How to keep your refrigerated food safe, organized this holiday season

When the holiday season hits, it’s all too easy to let food pile up and take over your fridge. Between what’s already in there and all those extra ingredients for holiday dishes, a thawing turkey or ham, and then the leftovers, it’s a recipe for disaster! Consumer Reports has some tips to keep your food safe and your fridge organized for the holidays.

Close to the big day, adjust your shelves to accommodate the foods you’ll need to store.

On the top shelf you’ll want to keep ready-to-eat food, things like prepped salads and desserts, and anything you don’t want to come into contact with food on the other shelves.

The middle shelf is your prepared-dish zone, basically for any food that’s prepped, covered, and ready to be heated.

Place a thawing turkey or ham or any other raw meats on the bottom shelf. This prevents them from dripping or getting into your already prepared foods.

Save the less-perishable items like relishes and cranberry sauce for the side shelves.

What about all of those inevitable leftovers? CR has a strategy for those, too. Break down the leftovers into meal-sized portions and store them in shallow, covered containers. And plan to freeze anything you won’t eat in three to four days.

To preserve freshness and the quality of food, you really want to keep things airtight, so use products dedicated for that, like freezer bags.

CR says if you find yourself short on fridge space, use a cooler for some last-minute storage. In very cold areas, a cooler outside your home can help keep even perishables fresh. In warmer climates, use it for drinks to leave more room in the fridge for other holiday meal items.