Let's be honest, people. Fridges are the most frustrating part of a kitchen, especially if you have a room mate, or maybe five. Maybe you like to cook some steaks during the summer and your room mate is a vegan. Or maybe you have a bottle of hot sauce that is mysteriously getting lower by the day. Or just maybe, you just moved in with your significant other and realize that one of you likes white bread and the other whole grain. Oy, the disasters a fridge can cause to your relationships and to your budget. A disorganized fridge is like snipping a hole at the bottom of your pocket and letting your money pour out.
The official definition of refrigerator is an appliance or compartment that is artificially kept cool and used to store food and drink. But what the definition does NOT include is that this compartment that looks rather large, bulky and (if you are a renter) ugly on the outside, is actually quite small and very rarely customizable on the inside.
If you have a fridge that doesn't fit that particularly large bottle of wine vertically in any section of your fridge, can I get an AMEN! Or how about those of you who have a lot of perishables that won't quite fit in your crisper, can I get a HELL YEAH! Well renters, unfortunate fridge owners, those of you with too many room mates just to make the rent, I have for you some ways to keep the peace in your apartment, house, or home.
The best way to save space and money while grocery shopping is to create a joint grocery shopping list for perishables and share-ables. These items could be fruits, vegetables, salad dressing, milk, and OJ or any other sort of item that people in your household share. For example, Melissa and I share eggs, TJ Orange Peach Mango juice, tofu, vegetables, fruit, and condiments. We do NOT share bread, milk and cereal. Imagine if we bought double of those items? This is what happens when you have multiple room mates. You could have 3 egg crates and then half of the eggs go bad by the expiration date. Another big one is ketchup or mustard. Right now, I live with Melissa and another friend, but we probably have 4 bottles of mustard in our fridge. How silly. Why would I need 4 bottles of mustard? And then I'll probably complain about not having space for Woodchuck tonight in the fridge.
Another excellent point on sharing is creating family dinner nights for you and yours. You could make it pot luck, or you could even make it a night to just clear out all of your left overs or soon-to-be-expired foods.
For those of you with many room mates, this will probably be hard to instill at first, but will work wonders. Clear bins. Assign each room mate to a bin, and label the front with the room mate's name. Each room mate keeps their individual items in the bins, and every room mate knows who bought the food. So if you want to borrow something, you know who to ask. There can be a community shelf on the top or the bottom of the fridge for bread, eggs, etc. It's important to have clear bins so that way you know what is in each container and there are no funky smells or mystery meats later in the week. For bin suggestions, I would suggest Mainstays containers at Walmart. They're really cheap, come in different sizes and are made for your fridge. If you are not near a Walmart, Container Stores or Bed Bath and Beyonds have similar solutions.
Foods that are not in clear bins or for some reason do not fit in clear bins should have your initials or color coded dots. You can find colored dots at any dollar store, Walmart, Target, or any office supplies store. Assign each room mate with a color and then label accordingly. I would strongly suggest having a notecard with the colors and names on the outside of the fridge so that there is no confusion, or no "I thought that was my color" bull crap when you realize someone ate your cookies.
All condiments should be placed on the door of the fridge, unless you want to keep it in your bin. Trust me, this saves space. And if you haven't done so already, adjust the height of each shelf to fit all of your items. If you think something doesn't fit, you can make it fit.
Once a week, check foods that have expired. Expired foods are probably what take up the most clutter in someone's fridge. If you have had ketchup or any condiment in your fridge for over a year, it's probably bad--don't use it and throw it out. Reward yourself with a new bottle of ketchup. It'll probably taste better and look better. Make sure every room mate does this with their individual eats, and if you see something that's expired that belongs to them, don't just throw it out. Let them know nicely or write them a note on a white board on your fridge.
So I hate to say it, but a lot of the items that you store in the fridge really belong elsewhere. Here's a little taste of what doesn't need refrigeration. And who knows? Maybe this will make a lot more room in your fridge. Of course, you CAN refrigerate these things if you want, and if it's more practical for your kitchen space, but that's all up to you. It's not necessary.
Potatoes, honey, onions, tomatoes, peanutbutter, bread (up to you), bananas, baked goods, oils, apples, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, jicama, lemons, limes, mangoes, oranges, papayas, peppers, pineapple, pomegranates, watermelon, squash, sweet potatoes, unopened canned goods, hot sauce, jellies and jams, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, mustard.
Hope this helps!! Send pictures of your refrigerator's before and after! As for me, I'll probably do this to my fridge too.