If you live alone or your whole household eats healthfully you can do this very abbreviated version of my refrigerator makeover: toss everything that doesn’t promote good health and put the healthiest foods in the easiest to reach spaces. That’s an almost instant refrigerator makeover for healthy eating. For everyone else, my more detailed step by step refrigerator makeover plan can help you organize your refrigerator in a way that promotes healthier eating. You should be able to do this in less than an hour; when I implemented this plan on my own refrigerator it took only 44 minutes for the whole process.
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 1: Prepare
To prepare for your healthy refrigerator makeover it helps to have an empty trash can handy and a nearby surface on which to empty the contents of your refrigerator. When I did my own refrigerator makeover I used my kitchen counters. If you have very little counter space you could set up a folding table near the refrigerator. The other thing you want to do is take a look inside your refrigerator and think of what categories food you’re going to keep. Here are some sample categories from a recent refrigerator makeover: beverages, meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, condiments, sauces and medicines. This should only take a minute. It is just a starting place; don’t worry about making your categories perfect right now. Take an index card or post it notes or whatever works for you and write each category name on one piece of paper. Then set the category papers on your sorting surface in a row, allowing for enough space between categories for all the items in each category to fit near their corresponding piece of paper.
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 2: Sort, Purge and Group Like Items Together
Even though it’s three actions I found it easy to do them together in one step. First you’re going to pull everything out of your refrigerator. Instead of just setting it on your kitchen counter or table take a look at each item first. If it’s expired toss it. If you’ve had it over six months (or whatever amount of time seems reasonable to you) and haven’t eaten it toss it or set it aside to give to a friend or charity that accepts refrigerated items. If you’re keeping it set it on your sorting surface (I’ll use counter from now on for ease of writing) in the area for that item’s category (so, for example, if your first item was spinach it would go in the vegetable category area). Continue to do this with each item until your refrigerator is empty.
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 3: Clean Your Refrigerator
Take a few minutes and clean your refrigerator while it’s empty. Be sure to dry everything afterward to prevent mold growth. Because I do this speedily I left the refrigerator door open while I did the next step.
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 4: Strategize and Categorize
This is where you first determine what foods are going to receive prime space and then analyze the space your sorted items take by category and compare it to the available space in your refrigerator. In organizing your refrigerator for healthy eating it’s very important to make the healthiest foods the easiest to see and reach. I love that modern refrigerators come with humidity controlled crisper drawers and spaces for various kinds of food but if you’re always tossing your vegetables because you forget about them in that drawer at the bottom then the crisper really isn’t helping you. Here are a couple tips: store the bulk of your refrigerated fresh fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawer but save space on the most convenient and easiest to reach shelf for the ones you want to eat today (or the next day too if room allows); cut up veggies into snack size pieces for easy noshing when hunger strikes between mealtimes (or buy the pre cut type). In addition to determining what foods are going to get the prime location (hopefully your healthiest foods) you also want to figure out where the rest of the foods. Ideally, each category of foods will go together into a section of the refrigerator (in other words, all the meat is together in one place, all the condiments are together etc.).
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 4: Implement Your Strategy
This just means to put your newly categorized food back in your refrigerator in the way you strategized in step 3. I recommend putting the healthiest foods in any category in front and the least healthy in the furthest back part of the section. For example, in your beverage category you might have filtered water in front, then skim milk, then 100% fruit juice, then soda all the way in back.
Healthy Refrigerator Organization Step 5: Label
I don’t recommend buying bins and organizing tools until you’ve worked with your new categories for a few weeks but it is very handy to label the areas, especially if you want your family members to put things back where they now belong. In fact, for your labels you could just tape your 3×5″ cards or post it notes to the appropriate section of the refrigerator. If you like the categories after a few weeks you could make nicer labels (or if you have kids let them draw you some – they’ll probably love seeing their artwork displayed every time they reach in their new healthfully organized refrigerator).
There you go. Five steps to a nicely organized refrigerator that makes healthy eating easier. I wish you all the best of health!