What’s in the Fridge?

I’m thinking about refrigerators. Yesterday we met a new apartment rental agent. So you can picture this, the agent is late to meet us and turns out to be a young, stylish Euro guy in expensive jeans. We follow him on bike to check out two rentals. He’s better at navigating intersections and has to wait for us sometimes.

The first apartment is an absolute dive. I mean, I am insulted that he is even showing it to us. I repeat, “We’re NOT STUDENTS.” (And if we were, our parents would kill you if we lived in this hovel.) To get into this haphazard structure, we actually entered through an alley and had to cross a roof…. The second is nicer, recently renovated with new appliances. It has a stainless steel fridge slightly smaller than the one in an average American kitchen. “That’s a nice size fridge,” Tim says. “You don’t see that a lot here.” The agent looks at us for a moment and then smiles.

“Oh yes,” he says. “You are Americans.”

We had this same conversation with our first rental agent when he showed us a very nice apartment, suitable for adults, with a refrigerator that I can only call “dorm-size.” You know, the little thing you put in your college room for sodas and yogurt and beer, and now it lives in your parents’ garage or with a younger sibling. I couldn’t imagine operating a household with a mini-fridge, and I asked why there wasn’t a larger specimen.

“In Holland,” he told us, “you don’t need a big fridge. You go to the store every day; you eat the food. I have four kids. We have a small fridge. It is fine.” (Agent 2 told us he often shops twice a day for groceries, consuming daily what he buys. He also asked if it was true that Americans only grocery shop once every two weeks, and I said not for us; I went to the store nearly every day for something.) Then he turned the tables on us:

“Why do Americans need such big refrigerators?” And Tim told him how we often freeze leftovers (freezers are small to nonexistent in these apartments—our current one holds about one Tupperware and an ice cube tray) or buy things in larger quantities to save money, but I kept thinking about it. Why do we keep so much on hand? Doesn’t it make sense to buy your daily bread, eat it while it’s fresh, and buy the next day’s bread the next day? (With, perhaps, some nonperishable staples on hand in case you can’t get to the store.) I came home and wondered if they think we’re all hoarders, filling our fridges with food we don’t technically need to eat.

I started thinking about how I got into canning two years ago and sought out a copy of Putting Food By and (my preferred) Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. But this, I realized, was not the same phenomenon; canning is designed to preserve the harvest for the time of year when fresh food isn’t as readily available. It doesn’t require chilling or electricity to keep till winter.

Even back in the US, our fridge was rarely at capacity, now that I think about it. But I think that’s because 1. we’re frugal, and 2. we’re not big on condiments or salad dressings. We try really hard not to waste food, or have to throw things out because they’ve been in the back of the fridge for a questionable duration. At any given time, our fridge probably contains: milk, cream, hopefully some fresh produce, cheese, a couple condiments, and whatever I’m going to cook that night. Could I do a dorm fridge now? No. I don’t think so. But I could probably try to be more day-to-day with what I buy.

What about you? What’s in your fridge? If you couldn’t go to the store (think blizzard, despair, etc), how long could you live off what’s in the house right now? Does anyone actually shop every two weeks?

Current Contents of Fridge



Filed under Cooking, Our Dutch Adventure

10 responses to “What’s in the Fridge?

  1. Hi Meghan,
    Okay, you’ve got me thinking. I LOVE TO COOK….and I like to play with food. I live 6 miles from a grocery store….and I like a well-stocked frig (even given that I am a widow eating food for ONE person) just in case I feel like making something.

    And then, there is church stuff to go to….and we typically bring homemade STUFF…and I like cooking for MORE than one!

    I use my freezer all the time…little tidbits that I can rummage around and enjoy at a not-so-current time.

    I like the freedom of NOT having to shop 1-2 times per day. Do something else besides run to the store.

    Also…since I don’t consume a lot of bread….I put it in the frig to keep it from spoiling faster….and toast it when it gets a little less than fresh.

    It’s fun to think about other ways to do it. When in Delft….

  2. Katrina

    Too funny! As soon as you suggested surviving on a small fridge I thought “No way!” I do like the freedom of not having to run to the store every 20 minutes. However our fridge is definitely at capacity. We have a lot of water bottles in there (Nalgenes filled and chilled). And basics (eggs, milk, butter, jelly, salsa) and we, too do not do condiments (I always always have dijon mustard on hand but that is more for cooking). Until lunchtime today there was some leftover barbecue and mac and cheese from a local and yummy barbecue place. And yogurt. I think some shallots and maybe some tortillas.

    In any case – I would have a hard time adjusting to less room even though I do respect the idea of buying and eating everything with little waste. Given my fridge and pantry we could easily survive for quite some time but would run out of meat pretty quickly.

    PS: I notice you can get Newman’s Own in the Netherlands. Hooray for that!

    • unquiettime

      Ironically, the Newman’s salsa was a gift from the spice people. I’m not sure if it was bought in the NL or acquired overseas! Great, now you’ve got me thinking about barbecue…

  3. When Jacob and I moved last fall, our apartment lacked a refrigerator, so we were living out of my dorm fridge for a month before he found someone on Craigslist willing to sell AND deliver their used fridge for a reasonable price. A gallon of milk took up about a third of the space, and we couldn’t have ice cream, and if I bought chicken I would have to cook it all the same day or it wouldn’t really stay cold enough, which is not how I usually roll when cooking for two non-meat-obsessed people. Other than that, though, it was almost manageable, aside from not keeping as much produce around as I normally would.

    That said, I am in love with my pantry. I might have to make my own food-storage post just so I can put up pictures of my pantry.

  4. Kate

    I think it’s different when you can walk or bike over to the store. Lots of people live so far from a grocery store so don’t feel like schlepping over there every day… I know I certainly don’t! Also, aren’t these people busy? I know I barely have time to get to the store once a week–I can’t imagine trying to get there every day!

    • unquiettime

      I think you are officially busier than I am. And I have just realized a new factor… I like shopping for food. So even in Arlington MA, I only resented having to do it if 1. traffic was bad. 2. I was exhausted.

      • Kate

        I have been CRAZY busy lately… that’s probably not the Dutch way, I imagine. They seem like a more serene people. 🙂

  5. Kevin

    Besides quick trips to get a specific item or two, I think we (we=Becky) make one large trip to the grocery store per week. Although that may be down to every other week since joining the CSA (Community Support Agriculture). We get plenty of fresh veggies from that once a week which now fills the bottom drawers and then half a shelf of prepared veggies.

    As Kate mentions, having to schlep to the store is normally a hassle out in the suburbs. And because of that we really only want to schlep to one store if we go out. That’s why we have the “Super” grocery stores and why we don’t have a lot of cool specialty shops all within walking distance of each other.

    I was reminded to post here we I saw this article today on living simply that you might enjoy:
    “But Will It Make You Happy?”

    • unquiettime

      Thanks, Kevin, for that article—I enjoyed it a lot. And I so miss our CSA back in Massachusetts. I would be very interested in finding something similar here.

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