezer as well as my deep freeze, not even sure what is in there! Maybe I will do that as soon as my house is cleaned up, which will be in the next few days. Great tips!

    Another thing I just found recently are the ziploc bags that allow air to circulate for veggies. My lettuce has stayed fresher longer than in the past. I need to get more of them! - 6/9/2010   9:56:47 AM
  • 58
    I need to clean my frig! There is no way I can mega organize like some of you. I do have certain drawers and shelves for certain items. Other than that we don't keep a large stock of anything. Last night my freezer was bare and my frig close to it so we went shopping. Normally I like to clean the frig before putting in the new food but have been too busy lately. - 6/9/2010   9:54:35 AM
  • CHOCMOM
    57
    Great tips - I do need to implement these ideas. Thanks - 6/9/2010   9:42:57 AM
  • 56
    My usual method of grocery shopping is to plan my meals in advance-that includes what I'll do with leftovers. If I don't have specific plans of what to do with particular items, I actually plan a "leftovers" night where we just lay out everything at once and finish it up. This keeps our fridge really organized b/c things don't sit around go bad. When I don't do this, it turns into a jumbled, disorganized science lab. - 6/9/2010   9:27:20 AM
  • 55
    I have a very organized fridge and freezer. I have two fridges and a deep freezer. Each type of food is stored together and I rotate new food to bottom of freezer older items on top. This helps me keep track of what I have on hand and what is needed. - 6/9/2010   9:20:17 AM
  • 54
    I do like to organize my fridges and freezers. i have a large freezer for things that i buy in season to freeze and eat all year around - berries, corn on cob, etc. the large on sale pkgs of chicken breast, steak etc i leave the original date label on, then rotate my inventory so it gets used properly. i must admit when my husband gets into it he makes a mess - just grabs from bottom or top and does look at dates, etc. one fridge has lots of water, breakfast drinks, juices, etc. and fresh fruits. i only put condiments on the fridge door as i don't think it is cold enough all the time to keep all foods properly cooled. the other fridge has vegetables, left overs, breads etc. and a third fridge/freezer in the basement has beer, wine, and other things we don't use always but have ready on hand. BB - 6/9/2010   9:03:18 AM
  • 53
    My fridge and freezer look NOT like that! LOL. I guess it's time to get organized so I can actually find what I am looking for.... - 6/9/2010   7:39:59 AM
  • 52
    I find that if I am organized with my grocery shopping, planning meals etc the fridge pretty much stays organized. I do eat left overs and if I see that the fridge is become to packed with them it is time Fend for yourself night! - 6/9/2010   7:25:28 AM
  • 51
    I label and date everything in the freezer. A few extra seconds to label saves me a lot of time later when I go to pull out tomorrow's dinner. - 6/9/2010   7:15:06 AM
  • 50
    Cheese especially grated cheese keeps well in the freezer. I grate mine and put in a ziplock and when i need it I just rap it on the counter hard and it loosens up enough to measure out. I find it gets moldy fater in the refrigerator . Since i use this primarily for cooking and salads etc. This is a money saver. I use parchment paper a lot but boy is it expensive. So is good cheese so that is a useful piece of info. Thanks Pat in Maine. - 6/9/2010   6:51:31 AM
  • 49
    Yes i do this regularly - 6/9/2010   6:35:13 AM
  • 48
    Hurray! Someone else who stir-frys! We also keep condiments in the door, and fruits and veggies front and center - we love them. - 6/9/2010   5:46:38 AM
  • JULIES_JOURNEY
    47
    Great tips. I try to keep things organized the best I can, but i find myself digging for what I need especially in the freezer. The only designated place I have in my fridge is on top of my meat drawer. It is the perfect height for individual yogurts. - 6/9/2010   2:24:07 AM
  • 46
    The height of the shelves dictate somewhat about where certain things get placed in my refrigerator, so my milk and juices are generally on the top shelf as it is the tallest, then my "deli drawer" contains lunch meat and cheeses, on the next shelf I keep sour cream, cottage cheese, individual yogurts, and the bigger non-fat variety I use in smoothies. I have two drawers at the bottom, top one is for veggies, bottom one is for fruit. Very easy to find everything. Salad dressings, etc are kept in the door. I do the freezer the same way with chicken/shrimp on one shelf, veggies on another, quick TV dinners, or dinners I have pkg'd on another. - 6/9/2010   12:28:00 AM
  • DREAMT1
    45
    Some great tips. I'm good about labeling foods before freezing them, and while I don't double up on recipes, I have learned to set aside one serving and freeze it. Turns out my frozen dinners taste better, are cheaper, and take less time to re-heat than Lean Cuisine (which I used to live on before giving up processed food). The thing I am not good about is cooking things before they go bad--I have to be more diligent about getting them into the freezer if I am not going to cook. Seeing the videos, and reading through some of the comments, I really get the point about better organization meaning money (and time) saved. - 6/8/2010   11:34:23 PM
  • 44
    We'll it's pretty interesting to think about this and I guess I do a certain amount of this but probably not to the extent as described. The hardest thing for me is to find prep and package time, and I'd imagine that for many working moms and dads or very busy singles, that this is also an issue. For me, I have to find a balance between pre-packaged, which hurts my heart a little because I'd like to be more green, and shopping local, and packing my own food. I'll work harder at this though. I think I do waste more food than I should because there are really times when I can't get to the prep. Good thoughts. THX. - 6/8/2010   11:28:29 PM
  • 43
    I agree with CMAJERAK, having a plan is important to keeping up with a healthy eating plan. Actually, I got a white board to post in my kitchen. Each weekend, I plan my meals for the week, then make my grocery list based on that. Then I just have to refer to my white board to make sure I stay on track with my meals. Since it's just me, I don't have a very full fridge, freezer or pantry so finding the ingredients is never hard :) - 6/8/2010   11:23:24 PM
  • 42
    The most important thing for me has been to PLAN a menu, make a list, stick to it, and then there (usually) aren't science projects of unused produce, half-emptied containers, etc. left in the fridge to deal with. It's much easier to find things, when you bought them recently and have a plan for using them! - 6/8/2010   11:02:31 PM

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