How to organize a fridge and never waste any groceries again

Organizing a fridge couldn't be simpler with this expert advice

A well-stocked fridge with fruit, veg and bottles
(Image credit: Csondy / Getty)

Are you trying to rely less on Uber Eats, but meal prep has you seriously stressed out? Navigating new recipes, mastering kitchen techniques, and finding foods you love are overwhelming enough on their own, and having a messy and cluttered fridge can leave you feeling super unmotivated to cook.

An organized fridge is essential if you want to make cooking more fun, reduce food waste, and make cleaning and maintenance easier. Though the shelving and drawers in a fridge do provide some organization, most of us have so many items stuffed in our fridges that food ends up getting pushed back. Let's be real: most of us are guilty of wasting food, and the reason is almost always that we don't actually know what's in our fridge or where it is. 

If one of your top priorities is to learn how to organize a kitchen, then organizing a refrigerator should be the first thing on your list. With the help of our experts, you'll enjoy using your kitchen in no time, we promise. 

Good to know

Time: 20–30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Good to know: Don't get us wrong, you can definitely do this project all in one sitting, but organizing your fridge can be super-effective when you split up this task. If you do the deep clean when you're low on food, right before going to the grocery store, you can save yourself the stress of scrambling to get it done while your fresh food is sat out on the countertop. 

Here's what you'll need

How to organize a fridge

Step 1: Clear everything out and clean

Don't know where to begin? Give yourself a totally fresh start by taking everything (and we mean everything) out of your fridge. Line up all of your food and check the dates on your condiments and bottles. Make sure to also thoroughly look over and throw out any expired produce and packaged long-life foods. 

Next, disinfect and clean your surfaces with your all-purpose cleaner (I used my Method one from Grove Co.). Remove any built-in containers to wash with dish soap and spray with a kitchen cleaner, and wipe down your fridge itself for a completely blank canvas to organize.

Step 2: Incorporate trays and containers

a fridge organized with clear plastic trays and drawers

The Home Edit Fridge Starter Kit, The Container Store 

(Image credit: The Container Store)

If you're going to invest in just one thing to organize your refrigerator, it should be some containers for your shelves. You'll see an immediate difference in how easy it is to find things, and you're way less likely to knock over bottles constantly (so ideal).

"Containers are useful for keeping different food types apart to stop contamination, or even to make your fridge look tidier and aesthetically pleasing," Magnet's commercial range director Hayley Simmons says. "For example, use a tray to store all your raw meats and a basket for your condiments that don’t fit in the door of your fridge."

To keep with the classic clean look, we like acrylic and plastic trays and containers. They're timeless and easy to remove and keep clean, plus they're see-through for added convenience.

Step 3: Use a rotating kitchen organizer

A colorful, well-organized fridge with fresh produce and jars of food organized by color

(Image credit: Kristen Hong/@hellonutritarian)

If you keep running out of space in your fridge, it's probably due to a big collection of condiments and sauces. What often happens is all those jars line the back of fridge shelves, despite not ever being used. 

Brenda Scott, professional organizer at Tidy my Space, advises grouping your bottles of sauces and salad dressings together.

"Decide if they get used every day or not," Scott says. "This tells you where to put them in the fridge."

Once you've found the jars and bottles you do use regularly, Scott suggests getting a turntable-style container or a lazy Susan. They rotate, allowing you to easily locate the jar you need without having to pull everything out and clutter your countertops.

Step 4: Stick to one produce type per shelf 

A colorful, well-organized fridge with fresh produce and jars of food organized by color

(Image credit: Kristen Hong/@hellonutritarian)

The easiest way to remember what you have in the fridge is to group produce types together. Kristen Hong, nutritionist and author of Fridge Love, suggests creating a produce showcase.

"This means you pull your produce up out of the crisper drawers and eye level — this makes it infinitely more likely that you’ll eat that fresh produce and it reduces food waste," says Hong. "You can place produce upright in jars or you can pre-chop some of your produce for the week and store in glass Snaplock containers."

Using this technique can also help to keep your produce perfectly fresh. Store meat and dairy on the lower shelves, where the fridge temperature is cooler, and use the upper shelves for your less perishable items.

Step 5: Keep foods that have a shorter shelf life at the front of the fridge

A well-organized fridge with containers of leftovers

(Image credit: @dusk2illdawn)

This easy tip is nothing short of genius. Simmons points out that food waste is typically due to losing track of what's expiring soon and where in the fridge it is, so start yourself off on a better foot by planning ahead.

"When storing items in your fridge, it is important to keep perishable foods that have the shortest shelf life at the front of the shelf so you can see when they go out of date," she says.

You can also try dedicating a whole separate shelf to the food that needs to be cooked/consumed first and keeping those items at eye level, so they're the first ingredients you look at when you open your fridge as a reminder to use them ASAP.

Step 6: Label everything

A fridge with container labelled in a permanent marker

(Image credit: Edding Group)

It may seem obvious, but labeling everything (and we mean everything) will really up your game when it comes to organizing a refrigerator, according to president of Molly Maid and cleaning and organization pro, Vera Peterson.

"Keep painter’s tape and a permanent marker near the fridge for labeling" says Peterson. "Painter’s tape comes off containers easily for simple cleanup. Take a cue from professional kitchens, and be sure to date your labels so you won’t have to remember which day you made chili for dinner."

For an especially satisfying look, opt for matching labels for your fridge's main drawers and containers, and date individual items with painter's tape and a permanent marker as Peterson suggests.

If you want to DIY your own, then use Amazon's own brand masking tape and this Amazon's Choice permanent marker. If not, and you'd prefer to buy ones, then see our faves below.


How do you make your fridge more aesthetically pleasing?

As seen above, Hong has some of the prettiest fridge displays ever, and if her setups have you dreaming of a similar look, she has a couple of tips that will work for any sized space.

"Switch to glass food containers: not only will your food last longer but you’ll be able to open your fridge and immediately see what you have on hand at a glance," Hong says. "And have one thing in your fridge that makes you smile: this can be a lazy Susan for your condiments, a favorite mug to store fresh herbs, or a beautiful lidded canister to store your mushrooms or ginger."

"The point is to use something you already have in your home in an unexpected way", she adds. " Adding an element like that to your fridge helps make it feel like an inspiring space.  You’re more likely to eat in and eat healthier when your fridge inspires you!"

Why is organizing a fridge important?

It's not all about looks or that satisfying feeling of having a sparkling space. Having a clean and organized fridge is also key for your health and your budget. "Efficient fridge organization is essential for ensuring your food is stored safely to help prevent food poisoning from bacteria," Simmons explains. "Maintaining this can also minimize the amount of food you waste, helping you save money."

Should I keep milk in the fridge door?

Many kitchen experts (including Simmons) actually advise against this, even though milk bottles seem like they're made to fit neatly inside your fridge door. 

Typically, fridge doors aren't cool enough to guarantee the correct temperature for keeping your dairy fresh, which is why might keep getting surprised by milk expiring earlier than its date stamp. Instead, store milk on one of the center shelves of your fridge to ensure it's kept at a consistent temperature. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

With contributions from