How to organize your refrigerator and keep veggies fresh for 2 weeks!
We used to get frustrated every week throwing out fresh produce because we did not eat it fast enough. It was also frustrating when Josh was on reserve (on call). We had to go to the grocery store every night, as we did not want to stock up on food in case he got called out, leaving too much food at home to be eaten by just me, creating waist. That was a reoccurring dilemma and since he was on reserve for, well, over 3 years…we made very good friends with the people at Whole Foods, as we were their almost nightly! Finally, we have come up with a system that works wonderfully if you are gone from home a lot and want to come home to fresh produce without the worry of it going bad.
Large containers with air tight lids are our best investment for keeping food fresh. We use as little plastic as possible but glass is to heavy for this sort of thing and very difficult to find in the size needed. We line our bins with towels to minimize the exposure of the food to the containers. Always look for BPA free plastics.
Trays are our best investment for keeping fruit organized – The little metal shelf shown below has opened up a surprisingly large amount of extra space to keep fresh fruits visible and organized.
First it is a good idea to clean out your fridge….take everything out, wipe it down and start fresh. We do a big shopping trip at the beginning of the week and clean the produce right away. That way, during the week you can just grab things and go or chop and steam real quick without the hassle of washing and drying.
We will start with the bottom shelf and work our way up for simplicity. Keep in mind we have a fairly small fridge, so adjust accordingly.
In the bottom drawers we put fruits that will make others ripen quicker (think apples) and that are a little more hardy such as apples, pears, oranges (if there is no room on the top trays).
We also put bagged lettuce – spinach, arugula etc. and/or broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant etc. (bigger items that do not fit in the air tight bins). You might want to contain these in mesh bags as they tend to “shed” and get the drawer dirty, especially the broccoli.
On the bottom we have all our “base” foods. Here we keep our grain/starch of the week (one or two of the following) – quinoa, quinoa and lentil mix, beans/legumes, black rice, brown rice, millet, sweet potatoes, cooked winter squashes, etc. You get the idea…anything you will use as a base for meals or to throw into meals such as salads. We also keep our leftovers and sliced veggies such as carrots, celery, bell peppers and their accompanying dip – salsa, guacamole, hummus. We always keep these in airtight glass containers… see image above & directly below:
On the middle shelf we keep our handy airtight bins filled with fresh produce. This has saved us so much money and time, I can’t believe we did not do this sooner! We purchased these bins at the container store. We use two bins..if your fridge will fit 3 bins, then more power to you. In one bin, we put all our leafy greens. We stock up on kale, collard greens, swiss chard, beet greens and anything else you like. Once they are washed and dried we simple place them in the bin, seal and have fresh greens until we run out. These will stay fresh for about 1/5-2 weeks! That’s huge considering they would go limp in our fridge after just one day before!
In the other bin, we put all the over veggies we will be using for our salads, stir un-fry’s, soups, steams, pizzas, juices, smoothies and anything else we come up with. It is usually comprised of whole carrots, celery, cucumber, beets, zucchini and any other fresh produce we have chosen. These again will keep for about 1.5-2 weeks!
This has been our best investment as we are now able to grab what we want and simply throw it in our juicer/blender, or prepare a meal in half the time since all the washing is done and everything is still fresh and flavorful!
This is the smallest storage in our fridge, so we keep in here things that take up just a little room – fresh spices (like ginger and turmeric etc. in a small glass or metal container). This is also where we have slightly processed foods. We hardly eat processed foods, but durring the peak of training or for a special treat Josh will sometimes have seitan, temphe or tofu.
This is allocated for our delicious ice tea mix… Hibiscus or ginger/lemon – recipes coming soon. We also have the trays we purchased at the Container Store. These were surprisingly useful in keeping our fruit organized and right infront of us making that our default snack. The little shelf has also been ideal in opening up a but more room since we are cramped for space and have a LOT of fresh produce on hand at all times. We also keep our tortillas (ezekiel or engine two diet) here as well. Simply stack your fruits, citrus, avocado etc. in the trays and never be left wondering what there is to eat, or forget about something stuffed way down in a bin where it can be hidden and rot.
Before we move on the the fridge door I quickly wanted to go over fresh herbs. Summer is a great time of year to add fresh herbs to any meal. However, they do not keep very long and often go bad before they can all be used. So, if you do not have room in your bins, as we often don’t, keeping herbs fresh can be a challenge. Or so we thought! Worry no more, as we have the perfect solution for you! One of my favorite clients, Jackie Grandy, has a wonderful blog called Marin Mama Cooks. Click here to learn how she keeps her herbs fresh for days!
And finally the Fridge door:
Here we keep all our sauces, dressings and typical condiments. We have allocated the bottom shelf for nuts, ground flax and nut butters. Nuts have lots of fat (the good kind, for the most part), making them less stable at room temperature and prone to going rancid quickly, especially in the hot summer months. They will keep longer in the fridge, saving you money – nuts are something you don’t want to have to throw out as they are very expensive . We keep these on the bottom shelf (or top shelf by the tea if the containers are too big for the door).
Next we have our delicious flavorings for dressing or to simply put over our rice and steamed veggies: Tamari, Braggs Amino Acids and apple cider vinegar. If you have not tried these…go for it! They add great flavor to any dish. Braggs Amino Acids and Tamari do contain higher amounts of sodium, but a great improvement from eating out. Next to that we have our almond milk and kelp noodles. Kelp noodles are a great addition to almost any dish. They are low in calories, high in nutrients and add a great crunch to any meal!
Finally, on the top shelf we keep our hot sauces (Dave’s Gourmet), mustards, probiotics and pre-made dressings. We generally make our own dressing to avoid oil and other unhealthy additives. Braggs has come out with a great summery dressing that we use on salads and steamed veggies…delicious. The Hawaiian is our favorite! We also always keep organic Siracha on hand as well as organic dijon mustard (surprisingly creamy and great as a dressing). We also have a container of Miso on hand to mix up the flavor for a variety of dishes!
So, there you have it! Our fridge unveiled. We always have a revolving set of base foods at the bottom throughout the week and fill up as needed on everything else! If you have any questions please shoot them our way and hopefully this will help you in your lifestyle journey.