While living in a college dorm, I had a mini fridge that I kept next to my desk for storing snacks, small meals, drinks, and ice packs. Having a smaller fridge can make things easier to locate, but organizing a dorm mini fridge is still important as no one wants to find a rotten bag of carrots or a cheese stick that somehow rolled out without anyone noticing and got trapped under a desk. Here are my favorite tips for organizing a dorm mini fridge with low vision, with ideas for items to stock.
Add a set of plastic drawers to one of the shelves
One of my friends has a small 3-door storage unit from Sterilite, which features clear plastic doors and can fit on a larger shelf in a mini fridge. Adding a set of plastic drawers is super helpful for organizing a mini fridge, as it can hold several smaller loose items or keep items cool for lunch.
Some examples of items that my friend kept in their drawer include:
- Uncrustables sandwiches
- Loose pieces of fruit
- Cheese sticks/string cheese
- Pre-cut bags of fruit or vegetables
Outside of food, these storage drawers are also a great size for holding refrigerated medication, such as insulin pens or similar medications.
Label grab-and-go items from the dining hall
When did I pick up that peanut butter and jelly from the grab-and-go section? After biting into a sandwich that tasted like it had been made weeks ago, I used my phone to enlarge the prep date and discovered that yes, it had been made three weeks ago. Since then, I started writing on top of the label in permanent marker the day I picked up the sandwich or other items from the grab-and-go section, so I could make sure I wasn’t ignoring items in the fridge.
Storing dining hall food in reusable containers
Before a snowstorm or other severe weather, I grab a few reusable containers and head to the dining hall so I can make sure I have items to eat for the next few days, which is helpful since I have trouble walking in the snow. Some examples of items that I would take and store in my fridge include:
- Yogurt parfaits layered with fruit and granola
- Sliced pizza
- Untoasted or cold sandwiches and wraps with crunchy vegetables and sauces on the side (no tomatoes or wet vegetables here)
- Salads with dressing on the side
- Soup in a reusable container
- Dessert bars or cookies
- Prepackaged items from the grab and go section
- Navigating The Dining Hall: College O&M
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- Tips For Keeping A Dorm Room Clean With Chronic Illness
Keep a list of what’s in the fridge on a white board or app
This wasn’t on a college campus, but I once was helping a friend clean out their pantry and discovered a bag of potatoes that looked absolutely disgusting. My friend remarked that their roommate had bought them when they first moved into that house- over one year earlier. Following that incident, I created a shared digital list of what was in the fridge or pantry at any given time so that never had any surprises like that again. We used Microsoft To-Do, though Google Keep is another helpful option. Both apps also feature options for reminder notifications, which can be helpful for remembering when something needs to be used or trashed.
For a no-tech option, a whiteboard or whiteboard magnets can be attached to the fridge with an inventory of what is inside. Users can take a photo of the whiteboard before grocery shopping to see what they need to buy, or what they already have.
Store loose fruit or items in a large/trenta cup
As an alternative to the drawer option, loose items can also be stored in cold drink cups such as those sold at Starbucks- I would pick up a few large or extra large/trenta cups for storing loose items in my fridge. I received 3 cups for about a dollar, and I used them to hold apples, oranges, and other items in the fridge door.
Order nonperishable snacks online
Since I have to balance using a blindness cane with carrying groceries, I try to order as many items online as possible. This means that I would order several nonperishable snacks and meal options, including:
- Larabar snack bars
- Pumpkin seeds
- Triscuit crackers
- Blue corn/black bean chips
- Pre-popped popcorn
- Quick meal packets
Have ingredients for basic meals on hand
I can’t have ramen or packaged macaroni and cheese due to allergies, so I came up with a few other options for basic meals I could make in my dorm for when I woke up from a migraine and couldn’t get to the dining hall. This could include:
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Hummus or other bean dips
- Salads I assembled in the dining hall earlier in the week, or grab-and-go items
- Frozen rice or pasta dishes that work with allergy restrictions
- Microwaveable bean or rice packets
Other tips for organizing a dorm mini fridge
- Some colleges have size restrictions for mini fridges- these are posted on the housing website and shared in the move-in instructions
- I would typically travel to the grocery store across from campus via bus, or would walk there with a friend and take the bus back
- For grocery delivery, I would select the address for drop-off as a neighboring dorm or the Starbucks on campus that could easily be accessed by car. Getting items delivered to the mail room that required refrigeration was not an option.
- Want to learn more about organizing a fridge with low vision? Check out How To Make Refrigerators Accessible For Visual Impairment