How organization can cut down on food waste

As a busy mom, I’ve learned a thing or two about how kitchen organization can impact not only what we eat, but how we eat. How you approach organization in your kitchen – all with an emphasis on making good food choices- can help save time and reduce waste.

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Food is meant to be something that we enjoy and not a source of stress. If you start by bringing the right foods into your home (the hardest part), you’ll be less likely to harbor negative feelings about what you’re eating. One thing that’s helped reduce anxiety around food and food prep in my home has been taking a moment to map out my family’s meals for the week. I know that it’s not for everyone (and trust me, I was a non-believer at one point too!) but I have found that it has greatly helped to cut down on unnecessary trips to the grocery store while also discouraging food waste. Before I plan for meals I have found that it’s helpful to take a quick sweep of my fridge and pantry to figure out what things I can use and then put together a shopping list based on the ingredients I’ll need to buy.

Speaking of - researchers have found that “the average American household throws out $640 worth of food each year.” That’s 16% of the food that you buy during the year!  Why? Food waste is created by not knowing what’s in your refrigerator and pantry to begin with, as well overbuying at the store and underusing what you bring home. The end result is spoiled or expired foods that end up in the garbage. What a waste! When I hear that amount of money my mind automatically goes to what I could do with that $640 and the last place I want to see it go is in the garbage can.

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I can’t tell you how many fridges I have organized where there are old or spilled contents sitting in the bottom of the drawers and on the backs of shelves. When it comes to the fridge, it’s just one of those spots that are so easy to look past the clutter or dismiss the mess. On average, we are probably going to this area of our kitchen a dozen times per day, so putting effort to making it functional and organized is just as important as any other area in your home.

An important part of staying on top of fridge organization is taking stock of what you have. I recommend pulling out everything and forming specific groups from within broader categories of items like your drinks, fruits and veggies, snacks, leftovers, and meal kits. If you have food in boxes or bags, fruit and vegetables, ditch the packaging. It takes up unnecessary space, and makes it harder to see how much you have on hand.

Before you add the products back in, you’ll want to wipe down the drawers and shelves to remove any gunk that’s been left behind. In my opinion, this is a task that I really despise spending time on. There are enough areas in the house that I spend keeping up with on a weekly basis and I don’t want to add the fridge to the list. Call me crazy but I would so much rather be enjoying the food in the fridge rather than scrubbing spilled salad dressing off of the bottom of a fridge door basket :)

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As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I always recommend investing in products that are not only functional and add to the existing aesthetic of your home BUT also save you time. Years ago when I discovered Fridge Coasters I hit “purchase” on the spot because not only would they help keep the inside of my fridge clean, but they made the fridge more visually appealing. They can be customized to the size of your fridge and your style preference, and as someone who moved many times in the last five years I’ve brought these with me along the way. Similar to kitchen drawer and cabinet liners, adding this product allowed for me to bring in a design element that made me excited to open my fridge and therefore more likely to keep up with the order behind the fridge doors.

Adding liners to fridge drawers and shelves not only make your fridge look amazing, but they keep it clean. Regardless of how tidy you keep your fridge there will always be the container that leaks on a shelf or the piece of food that accidentally squished in the back, so putting a product in place to make those types of situations more manageable are worthy investments in my book.

Of course, the way you store your food will also help to keep up with the cleanliness. Once you’ve pulled all of the contents out of the fridge, categorized what stays and what goes, and wiped down the interior, it’s time to load it all back in. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” is particularly relevant when it comes to the fridge, because if you can’t see the item you are likely not going to consume it since you (1) don’t know it’s there to begin with or (2) don’t want to hunt for it. To encourage your family to eat what you have in stock, make it accessible to the user! Keep snacks at eye level and make them accessible for even the smallest family members. If you can, try to adjust the shelving height to accommodate your products, and create zones for your food categories so that when you are looking for a particular item you’ll know exactly where to find it. This might require a little creative problem-solving to make everything fits, but it’s worth the upfront effort.

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I’d love to know: how do you approach your grocery shopping and meal prep? Do you shop in person or do you rely on meal services and grocery delivery services? If you have any tried-and-true tips or services that you use please let me know in the comments section!

*BONUS: Use the discount code rachel10 to receive 10% off your Fridge Coasters purchase!


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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.