Systems and Hacks That Help Me Cook Off the Cuff

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I am so intrigued by the sections of cookbooks where the authors go through the items they keep in their pantry and fridge. Space in any fridge is a premium but if you look to people who cook for a living, their fridges are often relatively bare. As it turns out, you can make a lot from a little when you stock (and clearly organize) ingredients that carry more flavor. 

I realized that the way I organized my own fridge could help me cook off the cuff more than I already do. I’ve gone through a couple of different fridge organization systems and I’ve hit my stride lately. It’s not necessarily the prettiest but it’s about function first and foremost. Since I’ve started using this fridge organization method, I’ve noticed that grocery shopping is a lot easier too.

Today I’m sharing my fridge organization system with you. I hope you find some helpful insights throughout!

Top Shelf

This is where I keep ingredients that add flavor to all sorts of recipes, including horseradish, miso paste, wasabi, roasted red peppers, olives, and more. They’re things that tend to last a long time, anywhere from months to a year (with the exception of eggs, which are also stored here).

Second Shelf

This shelf is mostly home to foods that I’ll go through more quickly and/or that are more perishable. This typically includes things like a batch of beans, yogurt, cream cheese, a tub of hummus, and plenty of lemons and limes.

Third Shelf

This shelf is typically home to leftovers I’ve cooked recently (or takeout leftovers). I’ll often reuse these things in future dishes, like adding roasted vegetables to an omelet or leftover soba noodles to a salad.

Bottom Drawers

I keep grab-and-go things for the kids, like cheese sticks, in one drawer. In another, I store meat items like bacon, pancetta, and chicken. In the bottom crisper drawer, I store vegetables. I’ll often wash veggies right when I get home from the store, line plastic containers with paper towels, and store the vegetables in the containers until I’m ready to cook with them. I’ve found this process extends their life quite a bit.

Side Shelves

On the side shelves, I store go-to condiments like hot sauce, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. I also like to store my herbs here in glass jars with water. Lastly, we keep our orange juice and any cream or milk on these shelves.

Here’s what helps me make the most of this fridge organization system.

1. To keep our fridge organized, I make a point to spend half an hour or so each weekend sorting through what we have. I take out things that are expired and take stock of things we should use up soon. I also wipe out any residue or crumbs that have accumulated.

2. I have a couple of products I use to keep things separated and organized, including:

3. In terms of storing leftover food or prepped ingredients, we use mostly glass jars and plastic takeout containers. I use masking tape and a Sharpie to date most things, which makes it so much easier to scan and remove things as needed.

4. For inspiration on how to make the most of what I have in my fridge and pantry, I’ve loved these cookbooks in particular.

  • The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones – This is about cooking seasonally and making simple, delicious recipes.
  • One: Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones – This includes very actionable tips for being more resourceful in the kitchen. There’s also a section for different ways to cook with common ingredients, which is so helpful for cooking things on the fly. 
  • The Art of the Pantry by Claire Thomson – This is organized by section of your pantry with recipes to match different staple ingredients.
  • No-Recipe Recipes by Sam Sifton – This book is a helpful guide to improvisational cooking (my favorite kind).

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