Following This Refrigerator Clean Out Plan Will Help Save You Money at the Grocery Store

Yes, really.

We've all gazed longingly at the beautiful kitchens featured in the movies, where a character casually whips open her refrigerator to reveal a perfectly curated landscape of bottles, produce, drinks, and fresh herbs. While it is enviable, it's also more achievable than you might think. Follow the steps below and you'll be starring in a movie of your own in no time (well, kind of), and trimming your food budget, to boot.

Clean Refrigerator Drawer
Getty/© eleonora galli

1. Make a game plan.

To make this process as efficient as possible, start with the end in mind. Before you change anything inside, take stock of what's already in your fridge. Write down each of the major categories you know exists (you'll break them down into smaller ones later): fruit, vegetables, cheese/dairy, eggs, canned drinks, wine, and bottled sauces/dressings, to name a few. Once you've got your categories broadly defined, make a rough map of what will go where. What will be stored in the door versus on the shelves? Don't necessarily plan to put things back where you got them – make some moves to suit your specific needs. Oh, and be sure to designate space for leftovers.

2. Gather and purchase organizers.

Though most refrigerators have lots of built-in storage, it never hurts to add storage of your own. Glass or lucite baskets, bins, and bottles make maintaining your soon-to-be gorgeous fridge a snap. Organizing experts use clear bins and jars to do more than get rid of the visual clutter labels can create; these storage systems allow you to see what you have and what needs to be replaced. Gone are the days of forgetting to put items on a grocery list or accidentally buying double.

Pro tip: A lazy Susan is a hero piece for keeping lots of sauce bottles easily accessible with the flick of a wrist.

3. Unload and clean.

Now that you've got a plan, it's time to get cleaning. Take everything out (everything), toss highly perishable things in the freezer, and get to it. Nothing is safe: the tiny crumbs in the produce drawers, that strange ring of water on the glass shelf, the mess from that leaky bottle of soy sauce. Removable drawers and shelves should get popped out and washed with soap and water in the sink. Dry everything completely before replacing. You'll wonder why you didn't do this sooner.

4. The great purge.

Consider yourself a ruthless purging machine. Look at expiration dates and shrewdly assess what things you're actually going to use versus what you bought for a recipe months back and haven't touched since (hello, random artichoke hearts). Throw away, recycle, wash out old jelly and jam jars to be repurposed as storage containers, but don't hold on to anything you have doubts about.

5. Reload, label, and marvel.

Once you've cleaned and purged, you'll likely have a much smaller group of items that needs to go back into the fridge. This is a great time to make any last-minute pivots to your fridge map. Maybe you've realized that you don't use lots of meats and cheeses, but you do have lots of soda water like LaCroix or Topo Chico. The deli drawer is a perfect place for those bulky cans and bottles. The final touch? Add labels to shelves, baskets, and jars to keep everything in its place. Spring for the pre-printed stickers on Amazon, or create your own using strips of butcher paper affixed with clear packaging tape. Get creative and continue to beautify by storing fresh-cut herbs in an open glass jar with water. Soon you'll be feeling inspired to create a culinary masterpiece knowing that your refrigerator is film-worthy.

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