When grocery shopping, I used to look inside of my fridge, see what was missing, and write it on a list to purchase. Smart right? Sticking to a list would for sure help my budget and keep me from wasting food?!
WRONG! Although I was sticking to my list, I was spending a tonne of money on items I wouldn’t use that week and in turn wasting food, and basically throwing away my money. I was filling the void in my fridge rather than really planning ahead for what I needed to buy and how I would use it.
Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve found it easier to keep a minimalist fridge as I am not buying and storing meat, nor do I need space in the fridge to thaw it. However, I think with the proper planning and organization, a minimalist fridge is possible for all diets.
Our first rule of thumb is not to overstock. We recently got rid of our Costco card and are no longer buying items in bulk (on some items, if you compare prices, you aren’t saving any money!). No more 1kg ketchup containers, or 4 packs of orange juice. We still have these items, but they are in smaller volumes and therefore take up less room in our fridge. We ensure the items we are buying are recyclable, compostable, or reuseable, so that buying the smaller items more often is not causing a grandiose environmental footprint.
Something else we try to do is to make our own dressings and condiments. These items are squatters in most fridges, you only ever need a little bit, but they take up tonnes of space in your fridge. I’ve made our own BBQ sauce (made with ingredients I usually have around the house anyway, such as oil, spices, tomatoes), and various vinaigrette dressings (balsamic, olive oil, lemon juice, etc). By making our own sauces and dressings, we’re able to make only as much as we need, and don’t need to worry about storing the leftovers.
We’ve also gotten into the habit of not storing items in the fridge that don’t need to be there. Items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, citrus, onions, etc. are stored in baskets in our pantry, which I covered on Day 12 of the Minimalist Home Challenge. If you aren’t sure which items should/shouldn’t be refrigerated, the Produce for Better Health Foundation created this handy guide to help you out.
For leftovers, we’ve purchased clear plastic containers so that we can always see what is in the fridge. I found a lot of our food waste came from simply forgetting about items that were hiding way in the back or got too cold because there was too much in the fridge blocking proper circulation. When putting leftovers into the fridge, we circulate the containers, older items to the front, newer to the back. We try to keep about 30% of our fridge empty so that it’s easier to move things around, and we’re less likely to forget about items we can’t see.
The biggest thing that has helped us save space and money is MEAL PLANNING! I know, I know, this is an extra thing to do in our already very busy lives. But it’s actually cut down the time I spend in the grocery store/ market, it’s cut our grocery bill down, and we aren’t wasting ANY food!!! My husband and I also play the “What do you want to eat?” game of indecision, if we don’t use a meal plan, which usually ends in us eating something unhealthy or ordering in… So meal planning has really helped us stay on track with our diet and less wasted time.
When we meal plan, we decide on meals we’d like to eat. We try to plan strategically so that some of the meals use similar ingredients, so that left over items will be used before the end of the week. We look in our fridge to see what items we already have that may not have been used up the week before, and we only write own the items that we need to fulfill our meal plan for the week.
Here’s what our meal plan looked like for this work week:
Total new ingredients needed for this work week: 10
(apples, bananas, cucumber, bell peppers (red, green, yellow, orange) naan, baking potatoes, sour cream)
We’re usually “Free Agents” on the weekends, either concocting whatever we can think of with leftover ingredients, or when going grocery shopping for the next week, picking up something we can make and eat on Saturday or Sunday.
What if you run out of something?
I pass a grocery store on my way home from work. If we run out of an item, I just stop and pick it up on the way home.
Don’t you get tired of eating the same thing?
Totally. We only plan our meals one week at a time, because yes, sometimes we get tired of eating similar things, or we are just craving something that’s not on our plan. When this happens, we just… change our plan. Nothing is set in stone, we just try to eat the meal we skipped on the weekend or get creative with the ingredients we bought to make something different.
If you’re buying smaller items more often, how do you reduce waste?
We have a pretty good recycling program where I live, and they collect almost everything! (Just waiting on them to do a green bin program!). When buying items, we stay away from non recyclable plastic (as much as we can, and we try our best to buy local. We use reusable bags, not only for bagging items after we’ve paid, but also for our produce and bulk items. I’ve talked about this a bit on my instagram, and the bags we like to use can be found on amazon.ca for $15. Also, by planning our meals, we’re less likely to eat out or order in, and are therefore producing less waste.
How do you keep a minimalist fridge?
Have you tried meal planning? Did it work for you?
Let me know in the comments!