Jan 21, 2013

The Empty Fridge ... a question of hoarding

When I first got married and moved into the apartment with my hubby, I went out and filled our fridge.  I bought salad dressings and marinades, jams and jellies, syrups and sodas.

I bought spices for my pantry and soon my house was overflowing with food.  A family of two.  A couple of kids who ate out 50% of the time and our fridge was full.

I honestly didn't know that people live their lives with empty refrigerators.

Um... not that empty.

So in the year after we got married, I went to a friend's house on a weekly basis and hung out with her and her newborn baby, since she and her hubby worked opposite schedules, and she liked the company (and I liked her).

I went to her fridge to get us each a soda and when I opened the fridge I discovered a nearly empty refrigerator, meaning you could see the shelves and the back of the fridge on first glance.  There was an abundance of shelf space.

I was silently appalled.  I worried that they may have been short on their grocery bill for the month.  I grew concerned that she couldn't go shopping because she had a baby.  So many thoughts went through my head.

All of them end-of-the-world stuff.

As I casually handed her the soda, I said "Your fridge is so clean!  I have never seen so much clean shelf space in a fridge." (Real smooth AJ)...

She responded with "I am going shopping tomorrow morning, it's the end of our meal plan, so it's getting pretty empty in there".  

This was the day I learned about planning meals and shopping for what you are going to eat.

Fast forward 13+ years.  It's my day to go grocery shopping and my fridge is getting bare, though between my fridge, freezer and pantry I have enough food to last my family of 4 for a solid 4-5 dinners.  

As I opened my fridge this morning, I was reminded of the above memory, because I have learned a lot since then.

My family of origin is great, but I do believe I learned the tendency to fill every inch of available shelf space in the fridge with food accoutrements and dressings by watching them.

I don't know if it's not having a system set to throw away the old before buying new, I am not sure if it's a love for food and all the different things you can buy to flavor your meat that fills the fridge, it could be just a habit of trying new things and having an adventurous palette that fills the fridge to overflowing.  But growing up, the fridge was always full, and rarely (if ever) near-empty.

As I un-learned this habit (it's taken nearly 10 years), I've often wondered if there is security in a full fridge.  Is it a type of hoarding? 

Over the last couple of years (especially) I have felt convicted that I waste too much food.  There are places in the world where families are starving and I am throwing away food. (One article I read stated that we throw away up to 40% of what is produced here in America!)

So I started doing the following:
1. Planning my meals, so I am not guessing at what we are eating, and buying only what we will use.
2. Cooking what I planned, so I am not throwing away food I end up not using.
3. Trying to get better at eating leftovers (my hubby is good at this, me -not so much)

I can't say that I don't throw food away, but I've gotten better at not throwing away new foods (I still throw away left-overs).

I can also say that I feel good when my fridge is nearly empty, because it means I wasted less.

What about you?  Do you tend to have a full fridge or a nearly empty one?  How do you keep your food waste to a minimum?    Love to hear your ideas!!

PS - It's been quiet around here. I've been at conferences and retreats and OH MY I am tired.  I am learning lots and I will start to post on what I am learning in the next week or so.  Sorry for the lack of verbosity.


  1. Ooo, I could definitely use help with this. Even with a full fridge, sometimes people claim there is nothing to eat. Go figure. Definitely need to simplify my fridge. (Makes it easier to clean, too).

    1. I've felt the same way! Full fridge, but nothing to eat! By nearly emptying it each week (or every 10 days), I can actually wipe down those shelves every month!!

    2. Kinda like saying "i have nothing to wear" while staring at a closet full of clothes.

  2. What an interesting thought. I always like uncluttering spaces. My husband likes filling the fridge, and hoarding food.. it's both good and bad. If you're not good at planning (which we aren't) you always have something to eat. But.. there's a lot of waste, and too little space left. I would love to unclutter the fridge.. but it's not possible in our household I think. And my husband btw can say while our fridge (and freezer) is crowded "we need to go shopping". I don't know what he doesn't see??!!

  3. Hi AJ,

    I need to get better at that, I think. For me, it involves the energy and dicipline to plan for and prepare meal plans ahead of time too.

    Re your comment on my post, "What All Women Desperately Need," that's an intriguing question to ask new acquaintances, and I love asking deep questions. Thanks. I agree. Friendships and community is something that is lacking in many peoples' lives and yet we all need it.

    No, I don't think I saw your post on friendships. Our whole family was sick with the flu this last week. I'm hopping over...

    Have a great week, AJ. Fun to get to know you more too,

    Jennifer Dougan

  4. I really need to do that too. My fridge is always packed with new food and leftovers, although we do eat most leftovers.

  5. I am a big meal planner - partly because it seems to just come naturally to me. That is how I have always shopped and feel like a fish out of water if I don't. We're working on getting better at using leftovers. I am not a big fan of most lunch foods (sandwiches, salads, etc.) so I don't mind taking leftovers for lunch. And I have started changing up the plan to include a leftover night if we are ending up with enough for another meal. We call it leftover buffet and the kids love it! My fridge is usually fairly empty by the time I go grocery shopping again. The one thing we need to get better about is not have two or three almost empty bottles of salad dressing, or BBQ sauce. We tend to open a new one and not throw the old one out. Seems like a stupid habit now that I'm writing it! Haha!

  6. Just found your blog :)


  7. I tend to have a full fridge. I never went hungry as a child but I listened to stories of my mother and aunts, where they spoke about the days they did not have food. I guess the fear set-in during my childhood. Engaging article.


  8. Great Post! I made a new year's resolution to tackle this very issue, but so far I have struck out :( I am having trouble because my husband and I have different schedules so we aren't always home at the same time, and a couple of nights a week I have to make food to take for my small group where there are some dietary restrictions. When it's all said and done my husband and I are both home to eat an average of 3 nights per week. I've got to get organized and figure out a way to make meal planning work for me. Thanks for a little inspiration

  9. I guess I'm more of a minimalist - nowadays, I meal plan at the start of every week. I do keep the freezer stocked up (full of meat etc) and always have plenty of sauces etc, but I like to only have the fresh produce that I need for the week to avoid waste. We used to live in Europe for a couple of years where a regular sized fridge is the size of a bar fridge (so TINY) - this also helped me plan out meals better and get into a habit of not overbuying.

    Interesting post!


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