Picture this. You go to the grocery store and stock up on all the basics: pasta, eggs, fruits, and veggies. You come home, proudly unpack all your purchases into the fridge … and then decide you deserve a reward for all your hard work, so you order take-out. This has been me more times than I like to admit.
It’s true that cooking can seem like a chore at the end of a long day and stressful commute (especially when I was working a typical 9-to-6 job). And then there’s the issue of completely forgetting about the food you just bought. I’d let big bunches of kale sit in the crisper drawer for a week until I remembered they were there. Cheese hidden at the back of a shelf would get moldy before I had a chance to eat it. And every time I’d do a big fridge clean-out, I’d inevitably (and rightfully) feel guilty for wasting food.
These days, I’m freelancing and have a more flexible schedule — and I almost never waste food. But the thing that helps me isn’t being home more, it’s that I changed how I use my fridge.
Here’s How I Organize My Fridge to Help Me Find (and Eat!) All My Food
I typically go grocery shopping once a week or every two weeks. When I get home with the groceries, instead of putting all the condiments and dressings on the shelves on the door, I put my most perishable food there:
- On the first shelf, closest to the top of the door, I put things that will be going bad the soonest, like cheese and leafy vegetables.
- On the door’s middle shelf, I put things that might last a little bit longer but still shouldn’t be forgotten about, like chicken sausage or eggs.
- On the third shelf, I put condiments that I use most frequently.
The rest of the condiments? They go in the back of the bottom shelf, or in the crisper drawer (I know, it seems weird).
Now when I open my fridge, I know immediately what has to be used soon and what can wait a bit. It forces me to use the food before it goes bad, and keeps everything fresh in my mind and, well, fresh in general.
This tiny change has resulted in me cooking more, wasting less, and feeling generally happier about the overall state of my kitchen. As an added bonus, I no longer have to deal with weeks-old kale I find in the bottom of a fridge drawer or smelly cheese in the deepest, darkest part of the fridge. In reality, though, the change is pretty basic: the things that I need to use are the easiest to reach, and the things that I can use whenever are in the hardest to reach places. How often are you really using that bottle of extra spicy hot sauce taking up room in your fridge door, anyway? Exactly.
Another benefit of this little fridge hack? It puts your eating habits into a realistic perspective. Notice that you’re leaving that bag of spinach on the top shelf of your fridge door for as long as humanly possible before eating it? Maybe you just don’t like spinach too much. And trust me, using and eating food you actually enjoy is way more satisfying than forcing yourself to eat something just because. So maybe next time you’re grocery shopping, you think of all that time you spent staring at that spinach and ignoring it, and you buy something else instead.
When your eating habits are front-and-center instead of buried under other food or in a crisper drawer, it’s easier to cook and eat in ways that make you feel your best. And that’s what food is all about in the end.
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Fridge Organization Hack Has Me Cooking More, Wasting Less, and Feeling Better About My Kitchen
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