This One Secret Step Will Save Tons of Space in Your Refrigerator
I often wonder if my condiments are secretly multiplying of their own accord in my fridge. The endless number of jars and bottles seem to never reduce their number, and despite having a pretty large fridge and only two people to feed, I would frequently stand holding a tub of yogurt or package of chicken wondering how I am going to find space amongst the jams and sauces for real food. I tried all kinds of ways to solve the issue, from trays to bins to stackable containers, but nothing was really a great fix.
Until I found the simplest solution of all. Downsizing.
The miracle of refrigerator downsizing
The first go-through of the fridge was shocking. By shifting partially used condiments and such into smaller containers, I regained a full half of the original designated footprint of fridge real estate. It was a revelation. I practically regained the equivalent of a whole shelf. The giant ketchup bottle with less than a quarter of the volume left? Three pieces of toast worth of apricot preserves in a big jar? The last four cornichons? Everything got moved into a cozier home, and my fridge began to open up. And once I got into the swing of it, downsizing just became standard habit.
Some refrigerator downsizing ideas
Here are some downsizing rules I've developed. Once a jar or bottle is below the ¾ mark for large containers (think ketchup or ranch dressing or pickles) or halfway used for smaller ones like jams or chili crisp, I just decant into a smaller container for storage. This process continues again as those containers begin to empty. It is so ingrained now that when I am using something in the natural order of my cooking, I automatically know when it is time to change the container. Once I realized how well it worked for the long haulers in my fridge I began to use it for the more frequent fliers. Half gallons of milk get downsized to quart bottles once half-empty. The giant tub of plain yogurt gets shifted to a smaller container once it has been half-consumed.
Containers and labeling ideas
Usually, I am able to move stuff to a small container that might even be stackable for even more space-saving, or I use a basic Ball jar in an appropriate size. Things like ketchup I might shift to smaller squeeze bottles for ease of dispensing.
Slapping a small piece of painter's tape on them with an identifier and an expiration or best-by date on it to remind me of the original provenance prevents the need to taste everything to see if it is black garlic paste or chocolate syrup and ensures that I don't accidentally eat seven-year-old harissa.
I am one of those people who semi-obsessively saves glass jars and bottles, but I also love some newer containers that I use just for this purpose.
Rubbermaid Brilliance containers are awesome for refrigerator downsizing. They are clear and stackable, airtight with an auto-release valve in the lid for easy opening, and the mini half-cup size are one of my favorite things to use for anything that is spoonable or spreadable.
Ziploc now makes Twist and Loc containers in a bunch of sizes which a great for downsizing more medium sizes jars, and I like basic deli containers for larger amounts. I also love the Kerr wide and short 8-ounce jars for jams and jellies, and I often pair them with these fun plastic lids which are easier to open than the two-piece metal ones.
Squeeze bottles are my favorite for salad dressings, ketchup, mustard and the like. I love these little bottles for small amounts, OXO small bottles for medium sized amounts, and Tupperware Squeeze It bottles for up to 12 oz.