How to create more space in the refrigerator for holiday entertaining

Order the chaos that is a holiday fridge with these simple tips

kitchen and dining area at christmas
(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Tis the season for overflowing refrigerators full to the brim with festive food. Will the door close once you've done the grocery shopping? 

As well as the trick of layering oven racks to create more tiers of fridge storage, there are various ways to create space in the refrigerator for holiday entertaining. 

We asked home organizers for their pro tips on organizing a refrigerator when you're hosting family and friends for the holidays.

How to create space in the refrigerator for holiday entertaining

Hosting extended family can be stressful enough, so note these simple tricks to keep everything accessible and reduce food waste.

fridge storage solutions

(Image credit: A Place for Everything)

1.Take everything out

We didn't promise a quick fix: before you do anything – and especially before you head out to the grocery store – it's important to take everything out of the refrigerator and give it a good clean. This will keep the fridge working efficiently and you're bound to find chutneys and sauces that are out of date that can be thrown away, too.

Professional organizer Kristin MacRae says this task is best ticked off a few weeks before the holidays. 'Give it a good decluttering and clean it. Start fresh. You may find that you weren't maximizing the space before. 

'Starting with a clean slate will give you a clear vision of how to organize your refrigerator. Treat it just as you would any organization project in the home. Empty the entire space, declutter, categorize, organize and contain!' she adds.

When cleaning the fridge, wash any removable plastic drawers by soaking them in the sink or putting them in the dishwasher (check the manufacturer's instructions first, of course).

Kristin MacRae
Kristin MacRae

Kristin founded her award-winning organizing and efficiency business in 2012 with the goal of helping clients live a lifestyle that saves them time and money, decreases their stress levels, and allows them to lead more efficient and productive lives.

2. Remove bulky packaging

You have a lot to store in the refrigerator when entertaining family and friends, and sometimes the store packaging takes up unnecessary space. Consider if there's anything in the fridge that could be taken out of its cardboard box to create extra space. To avoid last-minute panic, cut out any nutritional info (e.g. does it contain nuts, dairy or gluten?) and the use-by date and tape it to the container or packaging.

3. Try using translucent containers

refrigerator with clear containers

(Image credit: A Place for Everything)

'A brilliant way of increasing space is using translucent boxes. The key here is you can see what’s inside!' says Simon Glanville, managing director at A Place for Everything. 'You can get them in various sizes, with or without lids (the lidded ones are great for stacking).' 

Simon suggests dividing foodstuffs into one box for ‘meat’ and another for ‘vegetarian’ or using the boxes to indicate which day or meal the ingredients are for – Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve dinner, for example.

You can also find portable condiment caddies that sit in the refrigerator door and can be transferred easily from fridge to table and back again. Drinks can storage also means an end to any soggy cardboard holders from the store.

4. Know what can be left out

Know what not to store in the refrigerator and you'll instantly free up space for the turkey or nut roast. On your list of things to keep out of the fridge are: 

  • Parsnips 
  • Sprouts 
  • Carrots 
  • Onions 
  • Potatoes 
  • Garlic 
  • Mince pies 
  • Bread
  • Cake 
  • Citrus fruit 
  • Sauces and chutneys

These will be absolutely fine left out of the refrigerator, as will cold drinks. Store drinks outside, in the garage, or in a bucket of ice.

Just don't be tempted to store raw meat outside, though, as it needs to be kept at a consistent, cool temperature in order to stay fresh. 

5. Store items on the right shelf

It's not an exact science, but following some rules around what to store where in the fridge will give you a system, and then when you're asked where the cheese is, you'll know exactly which shelf it's on. 

The crisper drawer is best for vegetables, especially if your refrigerator has any humidity control settings. Then the bottom shelf is generally considered to be the coldest, making it the best place to put meats (it also means it's less likely to contaminate foods below it). 

The next shelf up can be for pigs in blankets, pork stuffing, and so on, and the top shelf is a good spot for dairy as it's slightly warmer. This will mean cheese will reach room temperature more quickly. Take note of items not to store in a refrigerator door, although generally items that can cope with slightly fluctuating temperatures such as salad dressings and drinks.

6. Ask family to bring a dish

Ask family and friends to bring side dishes and desserts along for lunch, as this spreads the load and makes things much easier. If anything needs to be kept in the fridge, by the time guests arrive there's likely to be much more space as you'll have already started cooking.

7. Avoid buying too much

During the holidays, try to make meal plans each week so you are only purchasing what you need. It will prevent excess items from being stored in the refrigerator. 

'The key is to not overbuy – a difficult prospect at holiday time,' says Simon Glanville from A Place for Everything. 'But using the clear boxes means you can also keep an eye on what you’ve bought and work your way through from the most perishable first.'


How can I avoid food waste over the holidays?

Simon Glanville's top tip is to try and keep food that you need to eat first at the front of the fridge or all on one shelf so nothing gets missed. Creating a system with stackable containers makes a world of difference, too. As mentioned above, plan ahead and resist the urge to overbuy.

Enjoy the feeling at the end of the holidays when it’s just a few leftovers on the shelves and resolve to keep your fridge clutter-free.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.