Ideas for Stocking a Refrigerator

Whether you're faced with an empty refrigerator because you've just moved to a new home, replaced an old, energy-inefficient appliance or rebuilt your house after a natural disaster, that first big shopping trip can feel like a daunting challenge to your thoroughness and foresight. Get ahead of the task by planning your list around one of several ways to quantify your food favorites, basic needs and tasty options.

Food Groups

One way to organize an efficient shopping trip for a new refrigerator, or just after you do a major clean-out of your existing fridge, centers around basic food groups. You can make a list based on your family's favorite fruits, vegetables, meat proteins, eggs and dairy products, adding condiments that you prefer to keep cool.

For a vegetarian or vegan household, you can substitute meatless products for their equivalents, if you like the taste of burgers or sausage, and add vegetable proteins such as tofu and tempeh to your list. To help you plan ahead, save your grocery lists for the weeks or months preceding your big stock-up and use them as reference material.

Meal Ideas

To ensure that you can prepare the dishes you want to eat, build your list around your next week's meal plans and add ingredients you can freeze for another week or more. Buying in bulk can help you get better deals on some foods. If you label the containers in which you store foods for freezing and keep older stock in front of newer additions, you can place freshness uppermost in your advanced planning. To simplify mealtime preparation, store a meal's worth of foods in containers of the same color.

Ingredients & Family Staples

Regardless of whether you plan meals in advance or prefer a more spur-of-the-moment approach, stocking your refrigerator with staple foods helps ensure that you can accommodate the kinds of repeat dishes and culinary experiments you enjoy. Some of these items draw from the basic food groups, but others represent your family's take on its idea of the basics. From meats and cheeses to interesting condiments, you can set up a grocery list that includes the basics you rely on in typical recurring and new-idea menus. Look through favorite cookbooks and family recipes for must-have ingredients.

Healthful Snacks

Along with the basics, opt for a good selection of healthful between-meal snacks and late-night treats, heading off the prospect of junk-food temptations. If you stick with items you know your family will eat and sprinkle in a handful of experiments you hope they'll try, you run a far better chance of establishing and reinforcing tasty habits that stand your family in good nutritional stead.

Photo Credits: Angela Mayo/Demand Media

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