The two biggest bills your kitchen generates are your grocery bill and your electricity bill. Your appliances are responsible for 13% of your energy bill, and the fridge takes the lion’s share of that, as it’s always on. By organizing your fridge correctly, you can help it work more efficiently, which reduces electricity costs. Additionally, it will help keep your food fresher for longer, reducing your grocery costs by cutting down on spoiled and wasted food.
Here are seven tips for proper food organization to save you money, plus a look at organization features of new fridges for those in the market for a new one.
Avoid the Vents
The vents that produce the cold air to keep your fridge at the correct temperature are generally at the top of the fridge in the back. Make sure not to block them with tall or bulky items, as this will cause your fridge to work harder and use more electricity. Also, never put very perishable items, such as leafy greens or dairy, near the vents. The constant blast of cold air could freeze these items and ruin them.
Store items that like to be colder closer to the vents (but not if they’re tall enough to block them), or lower down at the back of the fridge, as the coldest air goes down the back.
No Dairy in Doors
Use the fridge doors to store condiments and long-lasting items such as canned or bottled drinks—not dairy or milk. The doors are the warmest spot and can turn your dairy products quicker. Instead, store dairy on the middle shelves, towards the front.
Get the Hang of Humidity
Those two drawers at the bottom of the fridge, known as humidity drawers or crispers, can extend the life of your fresh produce if you use them correctly. The key is to put the right produce in the right bin. Set one to high humidity and store items that like to stay moist, such as leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, peppers and squash. Set the other to low humidity and use it for things that rot quickly, like apples, melons (except watermelon), kiwis, mangos, and apricots. If you can’t remember specifics, a general rule of thumb is that veggies prefer high humidity and fruits prefer low.
Fruits and veggies that emit ethylene gas should be in the low humidity drawer, as the gas can escape from the drawer more easily. But if you want to avoid the issue all together, consider keeping ethylene-releasing produce out of the fridge. This include items like avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes. Most of them keep longer out of the fridge anyway.
Some produce prefers to be inside the fridge but outside the drawers. These include corn, citrus, onions and potatoes—although the last two don’t need to be refrigerated unless they’re chopped or pre-washed.
Use a Meat Drawer
The meat drawer is usually the bottommost one, as that’s the coldest area of the fridge. It’s important to keep raw meats contained and away from other foods to avoid the possibility of contamination. If you don’t have a meat drawer, or like to use that drawer for other items, then a stand-alone plastic bin works very well, and is also easy to clean. Just store it as low in the fridge as possible.
Take a leaf out of a professional chef’s organizational playbook and arrange your food according to cooking temperature. This helps avoid the effects of any potential contamination. Store cooked leftovers and ready-to-eat items on the upper shelves, dairy in the middle, ingredients to be cooked under that and meats at the bottom (white meats higher than reds, if you can). As a bonus, by using your top shelf for items that need to or can be eaten quickly, you always know to look there first when hunting for a quick snack.
Go for Glass
Store leftovers and ready-to-eat items in glass containers with air-tight lids. Glass is overall a safer option for food storage than plastic and can be used for hot foods and liquids. You can also easily reuse them, as well as transfer them straight to a microwave or oven if needed. Glass also holds its temperature better than plastic, keeping your foods colder and making your fridge work less.
Be Savvy About Space
An over-packed refrigerator is less efficient, as there is no room for the air to circulate, but an empty fridge is a waste of energy. Try and space your items out so there’s a healthy gap between them, which keeps temperatures more consistent for optimal performance.
Now here’s some features to consider when buying a new fridge that will save you money in the long run
Refrigerator manufacturers are always coming up with original features to entice you to buy a new one. You should be in the market for a new fridge if yours is more than 10 years old, as it’s likely costing you money. Here are some cool new features to consider that will help you organize your fridge more efficiently:
This feature lets you open one door halfway, allowing you to peek in to the fridge without letting all the cold air out. It also offers extra storage space and easy access for frequently used items.
Third Temp-Controlled Drawer
The third drawer, which is popular in newer French door fridges, runs the length of the fridge and is great for platters, pizzas or corralling smaller items to keep the fridge tidy. GE has added temperature controls to some of its refrigerator’s third drawers, so you can dial in the perfect temp for your cheese (slightly warmer) or drinks (slightly colder). The GE model has three settings: meat, beverage and deli. As you switch from one to another, the drawer’s LED lights will change color and light up each time you open the fridge, reminding you of what’s inside.
While this isn’t an organization feature, it will certainly save you money. Every time the door is open for more than a minute or so the fridge beeps to alert you, so you can make sure it’s closed and avoid wasting energy or spoiling food.
Do you have any tips for food storage that help you save on your grocery bill? If so, share them with us in the comments.
Guest post by: Jennifer Tuohy who writes extensively on home energy efficiency and kitchen appliances and decor from her home in Charleston, South Carolina. Jennifer writes online for Home Depot. If you are researching refrigerators for your home, you can view fridge styles and features discussed by Jennifer on Home Depot’s website.
If you are looking for additional ways to save money on your utilities, consider checking out these articles: