Preparing for Thanksgiving in NYC this week? It’s likely, then, that you may need to do some refrigerator cleaning and organizing and will find the following tips based on a NYC professional organizer’s personal experience helpful. Whether you’re preparing the Thanksgiving meal or are bringing home leftovers to enjoy later, you’ll be thankful that you spent some time cleaning and organizing to maximize your refrigerator space. As this is just the start of the holiday season, you’ll enjoy the benefits from having applied these NYC professional organizer tips throughout the busy month ahead.
Keeping your refrigerator organized beyond the holidays will help you to save money and waste less because you’ll know what’s there. It also makes meal planning and food shopping easier because you can easily see what you have on-hand and what needs to be re-stocked.
Start with a Good Cleaning
Remove all items from the refrigerator shelves, drawers and doors. Use a mild spray cleaner to wipe down shelves, and drawers. (A simple homemade cleaner can prepared using one gallon of hot water, 1 cup of clear ammonia, ½ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda. Pour into a spray bottle or use from a bowl with a sponge).
To keep the fridge running efficiently, use a vacuum or broom to clean dust from the condenser coils. Depending on your refrigerator model, these will be located either under or behind the refrigerator.
Out with the Old
Place your garbage can next to the refrigerator and toss out items that are past their use-by date and those that you can no longer identify. If you live in a private house it’s a good idea to plan your refrigerator clean-out for a day near your regular garbage pick-up.
Saving leftover meals and ingredients can be a great money-saver – but only if you actually use them. Otherwise, you end up with a fridge full of science experiments.
The USDA provides these general safety guidelines for leftovers:
- Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90°F).
- Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
- Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.
- Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
For a complete list of safe food storage guidelines, see the USDA Cold Storage Chart.
Making the Most of Your Space
Think of your refrigerator like grocery store sections and group like items together – dairy, meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, etc. If you have children, consider creating space on an easy-to-reach shelf to store snack items and drinks they can get for themselves. Likewise, if you prepare weekday lunches in the evening, be sure to leave shelf or door space to store them so that everyone can grab and go in the morning.
If your refrigerator layout doesn’t provide ample storage bins, these Fridge Binz are stackable and help maximize shelf space. In general, square and rectangular storage containers allow you to store more items than round bowls.
Door storage space is usually a great place to organize condiments. Group items here too – salad dressings, sauces, sandwich condiments – to make them easy to locate when you’re preparing meals. If you have more bottles than door space, store those you use less often at the back of a shelf, where they’re out of the way but still accessible.
Don’t Forget the Freezer
Your freezer gets a good work-out during the holidays too, between items prepared ahead of time for special occasions and leftovers frozen for later use. Here are a few simple tips for keeping your freezer organized:
- Stack boxed items together.
- Store leftovers in square and rectangular containers.
- As in the refrigerator, store like items – vegetables, fruits, ice cream, etc. – together.
- Pack food in individual serving sizes so that you can thaw just what you need.
- Label food containers with contents and the date it was frozen. If necessary, note any reheating or preparation instructions.
- Place older items near the front of the freezer so that they’re used first.