Raise your hand if your holiday refrigerator is more overstuffed than the turkey itself. Two professional organizers give us valuable tips for creating ample space for the entire feast.
I love hosting holiday dinners. It never fails though -- I forget to bring out something that I'd planned on serving. It might be as simple as some special olives I bought and forgot about in the back of the fridge, or as significant as an entire side dish I made from scratch. Either way, something always gets swallowed up by my bottomless, overstuffed holiday fridge.
This year, though, I decided to make a change. With the help of Laura McHolm and Julia Rivard -- two professional organizers (who are members of the
National Assocation of Professional Organizers, or NAPO )
-- I'm making ample space in the fridge and planning for a stress-free holiday meal. Laura and Julia gave me tips for staying streamlined from start to finish. Here's some of what they shared.
- Stop grocery shopping a few days before the big event.
Over the next few days, use up as much as you can and don't replace it. Make a mystery meatloaf if you have to by tossing in those containers of leftovers, half a jar of sauce and vegetables that are nearing their end of life.
- Empty the entire fridge before you shop for the holiday meal.
Take everything out. Yes, everything. Hopefully you've emptied it pretty well over the past few days of creative meal making, but now it's time to deal with what's left. Laura, who's an organizational expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving
, suggests you organize by categories: "Keep", "Give Away", and "Throw Away." Check expiration dates and toss all expired food. And that salad dressing you bought, used once and didn't like? That goes too. If it's taking up room and you don't use it, trash it or give it away.
- Clean your fridge
by wiping down the shelves and drawers while it's empty.
- When it comes time to put things back in the fridge be judicious about what makes the cut.
If you have a spare fridge, relocate large items there. You can free up even more space by letting your butter go au natural and leaving it out on the counter. Your cheese will survive out of the fridge too! Here's a helpful list of other items we commonly put in the refrigerator that don't necessarily need to be there (or can at least manage a few days on the outside):
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Soy sauce
- Peanut butter (unless it's natural peanut butter)
- Syrup (unless it's 100% maple syrup)
- Steak sauce and hot sauce
- Filtered water
- Unopened salad dressings or other doubles you might have waiting in the fridge
- Baking soda (unless, of course, you're using it to absorb fridge odor)
- Canned and bottled beverages (relocate these to an ice chest so guests can access them easily and they don't take up space in the fridge)
- Combine like items.
If you have two half open sauces, mix them together. Make sure you mark it with the earliest expiration date to avoid confusion later. Downsize big containers into smaller ones wherever possible. You may even be able to reduce some items to a ziplock bag, freeing up all kinds of space.
I remember my own mom used to put extra bottles of pop on the back porch. The running joke was that we regularly forgot they were there!
- Adjust the shelves when putting items back in the fridge.
We often work around the shelving that's there instead of making it fit our needs. Professional organizer Julia
reminds us that those shelves are adjustable for a reason, so go ahead and make the space work for you.
- After your shop put items away in the fridge with purpose, mindful of when and how they'll be used.
Laura tells us it's all about "l
ocation, location, location! Take the items that you use least and put those in first to leave room at the front for your most used items." You don't want to be pulling everything out to reach the cranberry sauce you need right away. Instead, locate things according to your needs. Laura also suggests separating meats, cheeses and vegetables into different drawers depending on how you plan to prepare them (for platters or main dishes). Julia recommends using a Lazy Susan on a shelf to hold jars and smaller items, as this makes it much easier to access those items that might otherwise disappear in the back of the refrigerator.
- As you prepare food for the big meal, use stackable storage that maximizes your fridge space.
Avoid the temptation to prep food in serving dishes, instead use standard size containers.
- After the meal, the same goes for leftovers.
Scoop them out of those fancy dishes and put them in stackable containers. Better yet, send your guests home with leftovers. Plan ahead and have some take-out containers on hand and send your guests home with full stomachs and full hands.
What are your tricks for making sure the refrigerator door stays closed on the holidays?? Leave your ideas in the comments below!