Fridge Temperature and Organization: How to Store Food Properly

fridge temperature and organization
Foto: CC0 / Unsplash / Ello

The right fridge temperature and organization are more important than you might think. Fruits, vegetables, and salads are full of important nutrients – but many of them can be lost before they land on your plate. We show you what temperature a fridge should be set at and how you optimize your food storage.

Optimal Temperature for Fridge and Freezer

When you organize your fridge, be sure to set it to the right temperature:

  • The optimal fridge temperature is 44°F. If your fridge has a regulator with settings from 1-6 or 2-7, set the regulator to 1 or 2. This way, your fridge temperature won’t be too cold.
  • Rule of thumb: If your butter isn’t spreadable, then the fridge is too cold and should be adjusted to a warmer setting. The optimal temperature for your freezer is 0°F. Running your freezer just one degree colder can cause your freezer to use up to six percent more power – an unnecessary waste of energy.

Important: Regulators with numbers from 1 to 7 do not directly correspond with the temperature. The regulator works within a scale: 1 is the warmest setting, 7 is the coldest.

Fridge Organization: Where to Place your Groceries

The top shelf is great for cheese and packaged foods.
Fridge Organization: The top shelf is great for cheese and packaged foods. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / / stevepb)

Proper fridge organization plays an important role in reducing food waste. If you want your foods to stay fresh longer, you should put them into the correct shelf in your fridge. Many products cannot be stored in certain shelves or compartments, others should not be put in the fridge at all. The air on the top shelves is up to six degrees warmer than on the lower shelves. This is because the cold air drops from the top of the fridge to the bottom – no matter the fridge’s temperature settings.

Simply follow this fridge organization guide:

  • Top Shelf 46°F – cheese and packaged foods: The top shelf of your fridge is well-suited for cheese, packaged leftovers and deli meats.
  • Middle Shelf 41°F – fresh dairy products: The middle shelf is the best spot for your dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, etc.) It’s also great for opened jars of fruits and vegetables.
  • Bottom Shelf 36°F – fish and meat: The coldest shelf is most suitable for fresh fish and meat. (Remember: Less is more when it comes to animal products, and make sure to buy organic where possible).
  • Lower Drawers 46°F – fresh fruits and vegetables: Because oxygen, humidity, heat, and light neutralize the vitamins in your fresh produce, the drawers at the bottom of your refrigerator are great places to protect your colorful fruits (berries, apricots, cherries, etc.) and vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and asparagus.

These Foods do not Belong in the Fridge

The fridge organization tips mentioned above will help you keep food fresh for longer. But some foods simply do not belong in the fridge – they will go bad, no matter where you put them:

  • Tropical fruits (e.g. pineapples, mangoes, bananas, citrus fruits, etc.) should not be stored in the refrigerator or they will develop brown, watery spots.
  • Vegetables with a high water content (cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.) lose some of their flavor when stored in the fridge.
  • Many root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, and onions, do not like low fridge temperatures and are likely to sprout if it is too cold for them. It’s better to store them in the cellar or in a dark cupboard.

Check out our guide on Storing Food: 7 Easy Tricks to Avoid Food Waste.

More Tips on Fridge Temperature and Organization

Many foods simply don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.
Many foods simply don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / - luboshouska)

You do not want your food to lose valuable vitamins? And want to prevent it from falling victim to microorganisms? Then consider the following easy tips:

  • Put the food into the refrigerator immediately after buying it.
  • Don’t overfill the fridge or the air cannot circulate. This way, the fridge cannot cool your food properly.
  • Place newly purchased products behind others. This makes it easier to use food prior to its “best before” date.
  • Store leftovers and fresh foods in glass or porcelain containers with a lid or a plate on top. This way, your food will stay fresh and flavorful for longer.
  • Some fruits and vegetables are sensitive to cold. Store them in a dark room or cellar.
  • Only store fruits and vegetables for a short period of time. Even if you store them correctly, they will quickly lose nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • You may have to change your fridge temperature according to season. Use a lower setting in summer and a higher setting in winter.
  • Always make sure that the door of your refrigerator is closed properly.
  • Defrost your fridge periodically. Otherwise frost and ice will built up on the walls. This lowers the cooling effect and your fridge will need to use more energy. Why not empty out and defrost your fridge or freezer the next time you go on holiday? You’ll lower your electric bill and your fridge will work more efficiently.

Tip: Fridge Organization is one way to keep food fresh. But did you know that there are foods that never expire?

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This article was translated and adapted from German into English. You can view the original here: Vorräte richtig lagern und die optimale Kühlschrank-Temperatur einstellen.

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