One Change to Waste Less Food: Reorganize Your Refrigerator

wasted food infographic

When our food goes bad before we can eat it, we’re wasting more than money – we’re wasting the water that went into growing the food and the energy that went into transporting it. You’re not alone if you’ve had to chuck half a container of yogurt or a wilted bunch of greens: the average American family wastes a quarter of the food they buy!

But you can make a simple change at home to help you waste less food: reorganizing your refrigerator.

Organize Your Fridge by Zone

Your refrigerator isn’t a uniform temperature – the door is the warmest location, and the most variable temperature. Humidity also affects how long your fruit and produce lasts. Organize your refrigerator with temperature and humidity in mind to make your food last longer.

Store Condiments in the Door

Condiments are not as susceptible to temperature fluctuations, and are safe to store in the door.

Store Ready-to-Eat Food on Upper Shelves

On your upper shelves, store:

  • Ready-to-eat foods
  • Leftovers
  • Drinks
  • Fresh herbs
  • Berries
  • Apples (to keep them away from other produce – they emit a gas that makes other produce ripen faster)

Create an “Eat First” shelf, tray, or zone in this part of your fridge where you’ll keep foods that will go bad quickly (like strawberries), items near the end of their life (like milk that you opened a few days ago), and food that needs to be eaten soon (like leftovers). Pick a shelf or zone, or use a tray (or even a shoebox) to designate your “Eat First” area. You can create a sign yourself, or print off an “Eat Soon” sign (.pdf).

Designate a shelf in your fridge for food that needs to be eaten or used soon, to keep it from going to waste.

Keep Dairy and Eggs in the Middle of the Fridge

Dairy products and eggs can go in the middle shelves.

Place Produce and Fruit in Crispers and Meat on Lower Shelves

Store almost all vegetables and herbs in your fridge, rather than at room temperature. Most vegetables do best with high humidity, whereas fruits prefer low humidity, if you’re able to adjust the settings on your crisper drawers.

Store these fruits in your fridge:

  • Apples, oranges, and lemons
  • Berries, cherries and grapes
  • Melons, nectarines, apricots, peaches, pears and plums (after ripening at room temperature)
  • Avocados and tomatoes (after ripening at room temperature)

For a quick reference guide on the best way to store different fruits and vegetables for longevity, print off this produce storage guide (.pdf) and attach it to your fridge.

Meat should be kept in bottom drawers or shelves if possible to avoid dripping. If you need to store meat on a higher shelf, keep it in a tray to avoid contamination issues.

Next step: figure out what food you waste and why – then figure out how to stop wasting food

Follow our simple one-week guide to track your food waste, then figure out how you can waste less edible food at home.