How to organise your fridge and freezer
How to stock your fridge
Believe it or not, there is a science to organising your fridge. Get it right and food will stay fresher for longer and will be much easier to find. Get it wrong and you can end up with limp lettuce, UFOs (unidentified fridge objects) and – at worst – food poisoning!
A couple of times a year, take everything out and clean the shelves and crisper drawers with warm, soapy water. The ideal fridge temperature is below 5°C as this slows the growth of bacteria. Avoid overcrowding your fridge as it will have to work harder to maintain a safe temperature. Conduct regular fridge ‘audits’ to discard anything past its use-by date.
Best for cheese, butter/spread, milk, eggs, tofu, and yoghurt
- Keep these foods covered as they absorb odours easily. Plastic containers are better at this than plastic wrap (which is porous). Eggs are best stored in the carton they are sold in.
- Write the date you open tubs of yoghurt, sour cream or soft cheese on the lid and consume within the recommended period.
- Hard cheese will keep for up to 3 months but if it develops surface mould, cut it off along with at least 2cm of the cheese around it. Don‘t try this with soft cheese though!
Best for deli meat, cooked food, and leftovers
- Place cooled leftovers in the fridge within one hour of cooking (or bacteria will multiply). Divide large amounts of food into smaller portions so they cool more quickly.
- Position leftovers at the front of the shelf in clear plastic containers (or plates covered with plastic wrap) so you remember to eat them.
- Store pre-sliced deli meat towards the back (the coldest part of the fridge). Wrap in baking paper, then place in snap-lock bags and consume within three days. Packaged deli meat can be stored until the use-by date but follow the package instructions once they've been opened.
Best for raw meat, chicken, and seafood
- Always store raw meats and seafood below food that will not be cooked to avoid possible cross contamination by food-poisoning bacteria. Place on trays to catch any drips. If you need to store raw meat or seafood on higher shelves, place it in a leak-proof container.
- Store minced meats, poultry, and seafood towards the back of the shelf (the coldest part) and consume within two to three days.
- Defrost meat, chicken, seafood, and leftovers in the fridge (allow at least 24 hours) rather than leaving it out on the kitchen bench.
Best for vegetables and fruit
- Keep fruit and vegetables in separate crisper drawers if possible as fruit produces a gas (called ethylene) that can accelerate ripening/spoilage. Avoid storing very ripe fruit with other fruit for the same reason (unless you want it to ripen faster).
- To stop leafy greens and root vegetables from becoming limp, store them in perforated (or loose) plastic bags. Some crisper drawers have an adjustable vent to control air flow (closing the vent increases humidity and stops ethylene getting in).
- Only store stone fruits, mangoes, tomatoes, pineapples, pears, melons and avocados in the fridge once they have ripened (otherwise they will stay hard and have less flavour). Place in perforated (or loose) plastic bags to stop them drying out or perishing. Return to room temperature before eating.
Top door shelves
Best for jars and bottles of sauces and condiments
- Curry pastes, pesto and tomato paste will keep for longer if you cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. Alternatively, you can freeze them in ice-cube trays, then transfer to snap-lock bags and freeze for up to 2 months.
- Some bottles and jars don’t need to be kept in the fridge until they are opened (such as jam and some Asian sauces).
- Others don’t need to be kept there at all, such as honey (it will crystallise), coffee (it will lose its flavour), Vegemite, peanut butter and some sauces (the salt keeps them safe). Just check the package instructions to be sure and, if in doubt, put it in the fridge just to be safe.
Bottom door shelf
Best for drinks
- The temperature on the fridge door is always slightly warmer than other parts of the fridge so store milk on the top inside shelf with other dairy goods if possible.
- Save the door shelf for bottles of water, low-kilojoule drinks and – if you’re so inclined – reduced-alcohol wine!
- A great place to store extra supplies of handy staples such as bread, berries, and vegies – especially peas, green beans, broad beans, corn, stir-fry, and vegetable mixes, edamame and spinach.
- Poultry and rolled/ seasoned meat should be thawed all the way through before cooking.
- Label frozen leftovers carefully with the contents and date (including how many serves) – it’s hard to tell what it is once it’s frozen solid!
Fridge food safety guide
- Keep the temperature below 5°C.
- Keep eggs in the fridge and eat them before the use-by date.
- Defrost and marinate food in the fridge, especially meat.
- Wash fresh fruit and vegies before preparing and eating them.
- Store raw meat at the bottom so it doesn’t drip onto other foods.
- Eat cooked meat that's been left in the fridge for more than 2-3 days.
- Eat food that’s past its use-by date.