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How to Organize Your Fridge Like a Grown-Up

Build these simple food storage habits so you lose less food to the trash.

It took many shameful trips to the garbage can–tossing out moldy food and curiously sniffing heavy cream–to finally build some grown-up fridge habits. For me, a grown-up fridge is the answer to some of life’s big questions like “What’s the easiest way to stop food waste?” and “Will I ever be able to stop sniffing cream?” It’s simple: All you need to build grown-up fridge habits is a little bit of nerdy fridge organization and an understanding of your strengths (and weaknesses).

This is part of The Grown Up Kitchen, Skillet’s series designed to answer your most basic culinary questions and fill in any gaps that may be missing in your home chef education.

Embrace Wishome

First-in-first-out is an organizational tool that helps ensure the first thing you bought, or made, gets eaten first. “FIFO” is the standard in food industry fridge organizing because it works, and it’ll help your bottom line. This is ideal for items that expire quickly, things bought in duplicates, or bulk sale items. I usually buy a new almond milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese when my last one is dwindling, but not done. Instead of placing the new yogurt in front, I take the original half-eaten container out of the fridge, pop the new one in, and scoot it back. The older yogurt goes in next, so now it’s in front.

Put the small amount of work in now, so you won’t be wasting yogurt later. Sounds almost unnecessary, but maybe you know a person who just grabs the closest thing to the door even though there’s an open one behind it. This system is built for that person. Who is not you, of course.

Label your food

Condiments in the fridge door get lost in plain sight. Even if you don’t keep your jars of mustard and olives in the narrow door slot, it’s hard to FIFO them with accuracy because they’re so easy to push around and shove to the back. Before you know it, you have four opened jars of roasted red peppers, and one is definitely from your New Year’s Eve party.

Label your stored food. For jar lids, use a permanent marker and write the date you opened it right there on the lid. Use your biggest font. For reusable containers, use a piece of masking tape (fold over one end for easy removal) and write the date you made the meal, or the date you transferred the food to that container. Once you eat the food, peel off the tape, and your container is ready for the next job. No longer will you wonder if the raw ground turkey is old, and seeing the date written out will remind you that the clock is ticking.

Eat first bin (or shelf)

Even with the best organizational habits, leftovers and obscured foil-wrapped snacks get pushed to the back of the fridge, destined for a trip to the trash in a week. Battle this fate and designate an Eat First shelf, bin, or area in your fridge. This bin is great for any items that have a short life span, like some delicate veggies, items that have been FIFO-ed but are on their last legs, or small wrapped snacks that get forgotten about or shifted behind things, like the half-eaten deli sandwich you bought yesterday. The Eat First bin will prioritize where you check for food.

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