Why Your New Fridge Might Not Hold as Much as You Think

Consumer Reports says refrigerators hold less stuff than manufacturers seem to promise. What gives?

You might want to think twice before buying your next refrigerator—because it’s going to have less storage space than you expect. Consumer Reports discovered that between six of the most common fridge styles, there was on average 28% less capacity than what was claimed by the manufacturers.

We barely have enough room even when the fridge is organized the right way, so we’re definitely interested! Here’s what’s going on.

There’s a Method to the Madness

There’s actually a method for measuring set by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) so all refrigerators are held to the same standards. It actually measures refrigerator volume, not the food-storage capacity. So that’s problem #1. This method also doesn’t deduct space for any shelves, lights or partitions. (You and I both know those things take up tons of room!)

It turns out this measuring method is supposed to be more for calculating the energy consumption, and less about how much food you can cram inside.

But the Measurements Are Off

Consumer Reports calculated the actual usable capacity of the refrigerator, including all the shelves, drawers and bins, but subtracting the non-storage sections like the ice-maker, lights, vents and other odds n’ ends. In other words, they’re only measured where we actually store things.

It seems like the measurement on the label should work for shoppers, but Consumer Reports discovered that the usable capacity is actually between 17 and 32 percent LESS than what’s posted. So what’s on the label isn’t wrong, exactly, but it’s not helpful when you’re shopping for a refrigerator. By the way–French door models topped the list with the largest discrepancy.

What You Can Do

Be thoughtful when you’re making a refrigerator purchase. Imagine how your family might use all that space. Later, when you’re out grocery shopping, know how much room your refrigerator really has. (This might be a good tip for us all, because we’re probably not the only family who packs the fridge full!)

If you run into the problem that you’re not using up your refrigerated leftovers throughout the week, switch it up and re-enjoy them in creative ways, like throwing cooked pasta into a casserole, or grilling previously cooked veggies to bring them back to life. If your freezer is the problem, try transferring frozen foods and leftovers out of Tupperware and into resealable plastic bags—you’ll be amazed at how much space you can save!

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Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.