Rethinking the Refrigerator

In the half-year since we’ve been back in San Francisco and resumed a life many would call “normal”, I’ve noticed that our refrigerator habits appear anything but. I’m starting to think that’s because we spent a year without one—and have yet to “recover”. Imagine a year without cooking (other than a handful of cooking classes), a year without leftovers, a year without being able to preserve food from one day to the next.

You can probably guess that our fridge is almost always empty. Like bachelor-empty. In fact every two weeks, just before we go grocery shopping, it’s completely empty, except for a lone stick of butter and a jar of mustard. This has a lot to do with our shopping and cooking habits—we’ve almost completely stopped buying “refrigerate after opening” and frozen foods. We rarely cook enough for leftovers, though when we do, they get incorporated into meals the following night or two.

What we do keep in the fridge are the things that need frequent replenishing: vegetables, cheese, yogurt, white wine, mustard, eggs, and butter.

It’s like we’re using our fridge more like a root cellar, and less like a black hole. All this makes me wonder about refrigerator design, and whether there are any models optimized more for keeping fresh vegetables fresh, and less for keeping giant bottles of soda cold? Might such a fridge be more energy efficient?

As it turns out, our “new-to-us” fridge has two humidity-adjustable “crispers” and one short but wide temperature-adjustable “chef’s pantry” (whatever that means). Unfortunately one of the pantry lid hinge pegs had broken off, so in my new role as a homeowner, I ordered and installed a new left hand side refrigerator pantry drawer support. How hot is that?



So, what’s funny is that most people I know make this same claim about me. They come over and see my refrigerator mostly empty, save for beverages, a few condiments, and that’s it.

The main reason for this is that I attempt to pickup my dinner/weekend ingredients from the local markets wherever possible.

Interestingly, I first did this because I tend to be very random in my cravings for a given day – and I found that if I pre bought supplies, I’d waste more than I’d like.

The frustrating part is that I don’t have a good fresh market near my house, so sadly, this philosophy actually has me driving more than when I was buying a week of groceries at a time. :(

Orenwolf, maybe there’s a CSA in your location with a nearby pickup location?


I thought of that. And actually there’s one just down the street! The problem is the whole eating-for-one issue – every CSA I’ve ever seen was SO much food that I realized I’d be tossing more than half the box with the amount I consume.

One dilemma or the other: The waste of fuel to get to the market (about a ten minute drive) or the waste of food generated by overly generous CSA boxes.

Orenwolf, I found this advice particularly motivating (regarding CSA surplus):

While most of us stock our crispers with fresh vegetables and then spend the rest of the week racing to eat them before they turn brown, Ms. Adler buys up basketfuls of whatever vegetables are in season, and as soon as she gets home she scrubs off the dirt, trims the leaves, chops and peels, and then cooks and prepares all the vegetables at once — washing and separating lettuce leaves; drizzling cauliflower, beets and carrots with olive oil and roasting them in separate pans. Beet greens are sautéed, and chopped stems and leaves are transformed into pesto.

Many people, myself included, have long believed that vegetables are best if they are cooked just before they are served. But cooking vegetables as soon as you buy them essentially turns them into a convenience food, allowing them to keep longer and creating a starting point for a week’s worth of meals.

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