Have you ever looked in your fridge and seen only condiments and a few sad, orphaned items? Odds are, you have. Better yet, have you ever looked in your fridge and only seen items that you can’t eat? If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions and live with someone who doesn’t, you’ve probably experienced this as well. And if what you ask yourself in those moments (other than “who can I call for take out?”) is “what can I do about it?” stocking your fridge well is the answer.
The first step is clearing out and deep cleaning your fridge. Yup, there is going to be a little spring cleaning here. Whether your fridge is too bare for a grown adult, or you simply can’t eat most of what you do have anymore because of dietary restrictions, the first step is always cleaning:
- Get rid of anything outdated.
- Get rid of anything that has gone bad.
- Get rid of anything you can’t eat anymore (unless you are choosing to keep things around for family members who can still eat them.
Now empty everything else out, wipe down (or scrub) your shelves, and put it all back. Maybe add a little container of baking soda on a shelf to trap odors, because you believe in treating your future self kindly.
The second step is assessing what you can have in your fridge and what you need to have in your fridge. Here are my three favorite questions:
- What do I normally eat in a week?
- What do I normally add to the food I eat during a week?
- What are some basics I usually buy that I could make for myself?
The third step is filling your fridge with the answers to the above questions always being mindful of whatever restrictions you have, then adding some treats.
For the first question, focus on the items that you would find at a farmer’s market, or around the edges of a grocery store. These are the items you eat as they are, or as an ingredient in a recipe. Find your rhythm for when and where to purchase these items, and when to do some bulk meal prepping. This may include:
- Fresh fruit
- Meat, fish, eggs or vegetable protein
- Dairy (if applicable) like yogurt, cheese, or milk
For the second question, focus on condiments and things to add that will make your food more interesting and diverse. This may include:
- Jam, marmalade, jelly, fruit butter, curd, or preserves
- Sauces (fish sauce, different kinds of hot sauce, ketchup, mustards)
- Spreads (chili pastes, pesto, hummus)
For the third question, focus on items that are likely to have allergens or other contaminants in them if you buy them pre-made. Depending on your dietary restrictions this may be many items, or it may be few. For example, if you have a nut allergy, consider making your own pesto sauce and experiment with flavors other than nuts to round out the sauce. If you have a corn allergy, consider making your own hummus and have fun with creating your own favorite flavor. Items that we do this with include:
- Herbed butters
- All jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, curds, etc.
- Preserved lemons (the salted kind)
- Pesto (can make this out of different nuts and different greens, including carrot tops and beet greens!)
- Pickled vegetables
- Dressings (including homemade green goddess dressing!)
- Shrub, kombucha, and other fermented drinks
- Nut or oat milks
Once you have gone through and thoughtfully stocked your fridge, reassess occasionally to see if what you have works for you (and check frequently to make sure things haven’t spoiled!). The key to fewer desperate fridge moments is having a few things in there that can be combined to make a quick and easy snack or meal.
Have any additional tips? Send them to us, and we will add them in! We are always looking at better ways to stock our refrigerators with allergy-friendly options!