6 Tips For Cleaning & Organizing Your Refrigerator

Today, contributing writer Debbie (also of Two Adopt Two) shares 6 tips to help you get a handle on your refrigerator:

When I was single, I found it easy to know what food was in my refrigerator and how long it had been there. Now, however, it’s much harder, because I’m the chief cook and shopper for a family with ADHD. In honor of Clean Your Refrigerator Day (tomorrow, for real!) I’m sharing my most hard-won lessons about keeping a fridge so organized that even my kids can find what they need to prepare a meal.

1. Date your leftovers. When you're packaging up at-home leftovers, write the date on containers in dry-erase marker (you can even buy containers with erasable tags); in restaurants, jot the date on the doggie bag. Bonus in my family: Associating dates with favorite foods has helped my kids understand calendars.

2. Write the “opened” date on perishables, especially those you don’t use often. The printed expiration date won't help you keep track of items whose clock starts ticking once you break the safety seal. For us, that’s sour cream, egg whites, and lunch meats -- stuff that gets dangerous or stinky if it spoils. Knowing the “opened” date can save you from food poisoning if you follow the “use X days after opening” advice on the food’s label.

3. Keep a list of leftovers on your fridge. We use a magnetic dry-erase board. Seeing dates helps anyone in your household know what needs using up without having to ask. In our family, it helps me decide what to compost and helps my iron-stomached husband decide what to bring for lunch.

4. Be vigilant about rotation. Particularly when you return home from a grocery store run, be vigilant about placing the newest items in the back and pulling up older foods.

5. Keep food types in consistent places. For example, we have a bread shelf, and our two produce drawers are for “top of the plant” and “bottom of the plant.” Bonus: If everyone knows where an item is supposed to be, they can put it back if they find it in the wrong place.

6. Clean the fridge continually, in parts. When a shelf, drawer, or door compartment empties out (or nearly empties out!), clean it right away. (A good time to do this is when the refrigerator is getting sparse before a grocery run.) Then, when you clear out food before a vacation, clean whatever areas you haven’t touched. These two rules should make it unnecessary for you ever to do a massive cleaning.

I hope these tips help you keep your fridge organized all year. Most of all, I hope you will never have to open the fridge door, wrinkle your nose, and say, “What’s that smell?”

Do you have other great refrigerator cleaning and organization tips? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image credits: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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