How to Organize a Refrigerator

Hello friends, welcome! Last week I showed you how I organize my pantry and today, I want to show you my refrigerator. I will also show you my pantry cabinet. The renovation and reorganization of our kitchen layout afforded us the space to build a pantry cabinet with drawers. This pantry cabinet has proven to be an indispensable addition to the kitchen. Much like my closet pantry, I organize everything by type, or use. Let’s take a peek!

The Refrigerator

refrigerator organization

In the fridge, I choose where to put things mostly based on their size. Then I group like things together. Generally, leftovers always go in the front and center of whichever shelf has space for them. And of course there’s always the odd item that just gets set where it fits. This doesn’t throw it all into disarray because everything else has its place.

refrigerator organization

Let’s start with top three shelves. The top shelf is for eggs, jars of saved fats and flavored butters, my sourdough starters, and our dogs’ food (in the red-topped container). I also have some random seasonings and sauces on the top shelf. The next shelf down is where we keep dips, homemade sauces and pickles.

I always keep bread and tortillas on the right side of the third shelf. We don’t go through bread fast enough for it not to get moldy, so we keep it in the fridge and toast it before making a sandwich. This shelf is also where I keep almond butter and jams; and pickled items like sauerkraut, ginger and carrot ribbons. Generally, sandwich-making items.

refrigerator organization

The tallest shelf on the bottom is where all the large items go. This shelf is pretty consistent: we have a variety of pickles (we eat a lot of pickles!) on the left side; leftovers and tall veggies that need to be stored in water, like fresh herbs and asparagus in the center; and a Cambro with all my citrus on the right. Always keep your citrus in the fridge. You will surprised how much longer they last. When the volume of leftovers makes sense, I prefer to use Cambros to store leftovers (spot the leftover Instant Pot Chili? Haha!). Their stack-ability and sturdy lids really help to save space.

refrigerator cheese and meat drawer

The top drawer is for meats and cheese. With bacon or other non-sandwich meats on the right side.

refrigerator veggie drawer

The bottom drawer is for veggies, although today, I have an overflow of meats and cheese on the left side. Which happens sometimes. We are preparing for a trip to Tybee Island, so I have let my veggie drawer get empty. But you can see, I keep peppers on the right side, hearty veggies in the center with packaged fresh herbs. and on the left side I normally keep the leafy greens. I always wash and dry my dark leafy greens and burrito-wrap them in a dry paper towel before sealing them in a bag.

The Refrigerator Door

refrigerator door

We have a spacious fridge door, however the shelves themselves are pretty shallow. So only the skinniest of items can fit well. The butter shelf has partitions so I can keep my salted and unsalted butter separate which is helpful when they lose their wrappers. All of the most-used condiments are on the center shelf, while everything else is organized loosely by type or purpose and mostly by fit.

I audit the items in the fridge every week, checking sell-by dates and assessing if things should be tossed, or consolidated. Rotation of duplicative items is key. I usually do this every time I go shopping. Put the new behind the old.

The Freezer

Our freezer is a drawer, and it’s tiny! There’s not a lot of room in there, so I do a rotation game. I keep items I use regularly, or plan to use soon in this freezer. Our house came with an old fridge, so we moved that out into the garage and I keep rarely used or bulky items in that freezer.

freezer drawer

Everything is arranged vertically, so nothing gets overlooked and lost on the bottom of a pile. Various frozen veggies, fruit and frozen dumplings make up the contents of this freezer. I also keep my pecans and walnuts in the freezer to maintain their freshness.

Pantry Cabinet – The Reach-in

We call this the “Reach-in” and we call the closet pantry the “Walk-in”. In the restaurant world, these terms refer to refrigerators. But it makes sense for these two storage areas. And Alex and I needed easy terminology to refer to these two spaces to avoid confusion when asking each other to grab something out of the “pantry” – “which one?” So we arrived at Reach-in and Walk-in.

the reach in pantry cabinet

The drawers are organized by type, with the bottom drawer being kind of an overflow storage for items that will eventually make their way to fridge, as well as large or awkwardly shaped items.

onion drawer reach in

The top drawer is where I keep a bin of onions and other items such as tall boxes of broth. The next drawer down is for canned goods and specialty sauces. I keep all the cans in neat rows. Often, I have more than one can of something, so each row is a single particular thing. I also keep nuts used for cooking on this drawer.

canned foods reach in

Next up is the pasta and dried beans drawer. I also keep smaller packages of grains, like farrow here. This is also where I keep all my noodles, dried fruit, honey, preserves and nut butters.

pasta drawer reach in

Then we have the snack drawer. Crackers, chips, nuts and all things snacky are stored here.

snack drawer reach in

Lastly, the bottom drawer holds overflow items and things that we hardly use like cans of soup. This drawer has the most clearance so taller things like cereal or cracker boxes find their way here. Also bulk items like big canisters of mixed nuts land here.

bottom drawer reach in

The Takeaway

Even if you don’t have pull out drawers, you can arrange your cabinets in ways that make sense for your frequency of use and organization by type. Cabinets are not easy to see into, so I recommend using little shelves to elevate items in the back. Turntables, or Lazy Susans also help easily see what what you have.

In the pantry and the fridge, overcrowding is a quick way to make abundant space unusable, or a total pain to navigate. So I always do a quick inventory when I make a shopping list so I don’t buy too many duplicative items, and so I don’t buy things thinking “I will use this someday…” Because until you use it, it’s just taking up space.

I hope this post on How to Organize a Refrigerator and Reach-in pantry has given you a few organizational takeaways. I’d love to hear some of your strategies for keeping an organized refrigerator and cabinets. Let me know in the comments, or on facebook and Instagram. Take care everyone, and be well! xo Kelly

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  • Kathy
    January 14, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for sharing how you organize your frig and pantry . I am going to attack mine right now! Your refrigerator looks huge, what brand is it? Thanks !

    • Kelly Djalali
      January 14, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Hi Kathy, Doesn’t it feel so good to get that done?! Our fridge is pretty big, it’s a Sub Zero. I have never had such a big fridge and I am still amazed at how crowded it can get! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Have a great day! xo Kelly

  • Arna
    January 14, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Great post (today and the one about the pantry.)
    I had read not to put bread in the refrigerator, but we also don’t go through a loaf fast enough for it not to get moldy on the counter.
    Lots of ideas for our new house. I am figuring out what I want to go where, so then we can figure out what cabinet inserts/types of cabinets to put where (for the kitchen and pantry.) We won’t have a refrigerator that is as large as yours, but I am not a professional chef haha! And it is just the two of us. I have picked out the refrigerator we want, but I am still looking at gas ranges (without busting the budget.)

    • Kelly Djalali
      January 14, 2021 at 12:46 pm

      Hi Arna, When I was designing the layout for our kitchen, I was totally overwhelmed with the idea of getting it right. Without actually being in the space, it’s hard to know exactly what the best solution will be. I will say that we went with lower cabinet drawers, instead of upper cabinets. I am pretty short, so I knew I didn’t want have to grab the step stool every time I needed something. That, and the pantry cabinet with drawers, or Reach-in, were the best choices I made for our kitchen. I am working on a series of posts that detail our home renovation so you all can see the transformation and how I designed the kitchen to be the center of our home. Stay tuned for that! Good luck with your new house! What’s the timeline? Hopefully I can get my posts up before you’re too far along! Take care, xo Kelly

  • Christine
    January 14, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Kelly,
    This was inspirational! Thanks for all of the details and nice photos. I shop at two week intervals, so it has prompted me to be more organized and to think in advance. I like your various categories for placements in your fridge and panty.

    • Kelly Djalali
      January 14, 2021 at 12:49 pm

      Hello Christine, Wonderful! I am so happy to provide you with useful tips. Being organized before I get to the store is a huge benefit for me, because I usually go shopping before I have eaten which can lead to a ridiculous amount of groceries! Thanks for stopping by today, xo Kelly

  • Cathy
    January 14, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks, Kelly for your insight! We planned our kitchen 10 years ago with drawers and I love them. Our pull out pantry gets messy easily and I need to purge many things, too. We are retirees who care for our 4 young grandkids frequently, so I need to accommodate their snacks, too. As far as the fridge goes, I regret getting ice and water in my French door fridge. It takes up too much fridge space! Ice maker in the freezer is enough! And great advice for the pullout freezer. I REALLY need to purge that!

    • Kelly Djalali
      January 14, 2021 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Cathy, Having a second freezer in the garage really makes all the difference for that tiny freezer situation in the kitchen. If we had to store meat and stuff in the kitchen freezer, I’d have zero space. For the kitchen, drawers really are the way to go, I can’t imagine ever going back to only cabinets! One really does sacrifice space with the ice and water in the door of the fridge, but it sure is convenient to have. Our water dispenser is actually inside the fridge, which is nice, though it can get messy if you’re not paying attention! Thanks so much for writing in! I so enjoy reading about your experiences! Have a evening, xo Kelly

  • Holly
    January 15, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    Kelly…your posts are all so awesome and useful! This one was fun! Please continue to recommend products that you use. I’ve bought the All-Clad omelette pan you use…and boy do I use it way more than I thought I would! Just received the Di Oro spatula set from Amazon. I don’t have the time to go looking for useful tools so I’m relying on your recommendations! Have also ordered and received a few Cambro products. Oh…and I measured today for a Sub Zero fridge….haha…it’s definitely on my list!

    • Kelly Djalali
      January 16, 2021 at 8:23 am

      Hi Holly, I am so happy that you are finding my recommendations helpful! Thank you so much for letting me know, I will continue to recommend the tools I use. Have a great weekend, xo Kelly