I hate to toss around tired old adages, but the truth of the matter is that taking care of a problem when it’s small is far easier than addressing a bigger problem once it’s grown. “Stitching in time” is particularly relevant when it comes to home-keeping — where procrastination, like not sweeping dirt from hardwood floors, can lead to major tasks like eventually refinishing your scratched-up floor.

Even when the stakes are lower than damaged wood flooring, taking the time to preempt larger cleaning tasks pays off. Here’s one way to do it with your fridge so you can forestall — and maybe avoid altogether — the great big fridge clean-outs none of us relish.

Keeping the fridge clean can be a manageable, bite-sized task if you tie it to another chore you do regularly, so try this:

Put “Clean the Fridge” on Your Grocery List

Each time you head out for new stores, make it a routine to assess your fridge, inside and out. Get rid of anything that’s expired. Peek in and assess those leftovers. And double check on any low items you might need to replenish.

To help you remember to do this before it becomes a habit (and to help make it one) add “Clean out fridge” to the top of your shopping list. Whether you have a designated shopping day or you shop on an as-needed basis, cleaning the fridge before you go won’t get skipped.

When it comes time to do your quick fridge clean-out, go down the following list:

The fridge-check routine is a tenant of smart shopping, but it’s also a clever way to stay on top of your homekeeping. If you schedule a mini fridge clean-out for right before you go shopping, your fridge won’t ever get too out of control.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Why You Should Put “Clean the Fridge” at the Top of Your Grocery List

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