The first step in organizing your refrigerator is to get everything out. Tackle the moldy bolognese you've been avoiding and stock up on all your condiments.
When you're ready to refill your refrigerator, avoid thinking of it as a junk drawer for food. Designate different areas for different types of projects.
A basic understanding of food safety can help you decide what to keep in your refrigerator. A refrigerator is usually coldest at the back and bottom, hotter on the top shelf, and hottest on the door. So doors are great for storing long-shelf-life condiments like jam, mustard, and hot sauce, but try to avoid storing milk there unless you can drink it quickly. Raw meat should always be in the bottom of the refrigerator - not only for cold temperatures but also because you don't want a leaky package dripping chicken juices on other things.
Beyond that, organize your refrigerator according to how you cook and eat: put things you use (or want to get done) front and center, and store ingredients you only use occasionally in hard-to-reach corners.
You will find it easier to maintain order with a good set of refrigerator storage boxes. The best are clear and stackable, so they make it easy to see what you have at a glance. I prefer shallow containers to tall deli-style quart containers that hide what's behind them. For several great options in plastic or glass, check out our guide to the best food storage containers.
Even with the best containers, it helps to have a system for managing leftovers. One of the basic rules of any restaurant refrigerator is first in, first out: first in, first out. This means that new food always comes in the back, pushing old food to the front, guaranteeing that it will be used up first.
To do the same at home, you'll need to spend a little extra time picking up groceries or leftovers, but it'll save time later. Instead of hunting around for open ketchup jars, you have the food you need to finish right at your fingertips.
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