Refrigerator


I've struggled lately with the lack of organization in our family's refrigerator, so I decided to do something about it. With so many leftovers piling up all over the fridge, it can be daunting to consider what yumminess might need to be rescued and what yuckiness might be lurking beyond its normal retirement age. How do I pull out all this stuff, and then put it back more nicely and functionally than before.

Separation by height

The first challenge in organizing (or even in designing) a fridge is the height. So many food items with various heights to consider. Each item is one more variable in the equation of my fridge and those variables vary over time. So most fridges are formed with adjustable shelving. In theory, the adjustments can improve fit of food and function of fridge according to my spatiotemporal needs.

Separation by food group

The second challenge in organizing a fridge is being able to

  • Find food easily
  • Find a good place for food easily
  • Help others to find, place or replace food with minimal coordinated effort
  • Reduce cross-contamination if food leaks or spills

Separation by bulk size

The third challenge in organizing a fridge is being able to

  • Reduce leftovers
  • Reduce drops and spills from removing and stowing food
  • Reduce food spoilage and food kept passed its sell-by, best-by or expiration date

Measuring height against food group

Subjectively, I collected the food groups at the moment, and measured the group height, or the maximum height within that group. Although a couple categories offered an advantageous height consideration (meats and produce being short in general, drinks being tall in general), other categories appeared in my fridge with a higher degree of variation.

Food group Maximum height
Dairy 10.00"
Meats 5.00"
Produce 6.00"
Drinks 12.00"
Leftovers 8.00"
Sweets/breakfast 8.50"
Condiments and sauces
Asian 9.75"
Tomato 9.75"
Barbecue 7.75"
Dressings 8.50"
Relish & mustards 10.00"

My first planned refrigerator layout

To truly organize my fridge shelves by food group seemed impossible due to height variance. But a few categories were of consistent height which offered a start. I combined that knowledge with an observation of my fridge design. The difference in custom shelving between my main fridge and fridge door space indicated to me, that taller items would fit better in the door of the fridge. So, I put drinks, tall sauces and dressings, and pickles in the door.

What follows is an approximate illustration of the layout I first settled upon.

Basic rule Main fridge
(short/medium items)
Door
(tallest items)
Breakfast
Meats
Spices
Sauces
Sweets

Spices
Eggs
Mustard
Pickles
Milk
Sweets
Breakfast
Hot sauces
Meats
Leftovers
Sauces (tall)
Meat drawer


Veggies
Grains
Dairy
Fruits
Yogurt
Cheese
Cream
Leftovers
Drinks
Produce drawer
Grains drawer Dressings

As a fine tune to my layout, I specified where items within a shelf belong: essentially according to its shelf life and bulk size.

Leftovers
Front of a shelf
Big items
Lidded containers
Packages
Center of a shelf
Small items
Bottles, jars, and glass containers
Perimeter of a shelf (back or sides)

My latest refrigerator layout

As with the best laid plans, they change. Some of my organizing was a bit ideal or peculiar to the contents of the moment. The layout which has evolved over time is much closer to the steady state of our nearly organized fridge. To sum up, I put ice cream and leftovers in the front, and I try to keep major food groups grouped.

Now that's a beautiful fridge
Freezer door Main freezer Main fridge Fridge door
Frozen soup
Chicken nuggets
Ice pops
Popsicles
Ice cream
Sauces(medium)
Yogurt
Condiments(tall)
Ice pops Ice maker Jams(short)
Dinner leftovers
Breakfast
Milk
OJ
Ice dispenser Frozen leftovers Eggs and meat drawer
Meats
Cheese
Ice cream
Bulk items
Bulk leftovers
Drinks
Dressings
Ice packs Veggies
Grains
Ice cream
Produce drawer
Baking soda
Ravioli Frozen fruit drawer Dairy drawer Drinks
Dressings