It’s tricky to keep your fridge well-stocked, mainly because it’s where perishable items, like veggies, fruit, milk, and cheese, are kept. I try my best to stock the fridge for the meals that I’ve planned for the week on the weekend before, or Monday of, the week ahead. This makes it easier to unpack, sort through, and store all of the fresh fruit and vegetables properly and prep a few basic meals.
Tips for Stocking Your Fridge
1. Think about where your meat, fish, eggs, and dairy come from
If you do eat meat, consider where your meat is coming from. For example, salmon is considered to be an incredibly wholesome protein choice full of omega 3 fatty acids. If the salmon that you purchase is being farmed, fed a grain-filled diet, and shipped thousands of kilometres to get to your plate, it might not be as healthy as you think. If you consume animal proteins, opt to purchase beef, milk, and butter from grass-fed cows, wild caught fish, organic eggs etc. It might be more expensive, but incorporate more plant-based proteins to bulk up meals if necessary.
2. Support a local farmer
Even if you live in a city, there is a chance that you will be able to find a weekly farmer’s market or a local grocer who stocks fresh produce sourced from a farmer who doesn’t live much further than 100 km away from where you are. By supporting local farmers, you will decrease your carbon footprint thanks to the fact that your food won’t need to travel thousands of kilometres to reach your table, and your will most likely eat with the seasons. As a bonus you will eat nutritious fresh produce more often and support the local economy!
3. Up your fibre intake
Get in your daily fibre by including fresh fruits and vegetables in as many meals as possible. The fridge is the perfect place to store fibre-rich vegetables, leaves, fruits, and cooked legumes such as chickpeas. Higher intakes of fibre are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, better gut health, and lower body weights. Check out this article if you don’t believe me 😉
4. Keep things simple
Don’t spend hours cooking your fresh produce for every meal. Rather, enjoy raw fruits and vegetables to ensure that you get the highest amounts of nutrients out of them as you can (in most cases this is true, however cooked carrots, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, and cabbage actually contain more antioxidants than in their cooked form). Have a variety of salad ingredients, pre-cooked sweet potato or wild rice, and protein ready in your fridge for easy salads and veggie bowls ready at mealtimes.
5. Homecooked meals win, always
Cook and prepare as much of your own food as possible. Eat out as a treat. Connect with the food that you put into your body. Be smart about the way that you store fresh ingredients or batch-cooked foods and invest in good glass or ceramic storage ware, glass jars, and small Tupperware/Lock & Lock containers (depending on your budget).
6. Be smart about storage
Incorrect storage of food in your fridge can be detrimental to its quality and shelf-life. All foods will have optimal storage requirements, so why not take advantage of this by storing things in your fridge in the best way that you can? For example, meat, fish, and poultry should be stored in its wrapping, with a tray of sorts underneath to prevent any of their juices from dripping on other ingredients. Cheeses should be wrapped or placed in an airtight container after being opened to reduce exposure to microorganisms and to prevent them from drying out. Do not overfill your fridge, but rather allow enough space between items to allow air to circulate properly around the fridge.
Must-have Fridge Staples
Ok so just like with my Pantry Basics post, you don’t need to have ALL of these ingredients in your fridge at all times. It is really useful to stock a couple of options in each category though because they can easily be whipped up into a simple meal along with some of the Pantry Basics that you have stocked in your kitchen cupboard.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Homemade mayo
- Homemade pickles
- Homemade relish
- Homemade tomato sauce
- Lemon juice
Dairy & Alternatives
- Alternative milks (almond, rice, oat)
- Plain / natural / Greek-style yoghurt (check that it’s full of good probiotics)
Try to stock your fridge with fruit that’s in season. This calendar is great for South Africans (and others living in the Southern Hemisphere). Eating with the seasons encourages variety in your diet, and you can save quite a bit of money by not buying expensive imported fruits.
- Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- Melon // Spanspek
- Papaya // Paw Paw
Fresh Non-Starchy Vegetables
Having a good selection of fresh vegetables in the fridge allows for variety when preparing dinners, salads for lunch, or snacks during the week. For example, sliced cucumber, carrots, celery, and tomatoes are handy snacks that can be enjoyed with homemade hummus. As with fresh fruit, eat with the seasons. Include a variety of different coloured vegetables to provide your body with a wide array of phytonutrients and antioxidative compounds.
- Mixed salad greens (lettuce, herb leaves etc.)
- Mustard greens
Meat & Eggs
I usually won’t keep more than a day or two’s worth of meat in the fridge at once, as any additional meat that I buy for the week is used to prep basic meals that are frozen, or are frozen as is. If meat is frozen and I want to use it to make dinner the next day, I will generally remove it from the freezer the night before and place it in a dish in the fridge to defrost over 24 hours. Some of the stable animal-based proteins that we commonly eat at home include:
- Chicken breasts
- Extra lean beef mince
- Beef strips
- Beef goulash pieces (wonderful for making hearty stews)
- Eggs (must-have ingredient in my home)
I am busy working on a whole new post for meal prep tips, tricks, and food ideas, but for now here are a few of my basic must-have prepped items to have ready to use in the fridge for easy weekday meals:
- Cooked quinoa / brown rice / barley (having any of these ready to use in your fridge will make lunchtime salads a bit more substantial, and can add a filling element to dinner in a flash)
- Homemade salad dressing (making a simple homemade dressing is an easy way to add flavour and zest to salads, and is often a healthier option than anything storebought)
- Pre-roasted vegetables such as sweet potato / carrots (roasted veggies are delicious, and make for a great addition to salads or veggie bowls for lunch or dinner; don’t be afraid to enjoy them at breakfast too)
- Chopped raw vegetables such as carrots / cucumber / celery (chopping up veggies and having them ready to be packed into lunchboxes will speed things up on busy mornings; pair with some simple hummus for a delightful snack)
- Breakfast jars (overnight oats, muesli parfait, yoghurt and fruit)
- Cooked protein such as baked chicken breasts / cooked chickpeas / stir-fried beef strips