Selecting the Right Temperature
The proper temperature for a refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent your food from spoiling or growing mold. The freezer should be kept at 0 degrees. The temperature varies in different parts of the refrigerator, depending on how close they are to the cooling element; therefore, you should store your foods with this in mind.
The doors of the refrigerator are the warmest section of the unit, especially when the doors are constantly opened. Store pasteurized juices, condiments, butter, soft cheeses, pickles, jarred salsa, sesame oils, walnut oils and other non-temperature sensitive foods here, because they won't spoil like temperature sensitive foods. Keep in mind that these foods do have expiration dates, so you will still need to replace them eventually.
The upper shelves of the refrigerator is generally where the temperature remains the most constant. Professional chefs use this section to store foods like deli meats, hummus, and ready to eat tortillas, leftovers, berries and herbs for easy access. Eggs should be kept in their carton and stored in the middle of the shelf
The bottom shelves are usually the coldest section of the refrigerator. Use this shelf to store packaged raw meats, seafood, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream and milk. Store packaged meats on a plate in a designated area of the shelf to prevent bacteria from contaminating other foods.
The crisper drawers are low humidity to keep vegetables and fruits moist and crisp. If you have two crisper draws, designate one drawer exclusively for vegetables and the other for fruits. Avoid storing your fruits and vegetables in the same drawer, because some fruits produce ethylene, which can cause vegetables to go limp, sprout or even change color.
The freezer keeps frozen foods frozen and allows you to freeze fresh foods for later use. Use the freezer to store frozen fruits and vegetables, meat, stock and fresh foods such as pasta sauce, tortillas and eggs. Bread can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, but avoid storing it in the refrigerator, because it will dry it out. Milk can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, then thawed in the refrigerator until it is ready to be used.
Freeze foods in plastic storage bags or stackable containers to free up space. Label and date each storage bag and container for easy identification. Pack foods neatly and organized. This not only maximizes storage space, but it will also help you save on your energy bill.
Arranging Your Shelves
Store left overs in clear containers to help make them easier to find. Store items that last the longest in the back of the refrigerator. Place taller items in the back and shorter items in the front so that everything is visible.
Do Not Refrigerate
Certain foods do not do well in the refrigerator such as onions, potatoes and squash. Store these items in cool, dark places such as a kitchen cabinet or some other dark place to preserve their freshness. Store tomatoes at room temperature to maintain their sweet, juicy texture. Fruits such as avocados can be stored at room temperature as well.
If you have nuts, nut butters or nut flours that you are not planning to use up within the next few weeks, store them in the refrigerator to keep their natural oils and to keep the butters from breaking apart. Safflower oils, canola oils, olive oils and other low saturated products can also be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their life. Whole grain flours should also be stored in the refrigerator.
Keeping Your Refrigerator Organized
Keep your refrigerator clean to prevent foods from becoming contaminated. This can be done by simply wiping the shelves clean or invest in food baskets or liners which can be easily removed. Every week or so, sort through your refrigerator to eliminate foods that have expired or that you didn't use, to make room for fresh items.