A Fridge Primer

by | Oct 18, 2017 | Food Waste

maximize your 39 degrees

Proper Storage Is The Key

I’ve written about how to save aging vegetables by pickling them; I’ve shown you how to take inedible produce and give it a second life as stock; We’ve talked about prepping for the freezer; and I’ve shared numerous recipes for cleaning out your fridge.

But, there’s something that comes first – storage!

Lets tackle the fridge today. Much of your grocery budget goes to filling up the fridge, but we take its presence for granted. You’ve likely been tossing groceries in it and standing in front of it (with the door open) for all of your life. My not-yet-2 year old already pulls at the door looking for milk and blueberries. The humble home refrigerator is a modern marvel preserving our ingredients and keeping leftovers safe and convenient but there is still strategy to using it well.

Did you know that every fridge, no matter how new and top of the line has a warmer and a colder section? Use this to your advantage!The lower back corners are the coldest areas and the rack on the door stay the warmest. Cheese and produce drawers are useful and those humidity levers? They are actually based on science!

Ugh, this fridge is a mess. Time to organize!

Top Shelves

Upper shelves are warmer than those below. Use these shelves for random bits of produce, open jars of things like salsa, containers of hummus, drinks, yogurts, etc. Bonus points to set a shallow container up front with a USE FIRST sign. Put small odds and ends in here that you want to highlight for your fridge-mates and to keep them in sight and thus more likely to be consumed.

Bottom Shelf

Its coldest here. For that reason, its best to store uncooked meat and fish on the lowest shelf. Also, raw meat has been known to leak from time to time and putting it on the bottom means the purge (fancy name for meat juice) won’t drip onto and contaminate other foods. This is actually a tenant of food safety and something you could observe in any restaurant that wants to be in good standing with the health department!

The Door

Every ketchup lover knows the condiments go here. The shelves are narrow and obviously designed for this purpose. Butter, olives, pickles, Sriracha, etc. The controversy is over eggs. Many refrigerators have a built in slot for eggs on the door but common advise is not to use it. Some places storage eggs at room temperature! So what gives?

Eggs are perishable, about that there’s no question. If they’ve never been chilled, they’re good for a month with no refrigeration. From the grocery store, eggs are chilled and you want to keep them that way. They are however, safe to eat LONG past the date indicated (i’m taking 3-4 weeks past, so please don’t throw them out). We’ll come back to expiration dates in a full post soon, for now, store eggs in the middle shelves for months, on the door if you’ll consume them within weeks; they last longer when colder.

High Humidity Drawer : Low Humidity Drawer


Do you have 3 drawers? Lets use them.

Cheese drawer is simple and self explanatory. Let me just validate that its worth it as cheese does pick up (gross) flavors from the circulating air and will last longer in its own space.

Produce. If you have 2, keep one for high humidity and one for low humidity. Humidity = moisture in the air.

The high humidity draw gets mostly veggies, any that are full of water and wilt when they go bad.Think: lettuces, carrots, herbs, cucumber, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, leafy greens

Strawberries also go here as they are prone to rotting because of the gas that fruit gives off!

You can lay a slightly damp paper towel on the bottom to keep it clean and omit a little moisture. If you have air valves, keep them fully closed.

The low humidity drawer is predominantly fruit that benefits from airflow. On the counter, fruit ripens. You’ve seen peaches, bananas, and apples, all turn brown and soft when out of the fridge. I usually keep my fruit out until its getting too ripe and don’t think we’ll eat it quickly enough – the fridge buys us a few more days. In this drawer, keep your air vent open for flow, this will let the ripening gasses (ethylene) escape. You can also keep avocado, pears, citrus, and melon here.


A few final words

  • FIFO. This stands for First In, First Out. This is a pillar of food safety and longevity. When you unload new groceries, always be arranging. Pull whatever is in the back up to the front and put new groceries behind it. Teach this to your kids, your partner, your lazy roommate who steals your yogurts and make sure they comply. Human nature when hungry – which worsens upon reaching Hangry – is to do what’s easy, aka grabbing what’s in front. If you take 12 seconds to rotate when you’re putting new food away, its more likely the old stuff will get used up first.
  • Get a thermometer for a couple weeks and check your temp. Ideal is 37-39 degrees.
  • Please don’t ever store tomatoes in the fridge.
  • Keeping bread in the fridge doesn’t make it last longer, it only dries it out. Don’t do it.
  • Same goes for coffee beans
  • Treat yourself to matching tupperware and recycle the rest (try and recycle it or have fun: planters, garage storage, robot building project for the kids?) and you’ll be happier about the fridge overall and actually eating those leftovers!

Start with a clean slate…it only took me 30 seconds

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