This Pro Organizer’s Brilliant Tip Helps Me Fit 3 Times More Food in My Fridge

published Apr 28, 2024
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Refrigerator storage solutions
Credit: Meg Asby

I open my workhorse of a refrigerator at least a dozen times a day (a good reason not to store dairy in the door, by the way), so I’m always looking for ways to make it better. In my latest round of organizational self-care, I called my all-time favorite pro organizer, Stephanie Treantos, founder of Lemonaid Solutions (@lemonaidsolutions), to get some tips and tricks on how to make my overstuffed refrigerator more efficient to use and easier on the eyes. I sent her a few photos of my fridge and I was blown away by what she suggested — and how satisfying the results were. Here are her best tips.

1. Leave one shelf empty for leftovers. 

Everything fits in my refrigerator … until I need to squeeze in half a leftover pizza. Treantos recommends leaving “a small shelf open for [the leftovers] that will come and go throughout the week.” This simple rule makes kitchen closing duties far less maddening, and it’s my favorite change I made to my fridge. 

2. Look for alternative storage options.

The fridge is high-value real estate with a clear limit. Prioritize items that must be refrigerated, and relocate less sensitive items to a “cool, dark pantry” or “secondary fridge.” I moved nuts and specialty flours to the pantry and my sourdough starter to a mini fridge in the garage, making space for my glorious new leftovers shelf. 

3. Shop for the space you have.

I am clearly not going to go through the eight pints of cream in my fridge in seven days. I can dial back the scarcity mindset shopping and use that space for “priority items needed to get through the week.”

“Of course, we all wish we had a Sub-Zero and could shop on a whim for anything and everything we might need,” says Treantos. “But because that’s not the case for many of us, we have to be smart in the way we shop.” 

4. Edit things you don’t like. 

When Treantos told me I could remove condiments I “tried but didn’t like,” it was a revelation. I realized, if left unchecked, I was going to keep that yuzu hot sauce until it expired, and then throw it out. Instead, I offered it to a neighbor, reducing waste on two fronts — the food itself and the space it was taking up in my refrigerator. 

Credit: Meg Asby

5. Make everything easy to access. 

I told Treantos that it was hard for me to reach items in the back of the fridge, and she suggested buying the rectangular lazy Susan that has basically broken the Internet. The LAMU Turntable Organizer has all the benefits of a traditional lazy Susan, without sacrificing space on the corners. It’s incredible, and I can’t stop spinning it! The LAMU is a purchase you won’t regret, but be sure to measure your space first to make sure it fits.

6. Sometimes skipping containment is the right choice. 

“Use containment when it makes sense,” says Treantos, but skip it when it makes life harder. For maximum flexibility, leave the leftover shelf completely clear to make space for various “sizes of dishes, platters, and tupperware.” When in doubt, “keep it simple,” says Treantos. 

If you are in the market for produce containment, however, Treantos recommends this set of stackable refrigerator organizers with drainage holes for rinsing.

7. Create zones.

After I admitted that I was overbuying groceries, Treantos asked a fair question: “Do you really need that much produce to get through the week?” The honest answer, though, is yes. I ate maybe one vegetable in my childhood and I’m sure it was fried (french fries count, right?), so I’m making up for lost time. With my storage needs in mind, Treantos told me the following: “You don’t have to stick with the ‘norm’ of how a space is laid out. What’s stopping you from using the large drawer for produce so it’s stored together?” 

Alas, my refrigerator is too “smart” to let me take advantage of this great idea (my meat drawer is colder than the rest of the refrigerator), but if your refrigerator is more flexible than mine, try it! I settled for an L-shaped veggie zone, including both drawers and a section in the bottom left for pre-prepped vegetables.

I probably get a B- on zones, both for my sprawling veggie section, and for storing butter in the door instead of with the rest of the dairy, but I’m happy with it for now. As Treantos says, “We can create our own rules that ultimately work best for us.” And with that, happy organizing!

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: This Pro Organizer’s Brilliant Tip Helps Me Fit 3 Times More Food in My Fridge