Minimise food waste with one easy step

Filed in Blog by on April 21, 2010 16 Comments
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organising your 'fridge to reduce food waste

organising your 'fridge to reduce food waste

I’ve talked about this before, but it really is one of my number one tips for reducing food waste.

For a naturally non-organised person, even I can achieve this and if I maintain this one simple step, food waste is virtually eliminated.

It’s all about ‘fridge organisation.

Being a natural rebel I have done away with the idea of the salad crisper being in the bottom of the ‘fridge. You put your salad and veggies here, we are told, because the air is colder at the bottom of the appliance, plus some manufacturers claim this area is held at a specific humidity to stop items losing moisture.

In all my years of owning a ‘fridge I don’t think I’ve ever had such a clever model as to have retained a specific humidity in an area that is open to the rest of the unit.

For me, a salad crisper is merely a place for things to hide, go mouldy and eventually rot; ready for me to find a stinky, slimy mess a few weeks later.

So I’ve done away with it all and set up my own system which is much more friendly.

My salad crisper, where things tend to hide and get forgotten, is now full of things that can indeed hide and get forgotten because they rarely go off  – such as glass jars of chutney, jam, mustard, mayonnaise etc.

The TOP shelf (labelled “Hungry? eat me first!”) is where everything is put that needs using within the next 48 hours such as leftovers, vegetables that are starting to go soft, cooked rice, dairy etc

Top shelf items - use them up!

Top shelf items - use them up!

The next shelf down contains my ‘salad crisper’ items – i.e. salad, vegetables and any fruit. They are stored in a plastic container so that bits from broccoli and cauliflower don’t escape around the fridge, end up lodged in the back and block the drainage holes, leading to a pile of stagnant water at the bottom of the ‘fridge (note that I’m clearly talking from experience).

The bottom shelf  (labelled “Don’t eat me until the top shelf is empty”) contains things that are quite some distance from their ‘best before’ date along with things like cheese and meat that is bought and stored in our own containers or unopened dairy.

bottom shelf items

bottom shelf items

So there you have it; it’s not rocket science but rearranging the way we use and organise our ‘fridge has had a massive impact on reducing food waste.

What about you – what is your super tip for being more efficient, organised and food waste free at home?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Alea says:

    I like your system! My veggie bins are at an odd angle (30 – 45 degree with rasied ridges), so I can’t easily store items in it, but I am going to give it some thought and see if there might be a better way to arrange my refrigerator.

  2. I have never stored my veggies in the crisper boxes either.

    I tend to hide things like extra choc bars and the baking choc chips etc in there. but also store the apples in one of them.

    I’m lucky in that I have a 5ft larder style fridge.

    Top shelf – pickles, condiments and jams etc
    Next – sliced meats, sandwich fixings, boys choc bars
    Next – yogurts and salad
    Next – veggies and any leftovers
    Next – extra milk and fresh juice also beer, this is also the space which is used if something is needed to be kept for cooking the next day
    Cripser box – baking choc and boys extra choc bars, apples

    In the door
    Top – cheese, spare butter, and filter coffee
    Next – open fresh juice and mayo and dressings
    Next – more open fresh juice and made up squash
    Bottom – open milk, bottles of water.

    The reason I have made up bottles of squash is that the boys much prefer it cold and this saves running the tap to get the water ice cold; also the water is a bought bottle which is totally recyclable but is then refilled and put in to chill ( I try to drink 1 – 1½ litres per day), these bottles are replaced every approx 4 months.

  3. Sam says:

    Sold! I will, right now, empty my “salad boxes” of veggies and put in all the stupid jars. What a perfect idea.
    Yesterday I managed to rescue some veg and make a nice soup, but I still had to throw away some particularly sad items. I always forget they’re in there.

  4. Karin says:

    I’m hoping to take a different step to minimising food waste in October by sending my 21-year-old son off to uni at last. He cooks for himself and buys a lot of his own food, but we only have the one fridge so it gets rather full, especially when we both do a big shop at the weekend, but also because he has his half jars of things hanging around for a week or a month before he uses them up. Of course if both our children get to uni I’ll only be cooking for 2 so it will be even easier to keep track of.

  5. Steve says:

    A great idea. We are all trained as you say to put salad stuff in the bottom for it all to mould away to nothing! This all seems like a much better idea

  6. Ailbhe says:

    Heh, we work on the “empty the veg drawers every single week and have to suddenly go out and buy more veg” principle. But there are four of us.

  7. Alex says:

    Wow, I can’t believe I never thought of this. Love the idea of putting jars in the veggie drawers and veggies nearer the top.
    The first shelf for things that need to get eaten first is also a great idea although I’m not sure if my partner will go for putting uncooked meat here; he thinks along the lines of one must put these items at the bottom in case the blood drips. I don’t see this as an argument as I don’t recall this ever happening, certainly not onto the shelf below anyway. Besides, after we had to throw out an entire whole chicken the other day because I didn’t know Mat had bought it and he’d stashed it right at the bottom back and forgotton about it I think this is a solid argument for change. It was so wasteful I could have cried, never mind the poor old chicken dying for nothing!

  8. Sarah says:

    My veg box/salad crisper things broke and I’ve not used them since. The fridge is for food that needs to be cold and will be eaten within the next few days, everything else is frozen or doesn’t need to be.

    @Alex: Would he put the meat in a container? Just the bottom half of a plastic storage/tupperware thing would catch any blood drips?

  9. Alex says:

    Ooh now that is another jolly good idea! I shall put it to him. Thank you 🙂

  10. Karen says:

    I have taken veg drawer out completely and use the fridge bottom for jars of stuff that have long use by dates.
    Veggies stay in the Riverford box in the garage which is cool. I can monitor box at beginning of week so I can reduce box order if there is still some left . Riverford now make it easy to change order weekly on line so I don’t overbuy.
    Fruit stays out on kitchen worktop. In theory there for a snack instead of a biscuit.
    Small fridge in garage from Freecycle which is only put on for holidays and visitors when I buy more. Good for wine chilling too. When the kids were small it was the lunchbox fridge.

  11. greenflag says:

    I am going to do this today.

  12. greenflag says:


    done it

    in so doing found some spring onions and a lettuce that otherwise might have been over-looked.

    will use some of the lettuce for lunch today

  13. Charity says:

    As we’re pretty much vegetarian the veg drawer at the bottom has a high turnover rate. It’s divided in half so every week when the Abel and Cole box comes I move anything left from the back to the front half so that it gets priority. I do keep salad leaves on a regular shelf and eat it ASAP, usually on the day of arrival, as I know from experience that the A+C stuff doesn’t keep well at all :(.

    I have a separate fruit drawer, but we don’t eat a lot so I buy very little nowadays.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Alea: Hi Alea, that sounds like an intriguing design – why is it like that?

    @maisie dalziel: That sounds like one very organised system, Maisie and I know your food waste is minimal 😉

    @Sam: Brilliant Sam! So pleased the idea helped; let me know if it works out for you and helps reduce your food waste.

    @Karin: Well that’s a good solution, Karin! It must be hard when people fend for themselves and everything gets stuffed into one fridge. I’m not sure how I would deal with that…

    @Steve: Thanks Steve, and good to see you. It’s the simple things that are often the most effective 🙂 I’ve just read about your square food garden work – good luck with that!

    @Ailbhe: Yes,it’s a balancing act between not wasting food but not running out either. I’ve started to keep records of the fresh stuff we buy to see if we can see a pattern – that should make buying and planning easier.

    @Alex: Hi Alex, great to see you. What a shame about the chicken! I understand that you’re not ‘meant’ to put raw meat up high, but if it’s packed properly, there is no risk. I hope you can convince Mat to give this ago and perhaps the results will speak for themselves 😉

    @Sarah: Sounds perfect Sarah – like you have a system that works for you already 🙂

    @Karen: That’s a great sounding system, Karen. Everything in sight so you can keep checks on it. Unfortunately our garage is full of junk and the odd mouse!

    @greenflag: brilliant! And you found lunch in there too. Well done 🙂 Enjoy the family gathering tomorrow.

    @Charity: Wow, your veggie drawer must be HUGE to get all that in there! Interesting that some families eat more veg than fruit – we seem to eat loads of both!

  15. Alea says:

    Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I always remeber that I need to look at the fridge design as I am drifting off. I think it is like that because the motor is at the bottom of the refrigerator instead of behind it which allows it to be deeper than our last refrigerator.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Alea: No worries, Alea; thanks for the answer – I like comparing notes on these trivial things!

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