How to organize food in your refrigerator

How to store prepared food in the fridge

The first and most important rule when it comes to refrigerator storage is: keep it at the optimal temperature. Set your refrigerator’s temperature to the manufacturer's recommended temperature setting/preset to inhibit bacteria and mold, and remember that generally the lower shelves are colder than the ones at the top.

This makes your fridge’s top shelves ideal for storing prepared foods, leftovers or ready-to-eat items. Here they’ll stay fresh, remain easily visible and won’t take room away from meat, produce and other raw ingredients.

An open refrigerator displays numerous frozen and fresh foods.

Refrigerator storage tips for dairy, meat and produce

Not sure how to keep uncooked food fresh in your fridge? In restaurant kitchens, raw meats, dairy and other perishables are generally stored on lower shelves to keep them as cold as possible. You should do the same in your kitchen. Avoid cutting up meats in advance – it speeds spoilage – and consider placing meats in glass or plastic containers to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods.

Dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese should also be stored on lower shelves, with milk placed toward the back. Butter and soft cheeses are an exception – they can go into the dairy section on your refrigerator’s door, or placed in a container and stored in the deli drawer.

When it comes to fresh produce, it’s important to store fruits and vegetables in the proper refrigerator storage compartments. Fruits and vegetables are best kept in a high humidity environment, so they should be stored in your fridge’s vegetable, crisper or high humidity drawer.

How to keep other food items fresh

Once you find a place for fresh and prepared foods, what about refrigerator storage for your other items? First, start with your eggs. Eggs need consistent temperatures to stay fresh, so the middle shelf is the best place for them. Next, put any deli meats and cheeses into the deli drawer so they stay chilled. (If your refrigerator doesn’t have a deli drawer, these items can be stored on the lowest shelf of your fridge.)

Condiments, nut oils and pasteurized juices can all be stored in the door – while this is the warmest part of your fridge, these items will still be well preserved. If your juice is fresh squeezed, make room for it on the lowest fridge shelf – the cold temperatures will slow fermentation.

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