How to simplify your life and save money with an “empty” fridge

You saw the quotes right?  I don’t mean empty-empty.

I mean the kind of empty that when you open the door you can see to the back of the fridge. Or if your refrigerator has glass shelves, then you can pretty much see all the way down.  Like this…

How to simplify your life and save money with an “empty” fridge

This concept came to me as I was enduring the arduous (and long avoided) task of purging the fridge of all those science experiments.  Let’s not pretend you don’t have one growing in the back of your fridge right now…  The more I pulled out that was a science experiment, expired or obviously past it’s prime, the worse I felt.  I don’t consider myself a wasteful person, but in that moment, standing alone in my kitchen I felt terrible.  I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t be standing in front of my fridge again feeling that way.  

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At any rate after the task of emptying and deep cleaning my refrigerator was complete. I did an inventory of the condiments and their expiry dates. In the spirit of full disclosure I found one with a Best Before date of 2014…ewww. I pensively looked in my fridge and thought to myself.  It’s all gone, what the heck are we going to eat?  In truth, the food wasn’t there to begin with. The fridge just looked “full”, which made it seem like there was bounties of food to be had.  This realization led me to the idea of keeping an “empty” fridge. 

Now I can see everything I have (or don’t have specifically the milk that I don’t drink and that neither The Boy or The Hubby tells me is gone). This has the added benefit that I can’t forget about or miss things.  During the cleaning there were a bunch of “oh sh*t….I would have eaten this…..”. But because it was buried behind any number of new additions to the fridge, I simply forgot they were there.

empty fridge

The fridge cleaning was initiated thanks to the PURGE EVERYTHING wave that seems to wash over so many of us with the dawn of a new year….but it led to a change in how I view my fridge as a whole.  Just remember that your fridge does not need to be full to the brim. It just needs to be full of things that you are going to use in the relatively near future.  This is where meal planning can be a great help. Shift your focus to be on stocking it with what is on sale this week that you KNOW you are going to use.  Not the random things that are on sale, or that you saw in the most recent Pinterest recipe…that never seems to come to fruition.  Don’t mind the chicken carcass, I have to freeze it so it can make some homemade chicken stock later.

empty fridge

Something that has really stuck in my head lately is a saying I saw on the Facebook feed of Becoming Minimalist. It was “All that clutter used to be money”, or something to that effect. When you take a moment to let it sink in, it’s extremely impactful. I was already trying to be more mindful of the things that I buy in general. But now I find that it is spilling over into the things I buy to put in my fridge.  I am also trying to eat more from the cupboards, as I have lost things in there too.  Mindfulness in general is a guiding principal for me in 2020, I want to be more aware of myself, my impact on the environment and he things I bring into my home.  

In part the “empty” fridge policy ensures we have less waste. Which is perfect for me as I also have a goal of becoming more self-sufficient as the year progresses.  My ultimate goal, given my constraints of living in the suburbs, is to only have to go to the grocery store for dairy/eggs and meat by December. A big part of this will be the food I grow in my garden during the spring/summer and the food I grow in the basement with my Aerogarden Farm Plus during the fall/winter. 

Aerogarden Farm Plus

Anything that gets away from me, from a fridge perspective, will at least make it’s way into the composter.  Therefore in some way, still making it’s way back into our bellies via the homemade compost I make that helps to nourishes the food I grow in the garden each year. That said, I don’t want to unnecessarily create waste, even if it is used in a round about way. 

Emptying my fridge was just the starting point for me. It has definitely led to many other changes in my life.  I found that by focusing on what I kept in my fridge, I became more aware of food in general and the cost associated with it.  It sparked in me the commitment to actually meal prep for work….like for real…not just in good intentions.  Since I embarked on this empty fridge process, I have taken my lunch to work every day except for my fasting days (but that’s another post for another day).

Damn Delicious Meal Prep Book

Recently, I came across the awesome meal prep book by one of my favourite food bloggers, Chungah Rhee from Damn Delicious. One thing that really jumped out at me was her use of mason jars for meal prepping. I also managed to find these awesome leakproof lids for the mason jars (in both regular and wide mouth). Lord knows I love me some mason jars! Like my giant countertop ones that I use to store my flour in ***swoon***.

Large Mason Jars

This whole meal prep concept has also helped to cut my spending, both on groceries but also in terms of my spending when I am at work.  I still allow myself my Timmies coffee (because this isn’t crazy talk), but I feel a great sense of accomplishment in not spending more than the cost of a cup of coffee each day.  At one point I was spending close to $10 for breakfast and then another $10-$15 on lunch (I work in downtown Toronto so it‘s not cheap).  So thats $20-$25 a day not including dinner!!!!  It seriously makes me shake my head, like what was I thinking?  

Another thing that happened along the way was my acquisition (thank you amazon) of the most amazing invention…..the food saver ❤️.  I have no idea why this amazing device was not in my life sooner?  Like seriously where have I been???  Now I can shop the sales with my handy Flipp app, score the deals and bring it all home and suck the life air out of it.  This miracle of miracles boasts the ability to make food last up to five times longer….say what????  The next step is to get a small deep freezer and to meal prep and vacuum seal so that The Hubby can dump it in the Instant Pot (my new love, though it did scare the sh*t out of me the first time) so that dinner prep is nice and easy.

Looking back on this unplanned process, it is so strange where I ended up, but also so freeing.  The plus side of this feeling is it that it leads to a (positive) self-fulfilling prophecy. Which helps to reinforce the new behaviour!  I’ll be the first to admit that I feel a wee bit smug eating my lunch, in my glass mason jar when my co-workers are heading down to the food court.  It totally makes me feel like I am adulting…

So what are your thoughts on my empty fridge policy?


  • Brenda C
    December 12, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    I so needed this! My fridge is a disaster and I’m always tossing away food. I like your plan of simplifying things.

    • Brenda C
      December 12, 2019 at 11:35 pm

      I meant – *for simplifying things.


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