Because having to throw away spoiled food is sad.
I have to throw away food that spoils in my refrigerator more often than I want to admit. I make myself feel a little better by composting everything I can and recycling the containers, but still—it’s a waste of money and a waste of good food and it makes me feel bad every time I do it.
I love to keep a well-stocked fridge, but I also live alone and have an unpredictable eating schedule. I often start the week with plans to cook that get waylaid by spontaneous invitations out or leftovers from the test kitchen that I eat for dinner instead. So when I’m grocery shopping, I try to pick foods that I know will keep for a while, in case I don’t get around to eating them as soon as I thought I would.
When properly stored, the following ingredients will last for at least two weeks in the fridge, ready to be turned into meals whenever you get around to them:
1. Citrus Fruits
Your fridge should never be without some fresh citrus. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits will all stay fresh in the fridge for two weeks, and are lifesavers for adding instant flavor to almost anything, from dressings to cocktails to desserts and braises. Honestly, I can’t cook dinner without reaching for a lemon at some point in the process.
This kitchen workhorse is always worth keeping in your fridge, and it’ll stay fresh in a plastic bag for a couple of weeks. If your carrots start to go a little limp, quickly turn them into soup before they spoil completely. Until then, they’re there for all your aromatic vegetable bases, to be roasted as a side dish, or sliced into crudit pair with your favorite creamy dip.
Oft-maligned cabbage deserves a place in your fridge, and not just because it stays fresh for a shockingly long time before you slice into it. While a box of salad greens will barely last four days, cabbage will last for weeks, ready to be turned into a quick crunchy slaw or braised with bacon for a hearty side. Or—my favorite—added to a noodle bowl.
4. Hard Cheeses
Parmesan, Pecorino, Manchego, Gruyère, and other hard cheeses won’t spoil within a couple weeks, and are great for snacking on and shaving over salads or pasta.
A bag of celery next to a bag of carrots is all you need to start an aromatic base of any soup, stew, or braise. But celery also makes excellent salads, or, you know, ants on a log.
When you store apples in the fridge they’ll stay nice and crisp and fresh for two to three weeks, ready to grab for a snack on the go or to be baked into pies or crisps whenever you get the urge.