Meal planning and grocery shopping can go a long way in helping our weeks go by more smoothly — and let’s face it: we need all the help we can get in our hectic lives. But what are you supposed to do when you want to meal plan and your fridge is too small to even hold a week’s worth of food?
Whether you live in a dorm room or you have a studio apartment that only has enough space for a mini fridge, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice eating healthy meals at home just because you lack a full-sized refrigerator with all the bells and whistles.
Having a small apartment and having a fully stocked kitchen can go hand-in-hand. Here are few secrets to help make it happen.
Learn Which Fruits and Veggies Don’t Require Fridge Space
Fresh fruits and vegetables do wonders for your meals — not to mention your overall health —but they can take up so much space in the (already crowded) fridge. The truth is, however, that not all fruits and veggies require refrigeration.
Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be stored in the crisper, according to the Farmer’s Almanac (the authoritative figure on all things vegetation):
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter Squash
Meal Prep Ahead of Time
In order to maximize the amount of space in your tiny fridge, one of the best things to do is to go ahead and meal prep as soon as you’re done grocery shopping. You may not be planning on making your pasta with chicken for another couple of days, but slicing and dicing the chicken and separating it into plastic bags will leave you with more fridge space than a large package of chicken will.
The same goes for vegetable prep. If you like keeping your veggies in the fridge, try cutting them up and separating them out into meals so they take up less real estate.
Make Ingredients Go Further
When you have a bigger fridge, you have the luxury of not having to make sure your ingredients can be used for multiple meals. But with a small fridge, it’s important to maximize each ingredient’s full potential. For example, if you buy chicken stock for a meal, you may only need to use half of it for a recipe — but when you have a small fridge, you should make sure that you are using that chicken stock for two meals, since it’s taking up valuable space.
While looking up recipes for lunches and dinners throughout the week, try to find opportunities for recipe doubling up whenever possible. This will not only help you save space in the fridge, but it’ll also help you save money.
Understand that You’ll Have to Shop More Often
One of the negatives of having a small fridge is that you won’t be able to go on huge Costco runs or have a deep freeze to store things in — things that typically save people multiple trips to the grocery store throughout the month. A small fridge means that you’ll become intimately familiar with the grocery store, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Besides, frozen meals are usually high in sodium and aren’t as healthy as fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
The downside is that going to the grocery store every few days can be tiring. To alleviate this, try to stick with one grocery store that’s near your apartment and familiarize yourself with it so you can get in and out in under 20 minutes. The less familiar you are with a store, the more time you’ll spend wandering around looking for the deli counter and the cereal aisle.
Learn to Embrace the Positives of a Small Fridge
When you have a small fridge, it’s easy to be envious of those who have more than enough space to store food for the whole month. But is it really such an advantage? It’s estimated that Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day, and a lot of that is due to food going bad in the fridge.
If you have a larger fridge, you have a tendency to shove things in there and not be as organized, simply because you don’t have to be. If you have a small fridge, it’s unlikely that you’ll find any mystery leftovers or forgotten fruit in there. It’s also less likely that you’ll waste food, because you don’t have the space to be disorganized. When everything requires a space, it’s much easier to eat all the food you have.
So as difficult as it may be, you should embrace your life with a small fridge. You probably don’t waste as much food other people, and you’re almost definitely more efficient in your eating habits.