08/25/2014 04:12 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2014

How Your Fridge Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

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We've all been there -- examining the mound of mush in a takeout container at the way back of the fridge, questioning whether it is edible. Or worse, cramming in dinner's leftovers only to find yourself with no way to close the fridge. It's food, and money, wasted. An organized refrigerator can change all that.

Click Here to See the Complete List of How Your Fridge Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

According to Marisa Moore, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average American wastes up to $600 a year on spoiled food. The NRDC reported that an average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 every year. That is money you can save just by organizing your fridge. Donna Smallin Kuper, author of How to Declutter and Make Money Now, suggests totally overhauling your fridge. "Start with the top and work your way down," she says. "Be sure to open and unwrap everything to see what you have. Check expiration dates and throw out anything that is clearly bad or questionable."

In general, the door of the fridge is the warmest. Then comes the top of the fridge, making the bottom the coldest. Restaurants take advantage of that fact by keeping foods that don't require cooking on top shelves. At home, that means keeping items like condiments, salad dressings and garnishes on the door, and things like yogurt, leftovers, and ready-to-eat meals and deli cuts are best stored on the top shelf. Since the bottom of the fridge is coldest, use this space for things like seafood and meat that need to be kept coldest and cooked at higher temperatures. Crisper drawers hold a lot of humidity, so they are ideal for storing fruits and veggies.

It might seem like a daunting task at first, but once you've dedicated the time and planning to organizing your fridge properly, you'll find you not only saved yourself some money but lots of time where dinner is concerned.

  • Maximize Shelf Space
    If it doesn’t need to be kept cold, keep it out of the fridge. Unopened bottles of water, tea, soda or shelf-stable items like ketchup and mustard can be kept in the pantry and rotated into the fridge when needed. Keep a checklist on the side of the fridge door reminding you when you are down to your last item so that you can add it to your grocery list. Another good tip is to not overstuff your fridge. "Cool air must circulate to keep food from spoiling prematurely," says Kuper. Photo Credit: Here to see More Ways Your Fridge Can Save You Thousands of Dollars
  • Store Leftovers Smartly
    Instead of dumping your leftovers into a giant container, ration them out into individual sized portions. Then, store them in clear containers or bags with the item name and cook date on them. That way, if you are running low on cash and need to brown bag your lunch one day, it’s ready. Toss leftovers after three to four days. Photo Credit: iStock/thinkstock
  • Do Over Your Doors
    The doors are the warmest part of the fridge, so only store-bought condiments with a long shelf life, like ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and the like, should be kept there. Store them with the expiration date facing out, so you know how long they are good for. Photo Credit: Moodbard/ThinkstockClick Here to see More Ways Your Fridge Can Save You Thousands of Dollars
  • Keep Your Fruits and Veggies Separate
    Most fridge units come with two crisper drawers. For maximum longevity, use one for fruit, the other for veggies. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene, like peaches and apples, can prematurely ripen and spoil vegetables. Photo Credit: Hemera/Thinkstock
  • Don’t Wash Vegetables Until You are Ready to Use Them
    While some TV chefs love the idea of washing all your produce the minute you get home so it can be ready to use, prewashing can actually shorten the shelf life of most veggies. Instead, don’t wash anything until you are ready to use it. Click Here to see More Ways Your Fridge Can Save You Thousands of DollarsPhoto Credit: iStock/thinkstock

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-Fabiana Santana, The Daily Meal

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