Time and Money Saver: What’s in the Fridge?

Posted on January 9, 2013

An ongoing struggle at our house is avoiding food waste. Even before we entered the sleep deprived, brain cell reduced world of parenting, we seemed to always have at least a few “science experiments” going in the fridge. We kept finding ourselves cleaning rotting food out of the fridge and saying, “we are not going to let this happen again,” only to find ourselves cleaning out more food disasters in the following weeks.

When our old fridge died, we got a much smaller fridge that made more sense with our small house. I thought this would fix the problem. We obviously don’t have space for rotting food in a downsized fridge, right? Wrong! Our new fridge also has a “bottom-freezer” setup, which I expected to help fix the problem since everything in the fridge would be closer to eye level. Unfortunately food still gets hidden in the back and forgotten about in indistinguishable food storage containers.

Here is My New Solution

What's in the Fridge?

It’s a paper-thin dry-erase surface that I stuck to the side of my fridge so that I can see what is in the fridge and when it went in there without even opening the refrigerator door.  My new goal: when something goes in, it gets written on the side of the fridge with the date.  When it’s been consumed completely, it gets crossed off and eventually erased.

Putting an End To

Eating Junk When I Have Healthy Food in the Fridge

I have a confession to make. I’m a sugar junkie. I often find myself foraging in the pantry for something, anything with sugar.  After I’ve eaten my sugary prize (along with sorbitan tristearate, carnuba wax, and tertiary butylhydroquinone) and the guilt is settling in, I’ll remember that we have cold, refreshing watermelon in the fridge that my husband  thoughtfully prepared into manageable, rind-free pieces. Not only would this have hit the spot without the guilt, but it’s also losing its freshness as it sits in the fridge waiting to be remembered.

I Would Have Eaten That!

It’s maddening to clean rotting food out of the fridge and keep seeing things that make you think, “I would have eaten that if I had known it was in there.” How many times have you snacked on something that didn’t really fill you up or you wished you weren’t snacking on, only to find later that something tasty and wholesome had been sitting in the fridge?

The “How Old is This” Guessing Game

My toddler asked for cream of wheat this morning for breakfast.  As I went for the milk, I remembered that I already had leftover cream of wheat with dried cranberries, walnuts and dates that he and I shared a few days ago…or was it a week ago…or maybe a week and a half.  So maybe it was still edible, but then again, maybe not.

Extra Marketing Trips

When you don’t really know what’s in your fridge, it makes it impossible to shop efficiently: buying doubles and triples, remembering that you have carrots, only to find that they are a lot browner and limper than you recollected.

Stressing About What to Eat

Getting rid of this also requires meal planning, but I can think of plenty of times when I was stressed out about what we would eat when there was a meal already made in the fridge all along.

Throwing Away Food and Money!

This one is so obvious that I almost didn’t include it, but it’s a pretty big problem.  Wasting food and wasting money are things none of us want to do.

How To Start

  • Put something that’s easy to write on, near or on your fridge.  I like the WallPops dry-erase message board because it’s easy to put up, removable, reusable, really thin (making it flush with the fridge), and made in the USA.  Scratch paper and a magnet will do the trick, too.
  • Any time you put something new in the fridge, write it down with the date.  Any time you finish something from the fridge, cross it off or erase it.


Creating the new habit of writing down new food items as they go into the fridge takes time, but will payoff in reduced stress and waste and saved time and money.  If you’re looking for inspiration or a little help staying on track, check out The Frugal Girl’s “Food Waste Fridays.”  Every Friday, Kristen, the mom-blogger at The Frugal Girl, posts a picture of the food that has gone bad in her house (in the fridge and out) over the previous seven days.  It’s a helpful reminder that you’re not alone and change can happen!

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