The hubster and I regularly maintain a small arsenal of plain yogurt at our humble abode. Thanks to this arsenal, we make yogurt-based smoothies for breakfast or we add this wonderful white fare to oatmeal, or we use it to supplement our weekday lunches. And as a result of our yogurt habit, we’re keeping Stonyfield Farm in business so that they’ll continue making their delicious fare for us to store in our refrigerator.

The arsenal system is working well today, but that wasn’t always the case. After a few snafoos in which we had two yogurt containers open simultaneously (horrifying, I know), we identified the following ways to make our yogurt – and general refrigerator and freezer – usage all the more palatable. Perhaps one or all of these ideas will have a positive impact on a refrigerator near you.

Location, location, location

On our nation’s highways we’re encouraged to drive in the right lane, pass on the left. When stocking your refrigerator, you’re encouraged to take from the left and store on the right. If you purchase two containers of the same item (let’s call this item plain yogurt – just for illustrative purposes), put the yogurt container that you’re going to use first on the left. Place the second yogurt container directly to its right. The container on the left should feature the closest expiration date. Until the container on the left is fully utilized, please make no effort to touch the container on the right. It’ll still be there when it’s lefty pal has been entirely consumed. This will help you to use your perishables before they expire, thus eliminating wasted food and grocery dollars.

Store occasional use items at the back.
This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often this tip falls by the wayside. If you only use syrup a few times a month, place it in the back of the refrigerator. If you only use frozen edamame twice each month, its natural spot is at the back of the freezer.  Of course, the “take from the left and store on the right” rule applies to all items in your refrigerator and freezer – including those stored in the back.

Put items back where you found them. Always.
Just as a tidy house can do wonders for your life, a tidy refrigerator and freezer can do wonders for your cooking adventures. If you always return refrigerated or frozen items to their designated places, you’re less likely to buy foods that you already have and you’re that much more likely to use the items you’ve already purchased. Also, this will save you a considerable amount of time when you’re planning your weekly menus.

When refrigerating meat of any kind, store it on the bottom shelf. This helps eliminate the possibility of meat juices and drippings mingling with other food items.

Make good use of your space. If you tend to have more room in the freezer than your refrigerator, consider freezing extra containers of butter, egg beaters, shredded cheese, and other items. These foods defrost easily and survive just fine in the freezer.

The right container makes a world of difference.

Use a shallow organizer for your condiments. This tray-like container acts as a pull-out shelf of sorts, enabling you to easily reach that bottle of mustard toward the back of your refrigerator. Place as many of your condiments as possible in this organizer.

Use food-specific drawers for their assigned purpose. If your refrigerator has a crisper for vegetables or a drawer for cheese, store your foods accordingly. Separating vegetables from cheeses helps eliminate moisture overload in the cheese drawer and protects your beets from the scents of gorgonzola and stilton.

Place frozen fruits and veggies in freezer-safe containers. They’re easier to stack, sort, and organize than the plastic bags in which these foods are sold. Plus, according to my unscientific study, the containers are highly likely to give you a satisfying surge of organizational and logistical satisfaction every time you open your freezer.

After purchasing family packs of meat, wrap individual servings before freezing them in food storage bags. This is much easier and more resourceful than needing to thaw the entire family pack of chicken breasts next time you’re slated to make a four-serving chicken fajita dinner.

Keep tabs on those perishables.

Each week, make a mental note of the perishable items in your refrigerator. You’ll minimize wasted food and money by adapting your weekly menu to include these perishables while they’re still good. While you’re glancing at those perishables, wipe down the shelves and the insides of the refrigerator drawers. You’ll want to do a more thorough cleaning once every several weeks, depending on the chore schedule that works for you and your household.

Every several months, confirm that none of your condiments have expired.

Consider putting a date on your frozen goods when you put them in your freezer.

Tip: Wondering if you should get rid of those frozen turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving? Not sure if you should freeze egg yolks? Here’s what the FDA suggests.

If you cook with any frequency, the contents of your refrigerator and freezer constantly evolve. Hopefully the aforementioned tips will add an element of user-friendly organizational delight to the ever-changing chilly tundras in your kitchen.

* Photos by Jonathan Eggers

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