How to Arrange Your Refrigerator Shelves and Drawers by Food Group

Find out what food items should be on the top shelf of the fridge.

Like real estate, fridge storage is all about location. Shelf or drawer? High or low? Organizing your fridge according to the varying internal temperatures will help your food stay fresher longer. In general, the temperature of a fridge is the coolest on the bottom shelf and in the back. The top shelf is warmer than the middle or bottom shelves, and the fridge door is the warmest of all fridge locations. Based on these fluctuating temperatures, here is where to store common food items in the fridge:

Arranging Fridge Shelves: What Goes Where

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Keep eggs where the temperature is most consistent—on the middle shelf. Store in the original cartons (don't transfer to the fridge egg container).

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Milk tends to land on the top shelf or in the door, but it should be on the bottom shelf all the way in the back of the fridge where it's coldest.

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Yogurt, Sour Cream, and Cottage Cheese

Other dairy products also fare best on the bottom shelf. Stack items on a turntable to keep everything accessible and expiration dates visible.

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Packaged Raw Meat

Raw chicken and other meats should go on the bottom shelf. And if juices drip, they won't contaminate the whole fridge.

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Fresh vegetables stay fresh longer with a bit of humidity: The drawer labeled vegetables or high humidity is the moistest spot in the fridge. Store most produce in the original packaging or in a plastic bag, loosely tied.

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Oranges, grapes, and other fruits belong in the low humidity drawer (sometimes marked crisper). Keep fruit in the original packaging or in a plastic bag, loosely tied (citrus is fine with no bag). Tip: Leave vegetables and fruits unwashed until you use them. Water can promote mold and cause bacteria to grow.

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Deli Meats

Turkey, roast beef, and other sliced deli meats belong in the shallow meat drawer, which is slightly colder than the rest of the fridge, or (if there's no such drawer) on the bottom shelf.

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Butter and Soft Cheeses

Cheeses and butter don't need to be super cold, so they can be stored in the dairy compartment on the door, which is the warmest part of the fridge. Place soft cheeses, like Brie and goat cheese, in an air-tight container after opening them.

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Sauces, dressings, and other condiments are generally high in vinegar and salt, which are natural preservatives. So ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing are fine on the door. The same goes for pickles and jarred salsa. Olive and vegetable oils can remain in the pantry, but nut oils, like sesame and walnut oils, belong in the refrigerator on the door.

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Orange Juice

Juices can be stored on the door as long as it's pasteurized. Fresh-squeezed orange juice or unpasteurized drinks should be stored on the bottom shelf.

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