Reduce waste, reduce single-use plastic, fridge hacks, food storage hacks, and how to organize your fridge!
Did you know that the total household food waste per year in the UK is 7.1 Million tonnes! With around 70% of that being food that could have been eaten?! When I read those stats, I was shocked! Now is definitely the time for us to start trying to reduce waste!
As a food blogger, it can be hard to try and keep on top of food wastage. However, this is something I’ve spent a LOT of time researching and focusing on so that I’ve been able to compile this ‘fridge hacks’ blog post to help you reduce waste, live as plastic-free as possible with plenty of food storage hacks and the best ways to organize your fridge and pantry.
I’ve really found that food storage is KEY to helping reduce unnecessary food wastage! That and ignoring ‘best by’ dates.
One thing that really shocked me when starting to research how to store various products to make the most of their shelf-lives was how many sources suggest storing items in single-use plastic: plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic, plastic, plastic… Unfortunately, as someone who is trying to cut out as much unnecessary single-use plastic products and generally go as plastic-free as possible, this just doesn’t work for me…
So, that being said, this post is going to be all about fridge hacks and food storage hacks that I personally use and have found work well for me (they’re by no means the only way to do things ), and about how to organize your fridge (as well as pantry organization) optimally to not only reduce waste but also to make it as plastic-free as possible.
Note* Some advice will also depend on how much fridge space you have (did you know that UK fridge space is quite a bit smaller than US-style fridge systems?!)
Why you need these fridge hacks & food storage hacks
I’ve found it can be really easy to end up with more waste than you’re proud of if you don’t keep on top of things. One too many impromptu days out one week and suddenly you’re left with a fridge full of fresh produce that is quickly losing its pizazz. Not to mention forgetting about leftovers at the back of the fridge, finding that your produce seems to go moldy/mushy way quicker than it should., etc., etc…
By learning these fridge hacks & food storage hacks:
- the best place in your fridge for specific items
- the best way to store certain produce without single-use plastic
- and some general tips that I find super useful
It will really set you up with all the tools needed to succeed and reduce waste right now & go plastic-free!
How To Organise Your Fridge to Reduce Waste
The Fridge Doors
One of the most surprising things for me is that due to fridge doors being the warmest part of your fridge, you actually shouldn’t use this area for your bottles of milk, eggs, etc.
It’s actually bad for their shelf life with all the temperature fluctuations. HOWEVER, and this is a big, however. This entirely depends on the type of fridge you have.
The manual of my fridge specifically states that the doors are dairy-friendly and it is fine to keep your milk there!
On the other hand, if you’ve got an old fridge or one that isn’t great with temperature control, this area is actually best for condiments and other items that can handle the temperature fluctuations – especially if you’re opening your fridge doors a lot. For example, any foods that contain a lot of vinegar and preservatives, as well as salad dressings and other sauces.
You can also use this area for your daily jug of water/ juice (any fresh juice that you make should be kept in a clear glass jar so you can monitor if it goes murky or has any color changes). It is also, surprisingly, a good area to keep any butter/spreads as they don’t need the constant cold temperature. In fact, it’s great since your spreads will likely be far more ‘spreadable’ straight from the fridge if kept here.
I’ll also often keep my home-made nut butters and nut flours in here. It will maintain them for slightly longer and keep the oils from separating in the butters.
Plus, as you can see I use glass containers in my bid to go plastic-free and, especially, single-use plastic-free.
Food Storage Hack* You can also keep nut butters and flours in a cupboard if you don’t have a particularly warm house & they get eaten fairly quickly.
The Upper Shelves
As the upper shelves have the most consistent temperatures, it can be good for anything that doesn’t need cooking like your hummus and other dips, leftovers, and deli meats/fish (ready-to-eat).
I also tend to put anything I need reminding to eat ASAP on the top shelf, at the front, so I’m reminded to eat them every time I look in the fridge thus further helping reduce waste.
Because I don’t get a lot of meat/fish, I tend to also use this shelf for any spare fresh herbs.
To store the herbs: For plastic-free storage and to reduce-waste: I trim the ends and then keep in individual glass jars with a little bit of water.
This will help them last for around 2-3 weeks, as long as you change the water every few days (I aim to do it around 3 times per week).
Food Storage Hack* Any herb left-overs can be frozen with a bit of water or olive oil, in an ice-cube tray, and then added to your cooking as needed.
If you want to dry your herbs, then tie them into bundles and hang in a dry area for around a month. You can then pulse them in the food processor so they are ready to be used when cooking.
I also tend to keep berries and all my prepared fruit and veggies on the top shelves since they spoil quickly, keeping them dry in a glass jar.
You can also rinse them in a water bath with some vinegar before-hand, however, berries don’t do well with the extra moisture and so you have to be very careful to pat them down and dry them completely or this can actually negatively impact their shelf life.
Being in the line of work that I am, as a food blogger, I think my fridge can be quite different 95% of the time. I usually have it filled to the brim with fresh produce, as I do right now, as you can see in my pictures.
However, through all the research I’ve done for storage in general, particularly with fridge/freezers that possibly aren’t as powerful as mine, I’ve compiled general tips for everyone.
Because these shelves are usually the coolest part of the fridge, it is great to keep all your dairy on the middle shelf along with any other dairy items – especially Eggs, which fare best in consistent temperatures. This can also be a great area for any ‘bread’ products like tortillas, etc.
The lower shelves are reserved for any raw meat/seafood – not just because they’re the coldest, which will help preserve them for longer, but also because it stops any ‘drippage’ going onto any other fresh food. I try not to pack the lowest shelf too much so that the cold air can flow easily so food lasts fresh for longer – once again to help reduce waste (a tip that’s best to continue throughout the fridge but I find quite hard with follow-through. Whoops!)
Fridge Hack * As a general note it’s good to try and keep salad veg and herbs away from the back of the fridge if they’re not in a drawer, as this area is much colder and can ruin your leafy greens.
This can really depend on what type of fridge you have. American-style fridge/freezers often come with a dedicated high humidity and low humidity drawers, there are also fridges that have humidity controls so you can input exactly what you want.
Regardless of exactly what fridge you own though, these drawers are perfect for your fresh fridge-based fruit and veggies. Or ‘majority of’ if, like me, you buy LOTS.
In which case you can keep any other fruit/veg in leftover space on top of the drawers (since I don’t buy a lot of dairy/deli products anyway, with an 80% plant-based diet).
It’s important to mention that there are specific fruits and veggies that don’t fare well in the fridge and also some that aren’t very friendly to your other produce.
This is because various fruits and veggies produce a chemical called Ethylene, which not only helps them ripen but also affects other produce around them in a bad way by causing them to over-ripen.
It is actually best to keep your fruit and veggies separated in general. This works great if you have two drawers, but this isn’t always possible depending on the fridge space you have available.
Tip* knowing about what are and aren’t ethylene producing foods is one of the best food storage hacks of all to reduce waste!
To store your leafy veggies: There are various options, including wrapping them in a paper towel (which will stop too much sogginess from occurring) and keep within a Ziplock bag. However, as I’m trying to be single-use plastic-free, I prefer to keep them in glass jars/containers or even eco-friendly reusable bags (specifically, keeping chopped lettuce in mason jars after rinsing and drying them, seems to work very well or un-chopped in the bags!).
Food Storage Hack* If you notice your lettuce going a bit limp you can actually rehydrate it by tossing it into a container with some iced water for up to half an hour to bring life back into it in time for dinner.
Leafy stemmed veg like Kale & Chard can be kept in glass jars with a little water to stay fresh for 2-3 weeks. Simply change the water every few days!
The same goes for celery and asparagus, which love being kept in a jar with some water, to keep nice and fresh (make sure to trim the stems first). This is also a great trick to revive the veggies if they aren’t being kept in a jar and you’ve noticed they’re starting to go a bit limp, as they could just need hydration (this also works amazingly with Carrots).
Food Storage Hack* When storing any prepped (chopped etc.) veggies, make sure to keep them in airtight containers so that they stay as fresh as possible.
- Avocados (don’t refrigerate till ripe)
- Bananas, when unripe (don’t refrigerate)
- Cantaloupe & Honeydew Melons
- Nectarines (don’t refrigerate)
- Peaches (don’t refrigerate)
- Pears (don’t refrigerate)
- Plums (don’t refrigerate)
- Tomatoes (don’t refrigerate)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green beans
- Lettuce and other greens
Fruit/ Veg that doesn’t need to be refrigerated & their storage hacks:
Avocados – These don’t actually need to be kept in the fridge. I tend to leave them on the counter to ripen and then pop any into the fridge when I want to slow down the ripening process, so I don’t end up with any mushy avocados (you know what I mean!).
OR, if you’ve bought a whole ton (which I do, A LOT), then you can choose to keep just a couple out on the counter and shove the rest in the fridge to slow down the aging process immediately.
Bananas – Though many people know this, it’s worth noting that bananas will brown faster if kept in the fridge.
Onions – You can keep onions fresh for months if you store them the right way. So here’s a top food storage hack: First of all, you’ll need some tights – now stay with me – Take some tights/pantyhose and place onions in the feet then tie a knot.
Place another onion above the knot and continue the process until full, then hang in a cool, dark, and dry place. This will keep the air circulating around them to reduce mold growth.
When you need one, you simply cut off the ‘toes’ of the tights and then un-knot the tights as needed.
Also, once chopped, you can actually refrigerate the left-overs in a mason jar (any air-tight container, really) and the jar will stop you from getting a stinky onion smell in the fridge. So completely plastic-free!
Potatoes & Squash – These do best in a low-moisture, cool environment so perfect for a dark cupboard. You can keep them from sprouting by keeping an apple or two in the potato bag (this is one case where the ethylene can be a positive!).
Tomatoes – keeping them in the fridge will actually affect their flavor and texture so it’s best to leave them on the counter.
Blueberries – the best plastic-free method of storage is to keep these in a glass jar, washing them just before eating them, then they tend to last a lot longer than if they’re kept in plastic packaging.
Carrots – First of all, it’s a good idea to keep these babies away from any Ethylene producing fruits. Secondly, when I found out that storing carrots in water actually keeps them fresher, I was a bit dubious since I’ve seen a mushy carrot or two in my time but – IT WORKS!
Simply cut off the greens and place in a glass container, covered entirely with water, and make sure to change the water every few days and you can keep them fresh for up to a month.
Tip* The carrot greens can be used to make a delicious pesto sauce.
A little bit more crazy, and something I haven’t resorted to yet, is storing carrots by covering them in sand and keeping in a dark, cool area. Apparently, this can keep them fresh for up to SIX MONTHS! 😲 (I only really buy as much as I need for one time!)
If you do happen to have any left-overs then you can chop and blanch them before freezing and these can be kept fresh for up to a year.
General Food Storage hacks
- If you’re someone who regularly forgets to use products before they have to be chucked away then definitely start using an ‘inventory’ – just keep a list on the outside of your fridge with items and their use-by dates to remind you of what needs eating ASAP. I recommend picking up an easy-wipe magnetic planner that you can re-use over and over, rather than paper.
- Unfortunately, one of the largest mistakes we can make for food-wastage is to take the ‘best by’ dates as gospel and treat them as ‘use by’ dates. I know some people who throw items out as soon as the expiration date hits, throwing away perfectly edible food. But, I’ve found that for certain fresh produce, I’ve been able to keep them going for over a month past their ‘best by’ and they are still perfectly fine! Always use your judgment and check on products.
General Fridge hacks to organize your fridge
- As general advice – A fridge’s temperature varies depending on how close the sections are to the cooling element with the fridge door temperature fluctuating, the upper shelves have the most consistent temperatures and the lower ones are usually the coldest: using this to your advantage when you organize your fridge can definitely help you make the most of your produce, with less wastage.
- To make the most of all the vertical space, it’s best to look for some containers (you can go plastic-free here, however, it’s not necessary if they are a good investment for repeated use) that are stackable or correct-height for certain shelves – so you’re able to make the most of the space available.
You can also get slightly larger sized ones to store similar products together such as all cheese or all dips etc., for easy access. This also means nothing will accidentally slide/fall to the back of the fridge. I love these glass bento boxes for my meal prep.
- To help with clean-ups, it’s a great idea to line your shelves with fridge liners that you’re able to easily lift out and wipe off.
- When you have leftovers that need to be stored: keep them at the top/front of the fridge. This way they are visible every time you open the door. This might seem obvious but I have definitely lost more than one container of leftovers in the past to ‘back of the fridge’-itus.
My Top 10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste & Single-use Plastic
So now that I’ve let you know all the information I’ve picked up for fridge storage, produce storage, and various preservation tips, I thought I’d write a list of my top nine tips to take away from this blog post.
1) Meal prep: Meal planning is so important to me as a way to be in control of what I’m consuming, stay organized, and reduce food waste. I love to meal-prep morning smoothies and various lunches and dinners that I can easily turn to.
I then keep them in airtight glass containers to reduce plastic usage. In fact, I’m going to be adding a lot of meal-prep posts to my blog soon.
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2) Beeswax wraps – These wraps are a great alternative to cling film. They can be bought as sheets or a long roll that you can cut to size (similar to cling film).
They can be used and re-used for a long time and keep any items (bread, cheese, fruit, etc) fresh for much longer. Plus, they’re super easy to keep clean too! Good-bye, single-use cling film and hello to being more plastic-free!
3) Eco-friendly Reusable bags – Once again, these have been an absolute savior to help go plastic-free. These reusable, eco-friendly bags are perfect for storing produce and various foods at home, as well as taking to the shop, grocery stores, and the farmers market.
It’s so easy to bring your own reusable bag wherever you go – just fold one into a small parcel and keep it in your purse or computer bag at all times and that way it is easily accessible.
In general, they are a great alternative to plastic bags as you can wash them and re-use again and again and they’ll last a lot longer than plastic bags.
4) Storing herbs – This is one tip I picked up that massively reduced unnecessary waste. I love to use herbs but really want them as fresh as possible. No-one likes limp herbs!
To keep them super-fresh: I trim the ends of the herbs and then keep in individual glass jars with a little bit of water. This will help them last for around 2-3 weeks, as long as you change the water every few days.
5) Storing carrots – I’ve mentioned this above but had to say it again here because I LOVE THIS method of storing carrots. I found out that storing carrots in a water bath keeps them fresher.
Simply cut off the greens and place them in a glass container, cover entirely with water and make sure to change the water every few days. The carrots will stay fresh for up to a month.
This is also a great way to save carrots that are starting to go a little limp. Simply cut off a bit at the end, and pop into a jar with a little water and they’ll soon come back to life!
Super Tip: Water is actually amazing for reviving all sorts of veggies. Dehydration is the cause of lots of veggie ‘limp-ness’ so cold water works wonders for all sorts: celery, lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, etc.
6) Glass containers/Pantry Organisation – I know this may seem a little obvious but this tip really does help with preserving your fresh produce.
When storing any prepped (chopped, etc.) veggies and fruit or leftover food or homemade milk and nuts, make sure to keep them in airtight containers so that they stay as fresh as possible.
Glass containers, jars, and bottles are definitely a good investment and much better alternative to plastic that can warp and tend not to keep as ‘air-tight’ for long. Just another way to go plastic-free!
7) Leftover herbs – As I said, I LOVE to use herbs. So when there are leftovers that I want to preserve for long periods, this is my go-to, to avoid throwing anything out.
Any herb leftovers can be frozen with a bit of olive oil, in an ice-cube tray, and then added to your cooking as needed. You can also store them in water if you prefer. I store my leftover mint leaves in water.
8) Leftover edible flowers – This is possibly not something that applies to everyone. But if like me, you love using edible flowers, then you’ll know that they don’t last long!
Instead of throwing away any edible flowers that don’t make it onto my desserts, I make crystal-clear ice cubes with them to use in drinks for events and gatherings. The trick here is to make sure that they freeze slowly.
9) Nuts – Now this is a bit of a bonus tip in a way. This is just how I love to buy, store, and use nuts. First of all, I start the process trying to remain plastic-free by buying my nuts from bulk bins using my eco-friendly reusable bags (which I can then wash when I get home if needed).
When I get home, I store my nuts in labeled glass jars and then use these for everything. From topping salads, for my various tart bases, zero-waste nut milks, nut butters, etc.
10) Leftover food – As someone who eats a plant-based diet, I often make large batches of kidney beans, chickpeas, and quinoa. If I find that I have leftovers after a few days, then I love to make veggie burger patties or falafels and store them in the freezer.
This way they last for months and you haven’t wasted any food! Alternatively, a stir-fry is a great way to use up any extra veggies and grains you have left-over at the end of the week!
More tips on going plastic-free
Even if you have plastic items at home – wash, reuse, and recycle them as much as possible. If you use straws, stop buying plastic straws and invest in bamboo or glass straws – they have so many sizes and colors as well.
Avoid buying plastic water bottles. It’s important to keep hydrated during the day, but you can fill up a glass bottle or tumbler. You can also use cloth napkins to reduce waste as you can wash and reuse them.
And that’s all folks!!
Hopefully, I’ve helped you out a little with this ‘fridge hacks’ blog post to help you reduce waste, live as plastic-free as possible with plenty of food storage hacks, and the best ways to organize your fridge! If you have a tip that I haven’t mentioned, please leave it in the comments below! Also, let me know if you’ve tried any of these yourself.