Has anyone else ever returned home from vacation only to be met by a complete disaster living in your fridge?
Leftovers that were once solid have now liquefied, fruits and veggies have turned slimy, and the bread has grown a fluorescent layer of mold. We’ve all been there, but that’s a lot of food wasted.
When preparing for a trip, whether it’s just for the weekend or an entire month, it’s important to consider the food and drinks that are going to go bad while you’re away—then plan accordingly so that this doesn’t happen. Read on for the tips you need to become a food waste fighting extraordinaire when it comes to pre-vacation fridge clearing!
Tip 1: Embrace the mindset that every meal is an opportunity to empty your refrigerator.
In order to be successful, you’ll have to get creative. Before reaching for the box of cereal for breakfast, STOP—the cereal will still be good when you get back, but those eggs and veggies won’t be. So how about an omelette instead? To avoid food getting too weird, pair perishable food with non-perishable food. Think sweet and savoury oatmeal, grain salads, and stir frys.
Tip 2: Prioritize eating what can’t be frozen.
If you’ve got limited time before your trip and a lot of food to go through, focus your efforts on things that can’t be frozen. This includes eggs, watery vegetables (lettuce, cucumber, etc), egg based sauces (mayonnaise), yogurt, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.
Tip 3: Use up half used products in smoothies and soups.
Each situation here will be unique, but consider those half full cartons of milk/plant-based milk, yogurt, etc. Use these up in smoothies in the days leading up to your trip! Same goes for the half used container of broth, tomato sauce, and olives. Could these be turned into tonight’s soup, tomato sauce, or stew?
Tip 4: Encourage your house sitter to help themselves to what’s there.
Recruit your house sitter to help out in the fight against food waste. Don’t leave anything gross behind, but make sure your house sitter knows that you’re not going to be back in time to enjoy those avocados on the counter, and that they should help themselves, etc.
Tip 5: Fill a cooler with the perishables in your fridge, and take them with you.
Going on a camping trip? Bring along what you’ve got in the fridge, and plan your camping grocery list around what you’ve got in the cooler. Think sandwich condiments, that half block of cheese, the last few slices of deli meat, etc.
Tip 6: Make a few batch meals that can be frozen.
If it makes sense with what you have, use up your perishables in freezer meals like lasagna, soups, or anything else delicious that you’d want to eat when you return home (to an empty fridge).
Tip 7: Freeze what can be frozen.
Lastly, freeze what you have to. This includes, fruits, veggies, bread (slice before freezing), baked goods, cheese, butter/margarine, and milk.
Fruits can be frozen, but it’s best to peel and slice the fruits you plan to freeze, as this will make things easier when use them in smoothies or baking.
Most vegetables can be frozen by blanching them (placing them in hot water, then immediately in ice cold water), then drying them, and placing them in the freezer. However, be realistic about which veggies you will actually go back for from the freezer. I would recommend freezing them as a last resort.
Above all, plan ahead.
When you plan ahead, leaving for your trip without a fresh thing in the fridge will be a breeze! It’s common sense that you intend to use every single thing that you buy, but leaving a full fridge of food to go on vacation can often get in the way of that. Besides avoiding wasting food and money, making a plan for your fridge while you’re away will allow you to avoid a sticky, moldy mess when you return home. Everyone wins.