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spring cleaning

Lifestyle

Spring cleaning: 3 tips for organizing the refrigerator

March 30, 2016

The fridge can be a real situation in our home. We aren’t good about eating left overs, but we also hate to throw away food… so you can imagine how that turns out! In order to keep a tidy fridge, we really have to make a conscious effort. I recently set out on a mission to organize our fridge for good — and discovered a few helpful tips along the way!

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1. Rearrange the shelves.
This is probably a no-brainer for most, but I always forget that fridge shelves can be very easily moved around! When I really started assessing the situation in our fridge, I realized there was a lot of wasted space. Adjusting shelf height to better correspond with items on the shelves made a big difference and gave us back some much needed real-estate.

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2. Arrange your food items strategically.
I recently did quite a bit of research on where items in our fridge really belong. Until then, I had no clue and had been stashing things in all of the wrong places! Here is a cheat sheet I assembled to help better navigate the fridge scene:

Dairy: Most dairy items (like milk and yogurt) do better where it’s coldest — for most fridges, this is the bottom shelf, as far back as you can go. (Previously, we made the mistake of storing our milk in the door, which apparently is the worst place you can store milk. Oops!)
Eggs: Eggs don’t need to be as cold as some other items, so they do best on a middle shelf, where the temperature is most consistent.
Raw meat: Raw meat needs to be kept super cold, so it should also go on the bottom shelf. This also prevents your entire fridge from being contaminated if the juices from the meat leak. (Gross!)
Deli meats: If you have a shallow deli drawer, that’s the best place for deli meats. Otherwise, try to fit them on your bottom shelf.
Fruit: If you can adjust the humidity on your crisper, fruit does best in low humidity. (Another mistake we  made!)
Veggies: Veggies tend to do best in high humidity, so if you have two adjustable crispers/drawers, separate your fruits and veggies. (If not, don’t sweat it!)
Cheese: Generally, cheese doesn’t need to be as cold. Soft cheese can go in the dairy compartment on the door. We usually stick all of our cheese in the deli drawer though, because we don’t typically have enough deli meat to fill the space.
Butter: Butter can go in the dairy compartment on the door.
Condiments: Condiments tend to have preservatives in them, so they do fine in the door (the warmest place in the fridge).
Soda and other non-juice beverages: If they’ll fit in the door, that’s a good place for them. Otherwise — top shelf is fine, too.
Juice: Unpasteurized juice should be stored on the bottom shelf, but if it’s pasteurized, it can go in the door.
Left overs: If the food has already been cooked, the top shelf is a good spot for it.
Baking soda (for freshness): Since it doesn’t need to be very accessible, I stick our baking soda in the back corner on the top shelf.

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3. Containers are totally optional, but definitely more visually-appealing.
Depending on the style of your fridge, containers can actually help organize your food. My sister-in-law uses little bins to hold baby food and yogurt, which allows her to get rid of the bulky packaging they often come in. I use a few containers, too: a small dish for baking soda (simply because it’s more visually-appealing than the orange box), a tray for raw meat (to keep juices from dripping), stackable wine holders, a bowl for grapes (we eat them more if they are washed and ready to go), a Lazy Susan for dairy items, and a holder for eggs. Even though there are much cuter egg holders out there, I opted for this clear one because it has a lid so we can stack other things on it if needed. It also has a dry erase spot for an expiration date, which I love!

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So there you have it — a couple of tips that helped tame the monster that is our refrigerator. Any other tips for fridge organization?! I’d love to hear!

Lazy Susan for fridge (similar)
Egg holder
Stackable wine rack
Tray for raw meat (similar)
Mixing bowls (grapes, baking soda)

Lifestyle

Spring cleaning: 7 tips for creating an organized and functional pantry

March 22, 2016

Despite the cooler temps we experienced over the weekend, spring has officially sprung. Spring is one of my favorite times of the year because it means the days are getting longer, the temps are getting warmer, and summer is just around the corner… but also, it means spring cleaning! I used to dedicate an entire weekend every spring to thoroughly cleaning my place, top to bottom. But that was so exhausting! I’ve found it’s much simpler to do a couple small tasks each week and after a few weeks, the house is reorganized, and I didn’t lose an entire weekend because of it.

To kick off a mini-series on spring cleaning, we’re starting with one of my favorite places in a home… the pantry! Here are a few tips I try to follow when creating a pantry that’s equal parts organized and functional.

1. Bins and baskets keep things contained.
I know it can be a bit of an investment at first, but purchasing some bins, baskets, and containers was the best thing I could have done for our pantry. I labeled all of the bins for easy sorting and made sure the size of the bins were proportionate to the category. For example, we don’t eat much cereal, but it always seems like we end up with so many boxes! The bin I have for cereal only holds four boxes, so that helps limit how much we can have at a time.

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2. Groupings make cooking easier.
Most of my pantry is arranged by shelf. I try to keep all beverage-related items on one shelf, all of my baking supplies on another shelf, grains on a shelf, and cans all grouped together. This way, when I’m cooking — I know exactly where to reach for specific items. I designate the bottom shelves for non-food items like paper towels, napkins, trash bags, etc. And I purposely make the snack bin the least accessible. (Not that it deters us too much!) 😉

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3. Arrange so you can easily see what you have.
Until recently, cans and jars were the biggest issues in my pantry! I had a bin where I stored all of them, but I could never see what I had or find what I needed. I finally made the switch to this three-tiered expandable shelf, and it has made a world of difference. As you can see from the photo, the switch came after I had already purchased duplicate jars of peanut butter. 😉

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4. Make use of floor space, appropriately.
I don’t keep food on the floor of our pantry, because we have a very curious four-legged friend in our home, but the space is so precious that I didn’t want to waste it either! We use the floor for things like a step stool, dog food container, recycling bin, and extra dog bowls. We used to also store cans of soda or bottled water on the floor, but recently cleared off some space on the beverage shelf so now those fit up there with the rest of the gang.

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5. Create additional space with add-ons.
My always-organized aunt gave me this tip, and I’m so glad she did! The basket where I previously stored trash bags and baggies was completely out of room, but adding these undershelf baskets gave me some extra storage without sacrificing any space.

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6. Organize your pantry after a normal week of grocery shopping.
I’ve made the mistake of organizing my pantry when we’ve had very little food and also when we’ve had more food than normal — and that can be misleading! Organize your pantry when you have a normal amount of food. This way, everything has a place, but you don’t end up with an entire basket dedicated to a product you rarely eat. (Which was oatmeal, in our case!)

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7. Live with it, and adjust.
This is probably the most important tip of all — and the reason that it can often be difficult to organize someone else’s pantry. You’re the one using it, so it has to work for you! Try living with the changes for a little while, but if something doesn’t work or you find yourself always searching for certain items, move things around to make the space work better for your needs.

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Does anyone have other tips for organizing your pantry?! I’d love to hear!