The Holiday Fridge

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I just went to order my holiday groceries and, wouldn’t you know, all the delivery slots are full! Guess this year I’ll just have to print out that shopping list and head to the supermarket myself, trying to strategize my visit for when the crowds are minimal (definitely NOT on the 24th). It’s not so much the shopping I mind as the stress of remembering everything I need (a list certainly helps with this) and making sure I have a place to store it all.

Which brings me to dwell, for a moment, on that underappreciated workhorse of the holiday season – the humble refrigerator. Whether you have an American- style behemoth or a compact European number in your kitchen, at the holidays we all end up playing Tetris with the groceries. More often than not this season our fridges are quickly filled to bursting, which all-too-often leads to spills, squished items, and sides and garnishes tragically forgotten because they were hidden under the excess of holiday goodies.

What a waste of time, money and spoilt groceries! Never fear—these perils can all be easily avoided by following a few guidelines before you head out to do your shopping (or, if you’re lucky, before you prepare to receive your delivery):

  1. Clear the fridge – toss out the expired condiments (or those you know won’t be used again), the leftovers that will never be eaten (or plan a dinner of leftovers for tonight) and vegetables forgotten and rotting in the chill drawer.
  2. Don’t forget the freezer – make room by repackaging food items into freezer bags and eat up those leftovers ahead of your guest’s arrival (see the above leftover dinner for tonight – won’t it be nice to have a break from cooking in advance of the big day?).
  3. Clean the fridge – take a few minutes and wipe down the surfaces of spills and crumbs. You’ll be amazed at how much more in control you feel. Are you beginning to see the light?
  4. Re-organize the fridge – this is key to helping you with your shopping list and eventual storage. Think in zones and group like items together. I keep all alcoholic beverages on one shelf, milk and juice on another, and condiments and small containers on yet another. I reserve one drawer for meats and cheeses, one drawer for veggies, a large shelf (which can accommodate Tupperware and other odd sizes) for all the leftovers, and the door stores my butter, spreads, eggs and open drink containers. (Real Simple offers these streamlining suggestions.)
  5. Create your shopping list – When everything is grouped together you can quickly assess what’s missing and add it to your list. For the holidays, if you have the room, you might want to grab twice the amount of staples you usually would at the store to keep from running out (and having to run out) in the middle of the action. I suggest having your holiday menu(s) written down next to your shopping list to ensure you grab all the items you need; breakfast, lunch and snacks, too.

With your newly-organized fridge and your grocery shopping complete you should now be able to find plenty of space for everything in the refrigerator. And once your guests are gone and the treats are consumed, this is an easy 5-step process to maintain throughout the year.

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