Does thinking about a cluttered refrigerator cause you instant stress? Do you lose things that get pushed to the back of the shelves or have trouble fitting everything in without creating piles that you'll have to dig through all over again later on? If you're in the process of buying a new refrigerator, taking a closer look at the interior organization is a must.
Factors like the style and configuration of the shelving and bins as well as the door storage and other features are all important considerations (check out our refrigerator buying guide for more info on choosing a new fridge). Keeping your food organized and in plain sight can help reduce spoilage and prevent the "I didn't realize we already had some, so I bought more" problem. We'll go through some of the many refrigerator organization options to consider when buying a new model to help you decide what options are a must-have.
On lower-priced refrigerators with wire shelving, you won't have a lot of built-in storage options. These are a cost-saver for the manufacturer. They are harder to clean than glass shelves and are seldom available with split shelf options. Adjustability is limited. You may need to buy supplementary bins to properly organize the interior.
Many modern models come with tempered glass shelving, which has a more attractive look and is easier to clean. If a manufacturer advertises this shelving as "spill-proof," that usually means the shelves have trim pieces to contain liquids. If you've ever had a bag of raw meat leak while in the refrigerator and drip down on the shelf below, you can appreciate the value of spill-proof shelving! When shopping for a new fridge, check out how tight the join is between the border pieces and the glass shelf. If liquids can run underneath the border piece and get trapped, it will be tough to clean! Meanwhile, some manufacturers offer wall-to-wall frameless glass shelves for a premium look and maximum storage capacity.
Most refrigerator shelving has some degree of adjustability. You'll want to look closely at how many adjustment heights you have and how many split shelves there are to adjust, allowing a variety of configurations. Split shelves generally run half the width of the refrigerator and can allow for the maximum number of configurations for tall and short items.
Another nice refrigerator organization feature is retractable shelving. These shelves have a retractable front section that slides under the rear section allowing for even more flexibility in shelving configurations for tall items.
Bins and Drawers
The configuration of bins and drawers can also help make or break your refrigerator organization efforts! Most refrigerators come with crisper bins for fresh produce. One great feature to look for in these bins is humidity control. Vegetables generally prefer high humidity while fruits prefer low humidity, so you can keep your fruits from getting squishy and your lettuce from wilting by using these drawers!
If you tend to forget you have something if you can't see it easily, consider looking for clear drawers and bins in your new refrigerator rather than opaque ones.
Some refrigerators offer additional drawers - sometimes called "deli drawers," they're great for organizing any type of item that tends to clutter up your fridge. Store away blocks of cheese and yogurt cups or even party trays so you can save shelf space for larger, taller items. These drawers may be full-width or half-width, and with some models you'll find them mounted under shelves, while in others they'll be placed above or below the crisper bins.
Speaking of drawers: a four-door refrigerator might be something to consider if you would like to have a dedicated area for keeping snacks, meats, cheeses, and other items at the perfect temperature. These French door refrigerators come with a drawer sandwiched between the freezer and refrigerator sections, usually with adjustable temperature options.
Another helpful extra is a wine storage rack, which usually consists of a tubular plastic or wire holder allowing you to store a bottle of wine laying on its side within the refrigerator. These holders typically hang from the shelf above and are often detachable.
Last but not least, the doors. This extra storage space is awesome for securing those tall, easy-to-knock-over items like condiments. Just keep in mind that the door tends to be the warmest part of your refrigerator, and the temperature can rise too high for food safety especially when the door has been opened frequently. Some review organizations analyze temperature trend data in different areas of a refrigerator to see how well they handle door openings and manage temperatures throughout the refrigerator cavity - they can be a good resource if you are concerned about this. If you plan to mostly keep condiments, olives, pickles, and wine or carbonated beverages in the fridge door, you don't need to worry about it!
Some refrigerators come with fixed door storage, while others have adjustable bins. Gallon door storage can be a really convenient feature. Many larger refrigerators have large bins or racks on the door big enough to store a gallon jug. This can free up lots of room in the fresh food compartment.
Removable door storage bins are another convenient feature of many modern refrigerators that some consumers love. Removable bins offer two conveniences. First, if you typically take the same condiments out to the table or out on your deck in a group, you can simply store them in one bin and remove the bin and bring it to the table with you. Secondly, these removable bins can be very easy to clean. You can simply take them out and wash them in your sink when you are cleaning your refrigerator.
Some refrigerators come with bins made specifically for egg or butter storage, or a soda can storage rack. Some models come complete with soda can dispensers in the door in the main fresh food compartment. These dispensers can often hold six or more cans. You simply pull out the bottom can and the remaining cans slide down to fill the open slot. They can also be used to store your favorite canned beer!
One last tip: an in-door ice and water dispenser will take up some of that precious door shelf space, but many manufacturers offer compact designs to give you the best of both worlds. Icemakers without external dispensers will also take up freezer space to some degree.
We hope you enjoyed this review of refrigerator shelving, door storage and bin options. Regardless of the type of refrigerator you're looking for, these internal features can all be helpful and make your food easy to find and access. When you go shopping for a new refrigerator, think about what organization features you like and dislike in your current model. Take pictures and compare the interior designs and see what options are right for you!
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Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in November of 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.