Fridge Confessions!

I have more food in my fridge than this.

It’s a long holiday weekend for many here in the U.S., what with July 4 on a Tuesday (thus, many office workers also got Monday off.) I’m going completely random today, we’ll see if anyone shows up to read this. Let’s talk about how much food you keep in your fridge.

I spent some quality time dealing with the refrigerators of two dear friends here recently – one needed help with triage after her fridge failed, and another I was helping reorganize and discard out of date food in her fridge and cabinets (why, yes, we’re very good friends!) I got a peek at a third (single) friend’s very full fridge. This got me thinking about our wide range of relationships with food and the fridges (and, okay, pantries and cabinets) that house them.

When I had a houseful of kids — and, often, their friends — there were absurdities like five gallons of milk in there, but even then I kept an organized and not overly full fridge. I have some deep aversion to the idea of food being spoiled or wasted, which happens if it’s packed to the gills.

I have single friends or couple-friends who nonetheless keep their fridges very full, with a variety of all kinds of fabulous things, and I’m assuming some of that stuff is going to wind up tossed out before they get to it, but I could be wrong. I figure a full fridge gives them the same kind of comfort a largely empty fridge gives me these days, right? It’s about control on some level?

Because, by and large, my fridge looks like I must be on vacation elsewhere. I’ll cook for the day and some leftovers, or I’ll get pre-made stuff from Whole Foods, or I’ll have a sandwich or an omelet. I can walk to three four grocery stores, and there are even more within a 10 minute drive, so I shop frequently and according to whim. This calculus would totally change if I had any sort of a real drive to do my food shopping. (Also, this calculus did change during COVID lockdown, when I stashed a lot more non-perishable groceries in the house.)

My dry goods and spices here are not extensive – to be fair, partly because I keep moving. But seeing a lot of food stored gives me stress rather than comfort, because I’m not admiring the bounty – instead I’m thinking about what needs to be used up next before it goes bad. What about your condiments? Man, I can’t have five jars of mustard going at once. Although you’d think, based on looking in my fridge, that I’d be tossing out some of those preserves and jams eventually, and you would be wrong, because I eat a hilarious amount of jams and preserves with butter and toast, or mixed into my plain yogurt. It’s definitely getting eaten, no ancient jar of raspberry preserves going moldy over here.

Let me pause here for some clarification: if it’s not my fridge, it’s not my problem, and also not judged by me. I don’t look in other people’s overstuffed fridges and think, whoa noooo. I will add, though, that I’m pretty sure I’ve been quietly judged by a friend or two who’s looked in my fridge and clearly expected it to have more food in there.

So. Are you a full fridge person, or not so much? Are you the sort of person who’d look in your fridge and decide what you’re having for dinner based on what needs to be used up in there?  I do that a lot – quiche is a good way to use bits of various veg and cheese, and also stew, and those are both in regular rotation in my kitchen.

Or are you more the sort of person who buys … whatever you buy, you eat what you’re in the mood for, and if that means you’re tossing items from the fridge because you never got around to using up that jar of tomato sauce or those green onions, so be it?

Do non-U.S. countries have our giant fridges? I’m guessing … not? I have a fridge the size of the one I grew up with, which is now considered small, but it’s huge compared to the few fridges I’ve seen abroad. The fridges I saw in Paris lent credence to the notion that people were shopping for the day’s meals, not stockpiling at Costco.

Your turn! What’s going on in your fridge these days? Fuller? Emptier? And why do you think that is?

images via Pexels

  • Tom says:

    My icebox is full of stuff and needs to be cleaned. I keep forgetting that things like mayo and condiments have an expiration date. I’ve been trying to be better about shopping ahead and planning meals and not just picking up something prepared from the local market. If only because it was pricey before but now it’s ridicilous..

  • AJ says:

    Things get dicey quick when your fridge fails! Ours did during Covid and it wasn’t easy finding parts to replace let alone a whole new unit. We spent two weeks using a cooler.
    I love to cook but have a postage stamp-sized kitchen. Not enough cupboards or room for anything. It’s both annoying and hilarious when my spouse and I are both in the room at the same time. If one person is at the stove, the other person can’t use the sink without bumping butts. My solution was to turn the laundry room into a larder for the dry goods and beverages. I love a good deal and will buy multiples of stuff we like for the pantry; Costco is my friend. I also don’t like food shopping and will only do that once a week (even though we have a good food and booze market across the street). I “shop” our pantry before going to the store. I’m not a “prepper” but I love knowing that should an emergency arise we we’re good for a while. Our fridge is usually pretty full but I’m careful not to let stuff go to waste. I’ve been on a campaign to use up bits of this and that lately.

    • Musette says:

      I’m like you, sans the good food and booze market ; I’m prepper-adjacent because grocery for me is a ways away. Covid (and the resulting break in supply chain) just reinforced that.

    • March says:

      Yeah — my friend ended up replacing her fridge, apparently whatever part they needed was unavailable, it wasn’t even that old either! My Maine kids had a butt-bumping kitchen in their last place and it drove them nuts. I should probably do what you’re doing and keep more pantry goods here; that was an issue when I had COVID last year and there was nothing to eat.

    • Tom says:

      Ugh- these new ones are just awful too! We have had about four fail over the last few years. Now they also have computer brains that fail and can’t be fixed, or cost more to fix than a new one.

      FYI the worst brand for appliances right now IMHO is the one that you would think would get iceboxes right since the common word for them is part of the brand name. Iceboxes, dishwashers, you name it. Hundreds of dollars in off-warranty repairs if not outright replacements..

  • Musette says:

    welp! you’ve seen my fridge. It’s stocked because I cook nearly all my meals and it’s a 25-40 mile drive to a grocery, depending upon which direction I’m headed. And I cook. A lot. I mean, I cook most meals (I don’t cook a lot of food).
    What my fridge has most? Yogurt and kefir. LOTS of it. Dog yogurt (for his anti-seizure powder and his allergy pill). Lots of turmeric and ginger and galangal in the freezer for my jamu drink (which I throw in my morning smoothie)

    I don’t ‘do’ leftovers much – I pretty much cook what I’m going to eat. In winter I do a big pot of soup/stew and nosh on that for a week but not so much in Summer.
    I rarely throw things out because I rarely put stuff in there I’m not going to use… I think?
    I dunno. You’ve seen it – what’s your take?

    • Musette says:

      btw – this post reminded me of an acquaintance who, upon looking in my fridge, asked if I needed help organizing it! Acquaintance, mind you – not you. The sight of all the yogurt containers triggered her memory of an aunt who hoarded leftovers in those types of containers. It never occurred to her that my containers might contain (wait for it)…yogurt. She was abashed. I was polite – but unamused. I’m getting crankier, I guess.

      • March says:

        that is f’ing HILARIOUS about the yogurt! Pretty nervy of her! And like you I have a LOT of yogurt and kefir in the fridge, which will not go to waste! Kefir either goes in my face or occasionally ON my face, it’s a great gentle peel. I just found the most amazing yogurt (big tub) in the natural grocer, probably some regional brand I’d never heard of. Incredible texture. It’s not cheap, but it’s delicious.

    • March says:

      Your fridge makes sense to me — you cook a lot, including these days for other people. It’s a fair distance to the grocery store. And you’re clearly good at staying on top of it so you’re not tossing stuff. Your fridge is full, but not in a … suspicious way where I’m wondering what’s hiding in the back, cackling.

      • Musette says:

        except that Lost Cucumber. O.M.G.
        I’m surprised it didn’t rise up out of the fridge and kill me in my sleep!

  • SpringPansy says:

    Fun post! I can always talk food. I like to cook and we mostly eat at home. I probably shop 1 – 2x per week now that it’s usually just DH and me (all three sons have “flown the nest”). I do have a hard time cooking a meal that doesn’t interest me so I mostly plan 3 or 4 days ahead with a couple of easy “emergency” meals available in the freezer. I’d say the fridge is generally 2/3 to 3/4 full. We currently have too many jars of condiments and things like olives and capers and anchovies which are all great but the amount of jars makes me a bit crazy. My goal is to avoid wasting and I’m somewhat successful, but not always. I keep trying!

    • March says:

      I tossed so many jars of condiments before we moved — bits of this and that. I’m always seeing something that looks interesting, but if I don’t feel reasonably confident I can use it up, it stays on the shelf in the store. Emergency meals are fine! I have a frozen pizza and a spanakopita up there, I’m pretty sure.

  • Dina C. says:

    Now that we are empty nesters this year, we keep less in the pantry, freezer, and fridge but they are still medium full. My hubby is a hearty eater, and he packs a lunch for work 4 days per week. Our fridge has lots of fresh produce, and several varieties of salad dressing. Still, I’m not a menu planner. I’m a moody eater, as in ” what am I in the mood to eat tonight?” So I would be constantly sabotaging my own planning if I were to make a week’s worth of menus like some folks do. I do like to eat fresh produce before it goes south, and use frozen meats before they’re no longer any good. I love that quotation about “being an adult is realizing you have to figure out what to have for dinner every day for the rest of your life.”

    • March says:

      Hey if I were living with a hearty eater who packs lunch I’d be keeping a lot more food here! And I LOVE that I can be a “moody eater” (great term!) and decide what I want right then rather than a week’s worth of menu planning which is how I used to shop with kids.

      • Musette says:

        me, too! There are SO many things to enjoy about living solo (especially living with El O) but not having to please anyone but me?! Priceless beyond rubies!

  • Tara C says:

    We have an enormous fridge (which we inherited from the previous owner) that we need because although there are only two of us, my husband refuses to shop anywhere but Costco, so we always have too much food. When I am home alone, the fridge is mostly empty, because we have a grocery store across the street, so I usually buy what I want to eat when I want to eat it. Otherwise I end up throwing stuff away, because there is too much of it or I don’t feel like eating what I bought.

    When this fridge dies however, we will be buying a much smaller one and I will put my foot down more often on not buying huge quantities of food.

    I had to laugh about the jam – I always have at least 4-5 jars going at a time and I eat all of it. Toast is my favorite food and I bake lots of challah, scones and buns so it goes quickly.

    • March says:

      Hey there, jam sister! Preserves on some toast or bread is honestly my favorite snack and at least marginally healthy (I buy nice ones with no added sugar, they’re mostly fruit.) I probably have 5 jars going right now, a variety. Costco drives me INSANE. We tried to do that when I had kids at home (it made sense!) but I can’t cope with the whole warehouse/volume situation, although I get why so many love it.

  • alityke says:

    I have a cupboard in my hallway that I use as a pantry for legumes, both dried & tinned, flours, spices & condiments.
    When the boys lived at home my fridge was 6ft tall & almost always full. Unlike teenage boys who are always empty! Their friends were always welcome so I never knew how many starving childerbeast would be round the table. Back then I shopped on Sunday morning & batched cooked on Sunday afternoon. Meals were prepped so there were home made ready meals & soups for me & DH to take for lunches until Thursday. Friday was fridge forage or takeaway. Saturday was what we hadn’t had on Friday.
    When I retired the big fridge went & now we have a fridge freezer. I kept the chest freezer in the garage though. Did I not mention it? Lifesaver!
    Despite my hoarding little gets thrown away. Veggies passed their best make excellent soup or Sabzi. Eggs, cheese, bacon make splendid omelettes & quiches.
    Not much finds it’s way unused to the compost or rubbish bin

    • March says:

      Your plan sounds a lot like mine when I had 4 kids at home and their friends — they liked to hang out at our place, I was always feeding some random starving teenager. That’s how we wound up with so much milk! I used to long for a chest freezer. And you’re doing the same sensible thing with the stuff past its prime. Trying to keep the food waste down.

      • alityke says:

        Bet you woke up to an extra child or two regularly as well.
        My youngest’s bestie almost moved in with us whilst his parents were constantly bickering. I refused to do his laundry though.

        • March says:

          YUP. Especially the girls and their sleepovers. Also something similar, a kid whose parents clearly had issues… he spent a lot of time at our house for about a year hanging out with one of my boys. I hope he looks back on that time with us fondly.

  • cinnamon says:

    Oh, my. My fridge is a roller coaster: full when grocery order comes, half full the week after grocery order, then almost empty couple of days before next order, etc, etc. I do two grocery deliveries a month, then top ups from farm shop, local fancy grocer, and local green grocer. I have a full sized fridge with a decent freezer compartment (frozen protein, the dog’s chicken ice), but certainly not one of those mad huge things you get in the US (granted this isn’t a big household). When the house was refurbed I had a thin tall larder put in which is next to the fridge. It gets spices, etc, flours, rice — that sort of stuff. There is also an under counter cabinet with two pull out shelves where more dry goods live. As to shopping, I really enjoy the local stuff (eg, farm shop). The fridge is full currently but this post reminded me that when the contents recede the fridge itself needs a good clean.

    • March says:

      Loving these comments … as I said below I’m surprised at how many folks are doing delivery. I did it during lockdown, it was fabulous. And I did the wipedown inside right before the next batch of groceries showed up. I also have the dog’s food in the freezer and (thawed) in the fridge.

  • Kathleen says:

    Mostly in between. I like to have enough food in the fridge for at least a week (I don’t enjoy grocery store shopping, I order online for delivery), but not too much that anything goes to waste. My pantry is comfortably full but organized and tidy. We have an extra fridge for various beverages, milk, and eggs, and an extra freezer for frozen veggies, fish, and berries; I purchase extra when on sale. And my dog has his own freezer for his frozen food!

    • March says:

      Ha! A percentage of my fridge/freezer space is the dog’s food! She doesn’t have any teeth and she’s old, so she gets fancy prepared food. When I had kids in the house there were times I longed for an extra freezer in particular.

  • Shivawoman says:

    We have two fridges, and a very full pantry, along with preserves I’ve made that are in the studio next to the garage. We have orchards and berries and veg and live on 10 acres in a rugged area of California. There is a grocery store (spendy) 3 miles away and another 6 miles away (horrible and expensive stuff especially the nearly dead veggies), but the real shopping gets done 1/2 hour away from our home, so yeah, we stock up and the fridge and freezer are full! We’re contemplating getting another small freezer. When cleaning, I make a “kinda minestrone” style soup! It’s just the two of us.

    • March says:

      Again, this totally makes sense to me (I’m so enjoying reading comments!) If I had to drive an hour round trip to the grocery store you can bet it would be totally stocked up, and I’d probably get an extra chest freezer.

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I have teens and cook most of our meals. The fridge is always full!

  • ElizaC says:

    Before the pandemic, we used our grocery store as our pantry, shopping on almost a daily basis for perishables or something fun. Now we order and pickup our groceries once a week so the fridge is very full. Even though the fridge is full there seems to be less waste (except for lemons – why do they go bad so quickly!). Our fridge is 25 years old and looks its age but I think it may outlive us!

    • March says:

      Reading these comments, I’m surprised so many people are doing food delivery! (or in your case, pickup) Makes sense, I was SO over food shopping for the family. I started using InstaCart during the pandemic. It exists here, but I’ve come to enjoy doing my own minuscule shopping. Lemons here just quietly DRY OUT, it’s wild, they just petrify. I wish they’d last longer too!

  • Portia says:

    Hey March,
    We are halfway between the two. Most of the stockpiling happens in the pantry. A lot of that is because we have two entirely different food cultures stored.
    My Mum was of Boy Scout mentality and there were always a few extra packs, jars or cans of anything we used a lot of. Dad was very parsimonious with the money he gave her for housekeeping and it was often mood dependent. So from her I learned the joy of having extra and have maintained that.
    The fridge has a lot of wine, jarred, bottled or bagged ingredients, side dishes and condiments. There’s always at least one milk backup and oodles of cheeses.
    Jin and I each have a shelf for our pre-prepared meals and leftovers.
    Interestingly, with so much food in there very little gets thrown away. If the veggies are starting to look a little jaded then I’ll make soup or lasagna.
    One thing that often gets thrown is the last few leaves of a lettuce.
    Portia x

    • March says:

      I’m really enjoying reading these comments! See, your situation TOTALLY makes sense — two different food cultures. I love that you have your own shelf! And laughing, the thing (besides preserves) I always have the most of is cheese, I eat a lot of cheese.

      • Portia says:

        HA! Jin is the first partner I’ve had that doesn’t like cheese, he’s lactose intolerant but also just doesn’t like it. It’s lovely buying really good stuff and it still being there when I want it.

        • March says:

          HA back at you! I used to hide my good cheese from the kids … I have friends who didn’t grow up in cheese-eating cultures and they’re very polite about it but I suspect they think it’s disgusting.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I need to do a clean out for sure, kind of embarrassing to know I have old jars of whatever in the back moldering away. I love to cook but with the son now at college, some of the speciality ingredients just aren’t getting used at the same pace. I’m trying to plan better to make sure I can use things up. We are renovating the kitchen and the new fridge will be counter depth instead of full size so I expect I will have to be much more conscious and careful about what I buy in the future…

    • March says:

      Hey the renovation will be a good prompt to clean out the expired stuff! We absolutely had jars and bottles of whatever, quietly expiring, when the kids lived with me.

  • Geo says:

    Frags in the fridge. They last longer.

  • Cyndi says:

    I live alone now and I can’t say that my fridge is overly stocked nor is it empty. I don’t buy a lot of fresh produce at one time because I am afraid it will go bad. I love salads and fresh fruit, but living alone means I scale back on the amount I buy at any given time. Throwing away spoiled fruit and vegetables makes me sick, so I only buy what I know I will truly need. Always have cream for my coffee, mik for cereal or tea, and meat that I freeze. Of course there is always the odd bottle of white wine…..

    • March says:

      Yeah, I hear you, if I buy more than a little fruit/veg I’m immediately trying to figure out how to use it up! It’s not particularly cheap. And I ALWAYS have cream for my coffee! And frozen stuff.

    • AnnieA says:

      Same here, C! And ditto G. Truly thought this would be a post on perfumes in the fridge. Eau Dynamisant and an EA Green Tea, honeysuckle I believe.

      • alityke says:

        I should have kept & cleaned up the boys “beer fridge” for my summer spritzes

      • March says:

        Dang, I should have asked whether people had frags in their fridge! I keep my summer refresher in there.

    • Neva says:

      Cyndi, it could have been me writing this comment. Totally the same here only I always have mozzarella and eggs besides vegetables (fresh and frozen) and next to the white wine bottle is a bottle of white rum, a few Coca Cola cans and lime – to make a Cuba Libre. Cheers!