Storing items in certain spots—and with the ideal gear—will keep food fresher longer.

By Stephanie Sisco
Updated October 15, 2015
Illustration: streamlined fridge
Credit: Michael Kirkham

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Illustration: streamlined fridge
Credit: Michael Kirkham

1 Door

It’s the warmest spot in the refrigerator, so stock it with the least perishable items: mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce, pickles, salad dressings, salsa, jams, and nut butters.

2 Top Shelf

Odd-size items that don’t fit elsewhere and that should be chilled but not too cold (like beer and soda) go here. It’s also a good out-of-the-way ledge for leftovers. Keep them on the same section of the shelf every time so you remember to use them.

3 Middle Shelf

At eye level, this is a smart spot for healthy snacks, like carrots and hummus. Also, eggs fare best here, where the temperature is most moderate.

4 Meat Drawer

Stashing deli meats and cheeses here prevents cross-contamination with other foods. (Deli meats have been linked to bacteria that cause food-borne illness.) If your refrigerator doesn’t have a meat drawer, keep cold cuts on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest.

Don’t need a meat drawer? Turn it into a trove for items you use most, like lunch-box supplies and after-school snacks.

5 Bottom Shelf

Put raw meats (fresh or thawing) here to keep juices from dripping and contaminating ready-to-eat foods below. Milk can go farther back on the bottom shelf—normally the coldest spot—along with other dairy items, like yogurt.

6 Crisper Drawers

Store vegetables in the high-humidity drawer and fruits in the low-humidity one. Keep in mind: Some fruits (apples, avocados, cantaloupes, peaches, pears) emit ethylene gas, which can cause other ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, lettuces, and other greens) to go bad more quickly. Prolong freshness by storing hardy ethylene producers at room temperature until ripe, then transfer them to the refrigerator.