“It was out of sight, out of mind." says Rachel Weinblatt, a stay-at-home mom in Cooper City, Florida. "You couldn’t see the mess with the doors closed, thank goodness. Nothing smelled funny, and food wasn’t spilling out, so to me it was an island unto itself. But I could never find what I was looking for, and it just seemed to be getting worse and worse.”
Found In (and Tossed From) Rachel’s Refrigerator
32 ketchup packets
30 soy- and duck-sauce packets
12 bottles of salad dressing
4 tubs of spreadable margarine
1 empty bottle of ketchup
1 head of (brown) lettuce
1 container of (very brown) chopped lettuce
1 container filled with “either some type of chocolate sauce or gravy,” says Rachel
½ glass of soda (in a two-liter bottle)
24 fish sticks bearded-over with freezer burn
22 three-month-old Popsicles
9 heels of bread, knotted in their bags (“to feed the ducks”)
3 six-packs of English muffins (from a 2008 gift basket)
1 near-empty box of soy “chicken” nuggets (one left)
1 near-full box of soy “chicken” nuggets (one gone)
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The Refrigerator, After
After learning a few things about the family’s food habits (Rachel and company are big fruit and vegetable eaters and always have leftovers to deal with), organizer Kate Parker tossed ancient artifacts, repackaged the good stuff in easy-view containers, and relocated items to the smartest spots.
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Step 1: Drinks Strategy
Since Rachel buys in bulk, Parker transferred gallons into easier-to-pour carafes that make use of vertical space. The originals stay in a second refrigerator in the garage. Water bottles (second shelf) rest pyramid-style on a clever rack (Easy Stack, $9, organize.com).
Step 2: Proper Placement
Eggs absorb odors, so Parker put them in an airtight egg bin (Lock & Lock, $6, bedbathandbeyond.com) in the coldest part of the refrigerator―the center―rather than on the warmer door. Vegetables went in their drawer―except lettuce, which got its own moisture-draining home (Progressive Lettuce Keeper, $15, bedbathandbeyond.com). Cold cuts now all live in the deli drawer, individually contained (Top square containers, from $4, oxo.com).
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Step 3: Labels Everywhere
Parker put erasable, removable labels (LabelOnce, $10 for 80, organize.com) on many of the containers. Bins on low shelves have clear lids so you can see contents from above.
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Step 4. Matched Storage
In the freezer, bulky packaging was tossed for compact, airtight plastic containers that stack (FreshVac, from $12, containerstore.com).
Step 5: Paper, Glass, Plastic
For freshness, Parker wrapped meat butcher-style, in Reynolds Freezer paper ($3 at supermarkets), then sealed packages with Scotch Freezer Tape ($3 at supermarkets). Stain-resistant glass is the right choice for storing microwavable leftovers; plastic works for foods you don’t reheat.
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Smart and Good-Looking Storage
A few high-functioning items help inspire Rachel to maintain that just-organized feel week after week.
Acrylic jars with airtight lids have a smaller footprint (and a sleeker design) than gallon jugs. To buy: $7 (36 ounces) and $8 (56 ounces), bedbathandbeyond.com.
Clear glass stackers keep washed fruits and vegetables easy to spot. To buy: Frigoverre, $23 for three bowls and lids, cooking.com.
Stick a magnetic organizer on the refrigerator door to hold pens and food labels so they’re easy to find when you’re marking and dating leftovers.
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More Crafty Containers
These clever designs work both in the refrigerator/freezer and out of it (clockwise from top left).
Rachel’s son likes cheese cubes packed in this tossable sphere. To buy: Snack Ball, $6.50, booninc.com.
Pour water in the base and the humidity-controlled pod will keep parsley, sage, and their friends fresh for three weeks. To buy: Herb Savor Pod, $20 each or $40 for three, prepara.com for stores.
If you always forget to pack a fork for lunch, this box hangs on to its own. To buy: Tellfresh Lunch Kit, $3, containerstore.com.
Need something for a meal on the go? Divided sections and stay-fresh click-shut technology makes this container just right for the car. To buy: Klip It Lunch Cubes, from $4.50, containerstore.com.
Leakproof, airtight, and microwave- and freezer-safe: perfect for soup. To buy: Top square container, from $4, oxo.com.