An Organized Fridge = Less Waste

If ever there were a post to make you roll your eyes, this is probably it. My girlfriends will undoubtedly squeal with delight at the mere thought of mixing up and disorganizing my newly organized fridge.

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Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

But, before you get annoyed with my labels and such, allow me to disclaim their background. Yes, I’ve always been a weirdo who needs things a certain way. But nothing brings out the OCD in a person more than having another adult in the same house who doesn’t have the same idiosyncrasies…plus 2 wild beasts under the age of 18 who possess ZERO ability to maintain any sort of natural order.

Once upon a time, I lived in a house that was organized bliss. Oh, and clean. Once upon a time my house was always clean.

These days, even after scrubbing everything down for a straight week, I’m still embarrassed to let people walk into this zoo! And I’m not the only one putting stuff away so things get stuck in the most random places which creates chaos in drawers and closets.

After a few years of pulling my hair out, I jumped on the crazy label bandwagon in effort to show my “housemates” where to put things. It doesn’t always work, but if I squawk alot, someone hates the squawking just enough to remind another someone to put the damn scissors back in the correct drawer. And then the labels serve as cheat sheets. Brilliant, right?

I will get around to posting about my various closets and such but this post is about the fridge.

The dreaded fridge.

Why oh why is the fridge so hard to keep clean and orderly?!?!?!?

Problem #1: No one can ever find anything.

My husband loves mustard. A. Lot. We have every single type of mustard known to mankind at all times. And because I am Miss Frugal Fancy Pants, I stock up on that stuff when it’s BOGO, which means we have lots more in the pantry. Well…when Col. Mustard can’t find the one he wants in the fridge, he assumes we are out and opens a new one from the pantry. Or worse, buys more at FULL PRICE! GASP!!!!! Either way, the result is always more mustard bottles in our fridge. Sigh.

Problem #2: Way too much wasted food.

I can’t even begin to express the sadness in the amount of wasted food we toss out weekly. Leftovers get shoved in tupperware to never be seen again…until they’ve morphed into an entirely different alien species.

When I fill up a garbage bag of spoiled food, I get angry. Angry at my family for not eating the stuff they said they would but more angry with myself for allowing it to happen (or for not eating what said I would). For years, I’ve tried to be better at keeping up with it all, but I truly suck at it.

I hate leftovers and simultaneously lack the creativity to do anything with them. But my husband rocks at it…When he can actually find the food in the Samsung jungle…

After evaluating our family’s needs,  here is my newest approach to organizing our fridge in effort to reduce wasted food.

Bins, Labels, Fewer Groceries.

Bins

I purchased these fruit chutes because we use a lot of citrus in our cooking but tend to overbuy and waste when random pieces get buried in the drawers or in the back of the fridge. Same with fruit for the kids. I buy, it gets lost, it rots. These bad boys put it all on display so it’s never “out of sight, out of mind.” (I started with 1 fruit chute and quickly purchased 2 more once I realized their usefullness.)

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

We have a pantry drawer style fridge so I also have bins in there to separate the cheeses from the lunch meats from the yogurts and puddings, etc. Luckily, the drawer doesn’t really allow for things to get lost so we have very little waste with those items.

But my favorite so far are these Frigidaire Fridge/Freezer bins. They stack, when necessary, but they are generally too full to be able to stack.

I dedicated one of them to items on their last leg. Anything we come across that has seen better days but is still edible, gets tossed in this bin. Having it front and center makes it easier to eat the older carrots instead of the brand new celery. You get the picture.

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

The other is for whatever we are making for dinner. I actually got this idea when I had to store my 2nd day of Blue Apron meal ingredients and knew if I didn’t hide them, someone would eat something and make the recipe incomplete the following day. If it’s in that bin, DO NOT TOUCH IT!!!!

Can you tell I’ve had ingredients “snacked on” only to discover I will be serving mac and cheese sans cheese?`

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

This bin also helps when I purchase fresh meat and then get hit with unexpected events and can’t cook said meat. Again, it’s front and center so I can see it and remember to toss it in the freezer so it doesn’t make it into the garbage bag of rotten food a few days later!

Labels

The mustard story above? True story. Daily. I simply couldn’t handle the multiple open containers of mayo, mustard, ketchup, etc. It was making me crazy and while I generally blame my husband, I could hardly ever find the darn bottles myself! Each month when I’d do a super clean out/tidy up of the fridge, I would organize everything in specific areas of the fridge, but no one ever noticed or remembered… and the mayo #1 would still wind up behind the milk while mayo #2 was in the door and mayo #3 was stuffed in a drawer with the veggies. First world problems for sure but no need to clutter and waste, right?

Enter my labels. If the family didn’t notice my organized bottles, or remember which shelf was for what, I could provide cheat sheets! Thank you, husband, for my Cricut Explore. Turns out, the vinyl samples that came with my Cricut, adhere to the interior of my fridge and are removable should I change my mind in the future.

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

Our fridge is in a stupid place too close to the wall so the left door can’t open all the way. I placed the labels based on our standard viewpoint.

Sauces (because I know you care) are for ketchup, hot sauces, and random sauces generally used on cooked food.

Dressings. Self-explanatory.

No joke. A shelf for mustard…and a SINGLE jar of mayo. Halleluiah.

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

Sweet Stuff is for jellies and jams and random ice cream topping stuff.

Cooking sauces is for stuff we usually only use to cook with (vs. the cooked food sauces on the other side of the fridge.)

The bottom shelf without a label is for random stuff because sadly, not everything fits within my label parameters. Sigh.

I would love to say it’s easier to put everything all randomly on any shelf (like normal people) but that doesn’t roll in this house. “Free for all” means the opened ketchup is likely to wind up back in the pantry…or the bathroom. I have a very busy husband, a disorganized 10-year-old and, well…a 3-year-old.

I also dedicated the top shelf to leftovers. Helpful so that anyone cleaning up knows where to stick the tupperware but also helpful when hungry eyes are looking for something to munch on…

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

I added these dry erase labels to our tupperware to avoid that dreaded, “Is this the chicken from Friday or last month?” I’m not sure how they will hold up but it was worth a shot.

Purchase Fewer Groceries

As a Frugal Mama who loves her coupons and BOGOS, I generally come home with tons of groceries. This is fine for the pantry stuff but I tend to get overzealous in my menu planning (which generally includes a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and herbs) and buy more than I can actually cook in a single week. Factor in unexpected meals out and leftovers and my best intentions result in lots of spoiled produce.

My new philosophy is to simply buy less per trip. Being uber prepared has only resulted in wasted food. I’ve decided it is much more cost effective to buy enough for one or two good meals and suck it up to go back to the store when we need more…if we need more.

And we STILL have leftovers we can’t get around to eating, fyi.

The rest is still subjective and it’s all a work in progress. We’ve lived with this set up for about 2 months and so far, so good. It’s still not perfect but we are wasting less food and we’ve only had ONE ITEM OPEN at a time!!!

Fridge Organization to Reduce Waste | missfrugalfancypants.com

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2 Comments

    • Thanks, Maria! My husband thought I lost my mind when I labeled the fridge but guess who doesn’t lose her mind daily over misplaced mustard anymore?!? 🙂

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