My fridge cannot possibly contain the organizational hopes and dreams I have as a home cook and hoarder of Better Than Bouillon. But the winter is long (and I had a lot of pickles), so I found myself ordering bins, bins, and more bins as close to the specs of my fridge as possible. Out came the mustards and the eggs, the many jars, the various wrapped proteins, and finally, the cheese. I dutifully got everything into bins and back into the fridge, and then stood back in awe of how organised and clean it looked — until I turned and saw all the things still on the counter that did not fit.
I realised the reason my fridge did not look picture-perfect was because I live in a house with a regular sized appliance, I shop weekly, and I don’t have the fridge real estate that the rich and famous do. Bins minimise the active space instead of maximizing it. My fridge is 21 inches deep. There are no 21-inch bins, though. By default, I was losing space to begin with. Further, pre-chopping and cleaning fruit and veg to look presentable and then putting it into neat containers was also ineffective. By giving an entire container to blueberries or celery, there was always extra space I wasn’t using or extra produce that didn’t fit.
How to effectively organise your fridge with plastic bins
What did work, in a straight “stick it in a bin” way was to quit my cheese drawer in favour of a deeper bin, and to keep a bin for all my proteins for the week. The giant teetering stack of styrofoam and wax paper went away, I was able to quickly reach what I needed, and I didn’t lose space doing it because I could stack them in the bin. Not for nothing, but this also meant that any leaking was contained away from the rest of the fridge.
A stacked Lazy Susan was a game-changer for my Better Than Bouillon collection and my endless pickles. The Lazy Susan doesn’t seem to waste space, and because it turns in place, it made it easier for me to reach all my jars. If you place the Lazy Susan at the front of the fridge, you’re losing the active space behind it, so I placed it in the back. By removing the eggs in front of them, I have easy access the Lazy Susan and spin it to what I need: That’s still a better solution.
Long, narrow bins that run all the way front to back and slide out were great for that top shelf of random stuff in everyone’s fridge. It was only a shallow bin, but I could slide the entire thing out to reach what I needed and then slide it back.
Prettier is not more organised
At some point, I realised I was delicately placing eggs into a plastic bin that took up twice as much space as the egg carton. I looked around and came to a forehead-smacking truth: Companies are really good at designing packaging that is space-saving, easy to identify, and protects the food in it. A plastic bin is unlikely to beat it.
Soda cans already come in a box designed to dispense them effectively. Blueberries come in a breathable container exactly the size of the blueberries. And both of those things are stackable: The space most often lost in your fridge is vertical, so getting things into a stackable format is the key, but it doesn’t have to all match to be effective. Use a mix of the containers the food comes in and clear bins when items aren’t stackable.
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