How to buy a family-friendly refrigerator

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Choosing a Family Friendly Refigerator

In the market for a new refrigerator? It can be a little overwhelming wandering through the aisles of a big box appliance store. What features do you really need? What layout will best serve your family? How do you even know where to get started?

Recently, our fridge of 25-years (13-years in my parents’ house + 12-years as a hand-me-down in our house) died. It died slowly, in phases, and with dignity (the freezer side of our side-by-side worked as a fridge for the last 2-months). But really, after 25-years, what more could we ask?

So, having never purchased a refrigerator in our married lives, my husband and I started the process of learning and researching. Wandering the aisles of a store first because overwhelming — everything we saw looked equally nice and shiny and new. So instead, we went back to my trusty research roots. With a Lowe’s right down the street from me, I started at with a mind-boggling 767 refrigerator options! I could already feel my head spinning. Luckily, I had a game plan. Here are my helpful tips for narrowing down your options to find a family-friendly refrigerator:

 1. Choose your fridge layout and look

Side-by-side or French door? Freezer on top or the bottom? Deciding on the layout style of your refrigerator is an easy first step to narrowing down your options as is deciding if you are matching it to other stainless, white or black appliances in your kitchen. Side-by-sides generally offer more freezer space while French door fridges provide more space and accessibility to fresh foods. Our previous refrigerator had been a white side-by-side, but as a family of five, energy efficiency was key for me so we opted for a French door design (freezer on the bottom = less energy to stay cold) in stainless steel to match our other kitchen appliance. Stainless steel can be tricky with little kid fingerprints, but we’ve had great success keeping ours clean with these Weiman wipes. search results: 130

2. Research brand reliability

The prettiest, most efficient fridge on the market is worthless if it has a record of breaking down regularly or a short lifespan. Once you’ve narrowed down the style of fridge you want, do your research to find out which brands have the best track record. We did research with both a month-long subscription to Consumer Reports and websites like JD Power. With this step, we narrowed down our search to a Samsung or an LG which are both ranked highly in the French door design (Note: Brands rank differently depending on the fridge layout). search results: 51

3. Measure your space

When we started looking into replacing our fridge, I was amazed at the variety of sizes that they can come in. If your refrigerator needs to fit in a pre-existing space, making sure that you choose the right size is key. So before getting all gaga over gadgets and features, narrow down your search field by those fridges that will actually fit in your space (and, important to note, through doorways to get it into your house). We headed to and inputted the dimensions to find the biggest fridge we could fit to help feed our family of five (three boys = always hungry!). search results: 36

4. Decide on non-negotiable features

While the long list of shiny fridge features can all sound enticing, decide which features are truly non-negotiable for your new refrigerator. For me, this meant three things: I wanted our new fridge to be ENERGY STAR Qualified, have a water dispenser, and have a dual ice maker. Our last fridge was old and a huge energy suck so I wanted to make sure any new appliance we purchased was rated highly for energy efficiency. An in-door water dispenser was key for encouraging water drinking and ensuring my kids could get their own drinks. As for the dual ice maker, between sports practice for three boys, trips to the beach with the cooler, and regular entertaining, I knew we’d need the extra ice production power. search results: 7

5. Read reviews… with a grain of salt

Dealing with seven refrigerator options was a whole lot more manageable than 767, but I still wanted to see if I could narrow it down even more. So I clicked through the reviews of those seven fridges on It’s important to take appliance reviews with a grain of salt because if someone has had a particularly bad experience, they will likely log on and write about while many perfectly satisfied people may never think to log on and write about how much their fridge is working just as they expected. Still, when I saw that four of my seven remaining had 4.5-5 stars and glowing reviews, I put those in my final category. search results: 4

Ultimately, we ended up with this Samsung French Door Refrigerator, and it’s been a great fit for our family. Here are five features I especially love:

Which Refrigerator is Best for Your Family

1. So much space

With 27.8 cu ft of space, there is plenty of room to keep my family of five fed. It advertises that it can hold up almost 28 bags of groceries! I also love how versatile the space is, allowing me to move shelves higher or lower or even slide them in to create the space I need for whatever I happen to be storing.

5 Family-Friendly Refrigerator Features

2. A spot for everything

Two humidity-controlled drawers keep my fruits and veggies crisp and clearly organized, and the bottom WideOpen CoolSelect temperature-controlled pantry drawer lets me choose from three different temperature settings to store deli items, beverages or safely defrost meat in a designated space. I’ve also been toying with using half of it (it comes with a handy divider) as a clear Kid Snack Zone – a you-can-have-anything-you-want-to-eat-in-here area filled with mom-approved anytime eats like baby carrots and cheese sticks.

Which Family-Friendly Refrigerator is Best for You

3. In-door water & ice dispenser

The clean LCD display keeps the fridge looking modern, but the controls are simple enough for my three boys to get their own drinks (woo-hoo for independence!). I can’t believe how much more water my kids drink now.

How to Choose a Refrigerator for a Big Family

4. Door-in-door accessibility

The door-in-door option means that it’s easy to grab those often-needed items like drinks, salad dressings and kid snacks – without having to open the entire fridge. Genius! The mini door opens with a separate hidden latch on the main handle, and the trays pull out for easy access.

Cool Tech Features on Refrigerators

5. Door alarms

One of the problems with my last fridge was the fact that the doors didn’t always close securely — especially if closed by one of my three kids. This led to regularly coming across a cracked-open fridge and slowly thawing food. With this Samsung refrigerator, there are door alarms that alert me if the fridge or freezer have been left open long before my milk is room temperature.

Newest refrigerator technology and features

During our fridge shopping, I was impressed with all the new tech and features available today. Here are a few of my favorites.

Measured fill: A water dispenser that allows you to select the exact amount of filtered water you need — in ounces, cups or liters — that automatically dispenses without having to stand there in front of the fridge. Genius!

Door-in-door: A mini-door on the main door that allows easy access to quick-grab items like beverages, condiments, and snacks without having to open the entire fridge.

Convertible doors/drawers: A versatile door or drawer in the refrigerator can be set as to freezer temps or a refrigerator temps depending on your storage needs.

Herb storage container: A specialized compartment that keeps herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme fresh with an angled floor to keep the stems wet without covering the leaves.

If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, head over to to start your search!

Thanks to Carol Holt Photography for the product photography! This post was created in collaboration with Lowes. Savvy Sassy Moms was not paid for this post. Product samples were provided.

Meet the Author | Kate Bayless

Kate Bayless is a Southern California-based writer and a mom of three. She writes regularly about beauty, travel, health and wellness for both digital and print outlets.

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