I clean the fridge weekly on Friday (catch-all day) before I go to the grocery store. This small effort makes a big impact because I am doing double-duty and taking inventory of what we have on hand, what we need, and making sure that there isn’t anything that’s past its prime in the refrigerator. I timed it and the whole process took me 10 minutes this week – cleaning, tidying a bit, and making a quick list. I’ve been doing the main grocery shopping on Fridays for years. When I was working outside the home I’d stop on my way home from work and now that I work from home, I will head out during the day and/or we’ll go out after dinner on Friday night as a family. If you are working outside the home and trying figure out how you can muster up the energy to do your grocery shopping on Friday night you could put in an order at your grocery store on Thursday night or during your lunch break on Friday and pick up your order on your way home from work. Or do a quick stop on your way home and grab rotisserie chickens for dinner along with your groceries. Alternatively you could go early on Saturday morning before the crowds.
My daughter took this picture of me and it shows my excitement over a well-stocked fridge for the weekend. Why does this little routine work? I am not a fan of shopping on the weekends – it’s crowded, food isn’t always fully stocked or its picked over and I like to relax and enjoy family time instead of fighting the crowds and worrying about what we’re going to eat. I also find that everything just takes longer on the weekends – traffic, lines, crowded parking lots.
I’ve linked up my favorite products from this post at the end of the post.
Here’s what I do to make this routine work and stick:
We eat a whole foods, minimally processed diet and eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit. I do head out one other time during the week to stock up on fresh produce and anything else we need to fill in with – typically on Tuesdays. Begin by assessing the fridge. Take a look at expiration dates and separate things that are past their prime or are virtually empty. Rinse and recycle containers that you can and toss or compost everything else. When your fridge is empty or close to it, it’s time to wipe down shelves and drawers.
If I’m just doing a quick weekly clean out, I use a little water on a bar mop towel, wipe, and rinse as I’m going. If the fridge needs a good cleaning, I mix up this one with just three ingredients.DIY Refrigerator Cleaning Solution:
  • Mix up 1 teaspoon of dish soap (or my favorite, Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Orange castile soap), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and about 4-6 cups of warm water.
  • Wipe down the shelves with a well rung out bar mop towel or cleaning cloth. Repeat until all shelves and drawers have been wiped clean. Dry if necessary.

Wipe shelves via Clean Mama

It has taken a bit but I finally feel like I have a good system for the refrigerator. Here are the rules that I follow for the most success week in and week out:

  1. group like items together
  2. meal prep + menu plan on Fridays (Catch-All Day)
  3. meal component prep (cut up veggies and cook/prep meal components in advance)
  4. have healthy high protein snacks ready

Here’s a labeled version to help you see where everything is at. See the descriptions below the image – left to right.

Baking goods, jam syrup – keeping the left side as sweet ingredients (like jam or maple syrup) with nuts and seeds has been really helpful for organization
Beverages – we drink bottled and sparkling water and I make kombucha every week
Prepped food – cut up veggies and fruit – this is a HUGE weekly timesaver
Butter – stick and/or spreadable (we use Kerrygold)
Quick protein snacks – we keep string cheese and yogurt in this bin so the kids can grab a quick snack
Eggs – fresh + hard-boiled (hard boiled in a bowl and fresh in the box)
Meat or meal prep – I keep uncooked meat in a half sheet baking pan to prevent leaks and to keep it contained.
Milk + juice – keep this on the same shelf for easy access
Condiments – limit and keep an eye on those condiments – Tessamae’s is our favorite dressing and it needs to be refrigerated and we can’t run out so there’s always one open and unopened jar.
Fruit + veggies – take them out of the bags and put them in the drawers
Cheese, deli, wraps – we keep wraps and lunch meat and cheese in here – pretty predictable

Here are a couple more tips for keeping the fridge clean, organized, and well-stocked:

You can see some meal components here a little closer – berries (we have these prepped and on hand all the time), cut up veggies – this week I have peppers and cucumbers, leftover burrito bowl meat for a lunch or two, zucchini noodles prepped, and hard boiled eggs. I store everything that I can in glass storage containers – it’s better for you and your family and they clean up so much better!  I talk about this and other sustainable food storage options at length in my new book, Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home – grab a copy if you haven’t yet!

I know someone will ask about the kombucha – we love it and make it every single week. This is a cherry batch. So good for you – the kids drink it every day. I use the basic recipe from the Kitchn if you’re interested. I’ll link the bottles below too.

Limit your condiments to what you can store on the inside of the door so they aren’t spilling over into the rest of the refrigerator. Height matters. Store your taller bottles and containers in the back and shorter in the front.

I love to use this acrylic container to group like items together – these are our grab-n-go protein snacks. Going vertical with storage also maximizes your space and can double your options.

Think outside the box when it comes to your crisper drawers. Not all fruits and vegetables require the higher humidity in those drawers. Consider how you could use this space for easily accessible snacks or meal components for the kids or your family or for bottled or canned beverages. We fill these up with fruit and veggies, I keep them at low humidity and find that they stay fresh longer. I love the pictured French shopping bags for grabbing produce at the store and ditching those flimsy plastic bags that I can’t open anyway.

I hope this post helps explain how I organize the refrigerator and plan and meal prep for the week ahead. I love this part of my routine and I hope you do too!