Messy Refrigerator and Freezer Preventing You from Eating Healthy?

Organize Your Restock for Your Sanity

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Have you ever opened your refrigerator and freezer and felt like you have no idea what is in it, how long it's been there and what to do with it? It's hard to eat a healthy diet when you don't have the ingredients you need at home or the sanity to figure out what you need to get started. And many times we complain that we don't buy a great deal of fresh food because it spoils. I asked Susan Weiner, author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer: Your Guide to a Less Stressful and More Manageable Diabetes Life to explain why having an organized refrigerator is so important and tips on how to clean it up for a fresh start at a healthy lifestyle.

Find out all she had to say to get motivated and prepared. 

Why is it important to organize the refrigerator and freezer? 

Have you ever decided to prepare a healthy meal - set up your pots, pans and cookware, taken out all of your ingredients… and then realized that you ran out of olive oil or that the chicken you needed for the main dish wasn’t defrosted? If you organize your kitchen, refrigerator and freezer, you can find what you need very easily.

Organization also helps you avoid the cost and waste of duplicate purchases. Keep things in clear containers and label everything so that you can easily locate it and throw out anything out of date or spoiled. If you know what you have in inventory, you won’t duplicate the purchases.

Is there a good way to prevent fruits and vegetables from spoiling? 

Store fruits and vegetables in separate drawers when possible to minimize spoilage. Some vegetables give off a gas that can increase the ripening process and increase the chance of spoilage.

Don’t wash then until you are ready to use them, and store them in perforated plastic bags so they last longer.

Where should meat be stored and how long can it stay in the freezer? 

In the refrigerator, always store raw meat on the lowest shelf. The temperature is the coolest at the bottom of your fridge.

And this also prevents raw meat from dripping on any cooked food and contaminating it.

When properly wrapped in freezer-safe bags or containers, meat can keep for months in the freezer. Here is a great website that lists safe storage periods for meat and other foods:

Is there a way to prevent freezer burn? 

Foods that have freezer burn look awful, and the quality and taste will not be the same. In order to prevent freezer burn, try some of the following tips:

  1. Try a freezer-safe container that is moisture proof. 
  2. Buy containers and freezer bags of different sizes, so that you have the right sized container or bag for every need. Make sure all the air is out of the freezer bags before you put in foods to be stored.
  3. Make sure the freezer is set to the correct temperature and you don’t keep opening and closing the door.
  4. Don’t over stuff the freezer. That way you’ll know what you have and reduce the chance of freezer burn at the same time.

What about leftovers - how can I organize them?

Label, label, label! Store leftovers in clear containers and label them clearly with a date. Store leftovers in a particular place in your refrigerator or freezer so they are easily located.

How long will leftovers last in the refrigerator before I have to throw them away? 

If properly stored, leftovers can be kept in the fridge for about 3-4 days. If you question the way the leftovers look or smell, throw them out right away.

If you had to pick 5 foods that someone with diabetes must have in their refrigerator what would they be? 

For the most nutritional punch with the least impact on blood sugar, I’d choose:

  • Colorful fruits in season such as blueberries and melon
  • Colorful vegetables in season such as broccoli and kale
  • Chicken (to be cooked within a day or so from time of purchase)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Eggs

About Susan Weiner

Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN is the 2015 American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) Diabetes Educator of the Year, and the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award from SUNY Oneonta. She co-authored  (Spry 2013) with professional organizer Leslie Josel. Susan was recently voted one of the 10 top diabetes nutrition education bloggers by She is the medical advisor for and is on the advisory board of several diabetes organizations. Susan earned her master’s degree in applied physiology and nutrition from Columbia University.

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