food on refrigerator shelves

Having more stuff than you know what to do with can be a source of stress that weighs on every part of your life. Here are some tips for keeping a clutter-free refrigerator.

Preparing a healthy meal can be a fun household activity, but few things are more frustrating than an unorganized or cluttered refrigerator. Not knowing what you have on hand for a recipe will cause unnecessary stress. Proper organization can help you avoid this situation and make you feel at home in your kitchen.

1. Prepare your food.
Keeping a clean, organized environment can be the key to successful healthy eating. Make preparing foods a part of your grocery routine: chop and prepare ingredients as you're putting them away. Wash, cut, and slice vegetables so they're within reach for healthy snacks or recipes. This will make it more convenient and less time-consuming to cook a nutritious meal.

2. Use plastic or glass containers.
Prepared food can be stored in reusable plastic or glass containers. Assign different coloured lids for different foods to keep a grasp on your refrigerator inventory. For example, store cut vegetables in containers with green tops, leftovers in containers with red tops, and prepared foods, like sauces and dips, in blue. Be sure to use see-through containers so you can easily identify what's inside. Any time you open the refrigerator, you'll be able to see what's available and what you're running low on.

3. Assign everything a place.
Designate a space for each type of food in your refrigerator. Raw meat products should be stored on the bottom shelf so they can't drip or leak, passing bacteria on to other foods. Cooked foods should be on the top shelf, while fruits and vegetables can be designated to the crisper drawers. These drawers are designed to keep product fresher for longer. Place condiments and drinks on the door of the refrigerator. Organizing your refrigerator this way will eliminate the time it takes to search for food. If you don't see the vegetable you need in the vegetable drawer, you'll know for sure you don't have it.

4. Label and date foods.
Labeling and dating items can help eliminate any guesswork of when they were opened or if they're still usable. Placing older items in the front of the refrigerator can help prevent spoilage by ensuring you eat them first. Be sure to date and label everything that is opened or prepared. Keep in mind that package expiration dates aren't exactand that a product should be consumed soon after it's opened.

5. Buy only what you need.
Many people buy in bulk as a way to save money, but more isn't always better. These deals work best with non perishable items that you could always use, like toilet paper and paper towels. But food items are risky. Before snatching up the next deal, ask yourself if you're going to eat everything before it goes bad or if it will just take up space and ultimately be thrown away. With proper organizing and weekly menu planning, you can keep a clean, well-managed space.