Refrigerator Philosophy


Photo used under a CC license from Flickr user Richard Anderson


By Ezra Klein


I’m moving. And not just from one house to another, but from one living situation to another. For years, I’ve lived in a group house. Before that, I lived in college. Before that, with my parents. This will be my first time living alone, with all the control over one’s space that that implies. And so I’m giving a lot of thought to the set-up of my new place, and in particular, to the kitchen. I’m convinced that how you lay out your kitchen changes both how you eat and how you cook. For now, my motto is simple: You don’t eat what you can’t see.


A year or so back, I was reporting out a story on the behavioral economics papers influencing the Obama administration. One of the sources for that story offhandedly mentioned a study that showed men eat far more fruits and vegetables if they’re stored on the same shelf as the beer. Similarly, I’ve come across studies showing that storing fruits and vegetables at eye-level does more to increase consumption than subsidizing them. The irony of the crisper drawer at the base of the fridge is that it keeps produce fresh for longer, but since you also forget that the produce exists, it makes it more likely that it goes bad altogether. I’ve lost more produce that way than I’d like to admit. Good produce.  In my fridge, fruits and vegetables go on the top drawers. The crisper area is going to get sauce overflow, or maybe bread.


Similarly, I like to snack. And I don’t have much self-control, or really any self-control, when I’m around snack food. Worse, in my new place, I’ll be a whole lot nearer to the fridge than I was in the large, rambling group house I previously inhabited. To keep myself from gaining a gut, I’m trying avoid storing much food that can be instantly eaten. Aside from fuits and vegetables, I’m trying to make the calories in my kitchen difficult to access: That means storing food I have to cook before it becomes edible. In my experience, the desire to not boil water is stronger than the desire to snack. That means crackers, chocolate chips, granola, and cereals are out.


I’ll miss you, chocolate chips.


In the last place, my pantry was a mess. I stored dried foods on three shelves of a fairly high, fairly deep, cabinet. Cleaning it out was a sad reminder of how much good food had disappeared beneath other foods, left to grow stiff, stale, and inedible. It was a good learning experience, though. In the new place, I had to choose between a standalone pantry or some sort of cabinet for dishes and cups. I went with a standalone pantry, as it meant I could leave it open. This one, in fact. The fact that visitors will  see it ensure I’ll keep it neat. The fact that I’ll  see it ensures I’ll know what’s there. At least that’s tje hope, anyway.


That’s what I’ve thought of so far, at least. Anyone else have organizational principles that help them cook, or eat better?


11 responses to “Refrigerator Philosophy

  1. Important Life Lesson my mom taught me:
    The crisper is for beer.

  2. Don’t store your herbs and spices above the stove. They don’t like the heat.

  3. You can see what I did. I find that having appliances accessible makes it more likely for me to use them. In my last place, I had to move several things (blender, electric griddle/grill, electric wok) to ever use them – and as a result, I rarely did. Now they are all out in the open, and I use them all the time.

    On the other hand, I put my microwave in a slightly less-accessible position intentionally.

  4. I keep a running list of all the fruits and vegetables in my kitchen on an electric post-it note on my desktop. That way, I am less likely to forget about my perishable items AND when I’m wasting time online during the day, I can look up recipes based on the ingredients I already have.

  5. Kathryn McGowan

    I have a friend who had a small whiteboard on the front of the fridge where she listed all the things she wanted to remind herself to cook with. Of course when I came to visit I always helpfully added things like “zombie chops” to the list.

  6. mmmm…. zombie chops….

  7. aj beat me to it, but let me second what his mother taught him, the crisper if for the beer or wine or even soda.

    The freezer of course is for the vodka.

  8. Just made an under-cabinet magnetic spice rack. Now, instead of having spices buried one behind the next, they’re all laid out in a long row. I’m hoping this means I’ll be more likely to use the ones I previously neglected.

    Also: always keep a small omelet pan on the stove. Makes cooked dinner feel like it’s at your fingertips, which makes takeout less likely.

  9. Pingback: Quick Bites from the Web « Simply Cooking

  10. One of my roommates and I kept beer in the crisper.

    I’m digging Stuart’s kitchen. I moved almost 4 months ago and still lack proper kitchen storage. Had been thinking of getting BILLY bookcases with doors but now I’m thinking to get the type of shelving that Stuart has, whereas in the past I did NOT want it. I like the idea of hanging pans from it even though pots and pans currently have a home.

    I was so happy that my new kitchen is bigger, but what makes it bigger is floor space. There are fewer cabinets and slightly less counter space.

  11. I keep the fresh fruit out when possible, instead of in the fridge, make my own lunch, and take more fruit than I’ll eat so I always have something to snack on.

    I’ll be eating delicious leftovers from last night’s dinner while my poor co-workers are rushing out to spend $10 on a value meal at Random Fast Food Place.

    I usually have 1/4 of a fresh pineapple, 2 oranges and an apple or whatever is around the house. It probably saves me about $30 a week, which isn’t much, but I’m much healthier for it.

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