Stuff Your Holiday Bird, Not Your Refrigerator

by on November 17, 2012Laura Leist

Just because November is “National Clean out Your Refrigerator” month, you don’t have to drop everything you are doing and grab a garbage bag and a scrub brush. More importantly, you should be concerned whether your fridge has room to fit all of the special dishes you plan to try for an upcoming holiday feast. Hopefully, most of us clean out our fridge more than once a year, with once per week being the ideal maintenance window. Here are a few tips to help you clean and optimize your refrigerator space during the food-filled holidays.

Smell Check, Not Spell Check

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To start the process, roll up your sleeves, put on your rubber gloves and pull everything out of the fridge. As you sort like items together, start the tossing process: expired salad dressings, duplicate versions of opened sour cream, limp vegetables, unidentifiable blobs in plastic containers, and of course anything that has turned green or grown a layer of fuzz.

Repeat the process for items in the freezer. Freshen and refill ice cube trays, and make room for a few extra trays or bags of purchased ice. If you have an ice maker, dump the contents and let it start making a fresh batch. It can get ornery when it is overworked.

Lean and Clean

Remove all of the shelves and drawers that are not permanently attached. Scrub them in soapy dishwater and dry them thoroughly before you replace them. After you have whittled down the contents of your emptied refrigerator to just the unexpired and usable keepers, wipe each item to remove any drips or spills before putting them in their home.

Divide and Conquer

Establish zones for like items in the newly scrubbed spaces, and adjust shelves where necessary to make room for large turkeys and hams or an abundance of specialty condiments in small jars. Now is not the time to have an “open concept” refrigerator. Make plenty of room for beverages. No one wants to drink a glass of warm chardonnay. If you have a large number of drinks to keep cool, fill a camping cooler or large tin tub with ice, put it outside on the back porch and let your guests know that beer and soda is in the “extra fridge.”

Before and After the Feast

Put your pre-feast dishes that need to be kept cold into square, stackable storage containers – not into grandma’s fancy china serving pieces. You will be saving lots of room for those guests who bring things on oversized platters that need to chill ”for just a bit,” and you will have plenty of “doggie boxes” to put leftovers into later to send home with family and friends. Ziplock bags work great for storing the contents of a soon-to-be vegetable tray, and they can be squeezed into those small nooks and crannies of your refrigerator.

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To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

A nifty way to make more accessible space in your refrigerator is to get a lazy Susan that is about 11 inches in diameter and place all of your salad dressing bottles, sauces, and specialty olive jars on it. You can then spin your way to your selection without wondering what is unreachable and probably expired in the back forty of the shelf.

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Like your powder room, your refrigerator will be seen and used by many of your holiday guests, so keep it spotless, organized, well-stocked and easy to get into and out of. The payoff is that you will quickly be able to find and retrieve those leftovers for your lunch the next day, cranberries and all. Rumor has it that they always taste better then anyway.


Laura Leist, CPO
Organizing with Laura

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