From avoiding cross-contamination to keeping veggies crisp, here’s the right way to fill a fridge.

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Man With Head Sticking Out of the Refrigerator
Credit: Getty/Peopleimages

A quick search of #fridgegoals on Instagram will reveal a photo deluge of neatly arranged foods and beverages. These fridge fans live in a world of symmetrical storage and forward-facing labels. While refrigerator organization can certainly look and feel pleasant, you might be surprised to learn that proper storage not only helps you avoid waste, but makes your food last longer and taste better, too.

Rachael Pack is the co-owner of Kinship Butcher and Sundry, a local and sustainable grocer in Atlanta. She says that beyond knowing what to put where, the biggest aid in keeping food fresh is being able to see it. "Avoid using foil. Seeing what you have in clear, attractive containers encourages you to eat the food, or see where it is in its journey. We are such visual beings, investing in good quality, pretty food containers will actually help waste less food."

Containers turn awkward box shapes and unsightly wrapping into streamlined refrigerator bliss, but sometimes it's best to store foods in their original packaging. Eggs, for example, should remain in their cartons. "Eggshells are porous, so they tend to soak up odors. The carton absorbs it, and keeps your eggs tasty for longer," says Pack. Another tip? Keep eggs and dairy away from the refrigerator doors which are actually one of the warmest parts of a fridge. The back of your refrigerator is the coldest, so store any foods you don't plan to eat immediately there. "I don't like to put delicate berries or herbs there as sometimes they can get too cold, which breaks down the cell structure and ruin the texture," explains Pack.

Instead, utilize those drawers because yes, they actually do make a difference and help produce retain moisture. Without them, those items will likely wilt. "Grocery stores combat the loss of moisture with their periodic thunderstorms. At Kinship, we visit our produce case with a water sprayer every hour," says Pack. "At home, I store my leafy greens in sealed Ziplocks, or other reusable bags, with a folded, slightly damp paper towel, and then put them in the drawer. It keeps my veggies fresh and crisp for such a long time." Further, you really should take a moment to separate your fruits from your veggies, "Most fruits, especially apples, release ethylene gas which makes other items mature and wilt faster."

It might seem like a no-brainer, but also take care to avoid cross-contamination of foods. Consider placing meats in the lowest part of your refrigerator, so everything above it is safe from drips and spills. Besides avoiding a mess, you'll also avoid any potential food dangers.

According to Pack, the biggest mistake home cooks make is filling a fridge to its capacity. "In order to keep everything in your fridge cold and at the proper temperature, air needs to circulate," she says. Otherwise, you run the risk of food spoiling. Should you find yourself questioning an item's freshness, it's best to trust your gut…and your sniffer. "Smell your food, if it smells sour, it is best to throw it away. Your nose should be able to detect when something isn't right. Trust it."