How to Organize Your Refrigerator to Save Meal Prep Time

Do you ever feel like hours of your life are wasted on meal prep and planning? Well, this week, I’ll show you how to organize your refrigerator to save time!

Now, if you’re thinking refrigerator organizing sounds A. boring, or B. a little O.C.D.  I’m with you!  I was also a skeptic. Remember, my organizing philosophy is not about achieving perfection, it’s about creating time for what I want.

Here’s what I recently discovered:  when the fridge is organized and labeled, I spend less time prepping to cook, and more time enjoying my evening happy hour while reading my book (right now I’m loving Adriana Trigiani’s latest) while my kids spray themselves with the hose, and my husband “gets big” at CrossFit.

Even better, I answer far fewer questions from said husband about “Hon, what’re we thinking for dinner, where’s the almond butter, and do we have any more beer?” It’s a beautiful thing. You see, when the fridge is dialed in, it frees me up to chill.

 

Here’s how I did it, and why it completely changed my meal prep game!

Set your Goals

Here were mine: less time thinking about what’s for dinner, less time prepping for dinner, less waste, answer fewer questions from my husband and children. (Isn’t that last one what we kind of all want?).

Sort Your Goods

Next, take every last thing out of the refrigerator and sort it into categories:  meat, cheese, vegetables, condiments, nut butters ;).

Eliminate

After that, toss anything expired, rotten, or things you will never use—like salad dressing no one actually liked. It’s ok to let it go. When you’ve got the new organization locked in, you will find you rarely have to throw anything away.

Wipe Down

Now, give the whole thing, and all the drawers and compartments a good wipe down with soap and water.  Check that out.  Isn’t it pretty, all clean? It’s probably been awhile since you’ve seen it like that.  It had been for me. Did you know you can pop out those side compartments and take the drawers completely out? You can!

Assign

I went back to my goals list and decided I needed these spots in my fridge:

A basket that contains the items for that night’s dinner.

Why it’s a game changer:This encourages me to decide, put things into the basket, and everyone in our house knows what the plan is. Since everything is in the basket, I can just get it out of the fridge, and I don’t spend time searching for things when I’m tired and hungry. It’s my very own Hello Fresh.

A basket that contains leftovers.

Why it’s a game changer: Before, leftovers found their way into the back corner of the fridge, and they’d rot there.  This way, I can make sure we eat these first.  We can even get out the whole basket and have an entire dinner of leftovers. I can also move things from the Leftover basket into the “Tonight’s Dinner” basket when I need to.

A place for my husband’s lunch.

Why it’s a game changer:We all have our quirks, and my husband is quirky about his lunch. He needs to have it ready to go and easily accessible, or he gets shifty and wants to dart out to the PCC deli, or sneak off to Q’Doba. This gets spendy.  So, I made him a spot just for his lunch, so he can pack them ahead of time and they’re ready to go.  He loves using the Easy Lunch Box containers, by the way.

A place for a healthy snack tray.

Why it’s a game changer: Last week, I wrote about the Taste the Rainbow Snack Tray, which is helping us eat more fruits and veggies and fewer pantry snacks. Well, what I didn’t mention, is that the snack tray I have really only fits on one shelf in my fridge. I swear to you, that I have wasted way too much time trying to jam that thing into a full fridge and still close the doors. Now it has a place, and no one else will put something else in its place. I’ll also keep this new snack habit going.

Next, I looked at all the sorted categories on my counter and I put things away into compartments that would hold them, and in a way that made sense to me.

Re-Purpose

Finally, my favorite part of organizing:  re-purposing. Once I decided the assignments that were the most important, I found baskets in my garage that fit my refrigerator. If you can’t find baskets that fit, you can reconfigure your shelves so baskets you do own will fit, use Tupperware, or even casserole dishes.

Label

Okay, so here’s the thing that seems really over the top, the thing I once resisted, that has now changed my life:  labeling the drawers and compartments in your fridge!  It feels so weird to get out that label maker and apply labels in there, but you will never answer a question about where something is located in fridge again! Pause and appreciate the time that will save you. Perhaps you will write your novel this year with all the time you’ll save with just ten minutes worth of work!

If you don’t have a label maker you can use paper with double-sided tape, or washi tape with Sharpie. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! People may think you are nuts when they open your fridge, but they will find what they need all on their own, thank-you-very-much. This also saves so much time putting things away, and when you’re making a shopping list.  You’ll know what you are out of and you’ll know what you need at a quick glance, which will also prevent waste, duplicates, and save money.

Transition

Organizing is a process that’s about changing behavior. For this reason, I’ve started to end each organizing project by transitioning into using the new space.  For this project it meant, gathering my dear family and showing them the new location, and system.  This was met with happy nods, and way more excitement than I expected.  I guess they didn’t like all that searching or questioning what was in the fridge any more than I did!

Before you go, remember I LOVE hearing from you and creating an empowering community here at OBH. Please post a comment with your thoughts and questions! If this post inspired you, please share it on Pinterest, Facebook, or email. Post your newly organized fridge on Instagram with the #organizedbyheart, and let us know how it’s changing your meal prep game!

And, now that you’ve organized your refrigerator, kick up your feet and pour yourself a glass of whatever you like. Dream about what you will do with all your new time!

With Heart,
Lauren

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