Refrigerator Staples List

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on September 23, 2010

A while back we all worked together to create a Pantry Staples List…along with some Pantry Staples Printable Recipes (that you all sent in!) to go with the List. And while I don’t have any intention of creating a recipe list (because the possibilities are infinite) from the Refrigerator Staples List, I do intend to create a Refrigerator Staples List.

The List

  • Dairy products – Milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, shredded and block cheese, yogurt, cream cheese
  • Produce – Apples, Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Melons, Squash, Green Beans, Broccoli…anything really :)
  • Condiments – Vinegars, Cooking Wines, Dressings, Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, Mayo, Mustard, Preserves/Jam/Jelly

Not only do we need to know what we should always have on hand, we also need to know where to store these products!

Where to Store Products

  • The Door – This is the warmest part of the refrigerator, and also the part that is most subject to frequent temperature fluctuations.  Store all your condiments in the door, as well as juices that contain citric acid, like OJ and apple juice.
  • The Drawers – Make one a fruit drawer, and the other a veggie drawer.  The lower humidity in the drawers will keep the fruit and vegetables fresh longer.
  • The Top Shelf – Butter, leftovers, snacks
  • The Middle Shelf – Leftovers and snacks
  • The Bottom Shelf – This is the coldest part of the refrigerator.  Store milk, eggs in their carton, and packaged meats on the bottom shelf.  Take caution to keep meat juices from touching other products on the bottom shelf.

(Now I’m craving a piece of that chocolate cake.)

(Oh yeah, and don’t you wish your refrigerator looked this clean and organized all the time?!)

(And if your refrigerator does look like this, then please come on over and give mine a makeover!!!)

What did I forget!? What’s always in your refrigerator?!  What’s that one condiment, dressing, or product that you’ll splurge on…even pay full price for?! ;)  (For me, it’s Pickapeppa sauce…although I haven’t bought it in a while!)

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Melinda September 23, 2010 at 7:04 am

Let’s see – you forgot Parmesan cheese and Hershey’s syrup. Then there’s the pickle relish that nobody likes that’s been there for over a year – and you can’t forget the fat-free creamer my sister brought when she visited last April. Yikes! I think it’s my fridge that’s in serious need of a make-over!

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Alli September 23, 2010 at 7:50 am

My fridge has that bottom deli drawer (like the picture) and that’s where I keep the things my kids are always allowed to eat whenever they want- string cheese, yogurt, fruit (apples right now), and baby carrots. When my 5 year old comes and tells me he is hungry- I send him to that drawer.

I don’t keep sour cream or cream cheese as staples, because they just aren’t part of our family diet. I’m the only one that really like them and “soft” or “sour” dairy is a migraine inducer for me, so it is rare we have them on hand. If I have a recipe that calls for them, I buy them special, but not staples.

We always have hot dogs and turkey bacon on hand. Oh, and my husband’s Coke Zeros. There is always on 2L in the fridge.

I love the pantry staple list, BTW. I just printed it to keep by my fridge.

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Lezlee September 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

Great list. I can’t keep “fragile” things on the bottom as you suggest because my 3 year old likes to look at the eggs. Just this week he cracked three. Luckily the recipe I was making called for them. Ah, life with little ones. I love it.

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jess September 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm

that fridge looks so good because there’s NOTHING in it!! Definitely NOT a picture of a real family’s fridge!
In addition to most of the staples you’ve listed, I always keep tortillas and sliced lunchmeat in the fridge. I’ve started meal planning, so dinners are not usually a hurry-and-find-something-to-throw-together ordeal anymore, but lunches usually are. Quick and easy quesadillas are in the rotation around here!

And Alli, I LOVE the idea of the ‘snack’ drawer!

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Crystal's Cozy Kitchen September 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I always put my meat on a plate or some other container – I just don’t like how the bottom shelf of most refrigerators is right above the fresh produce so if the meat leaks it will run into the crisper!

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Glen Powers September 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

“What’s that one condiment, dressing, or product that you’ll splurge on…even pay full price for?”

For me it’s anchovy paste. A tasty secret ingredient that’s great in homemade oil and vinegar type salad dressings and tomato sauces. Horseradish is also great to keep on hand. That may be on one of your list and I just missed it. Of course it’s great on sandwiches and with roast beef but I also add a little HRadish to pimento cheese and tuna, egg and ham salad. Just enough to put in a little whang in but not enough that the taste is easily identified. I always like hearing “Ummm good, this has something in it that I just can’t quite put my finger on…what is it?” Love your site. Thanks.

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Larissa September 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I’d have to say ketchup and hot mustard have to be in the fridge at all times.

We also keep “real meat” sandwich meats on hand (not compressed loaf meats) and pickles. Since school started we’ve also started stocking “reduced sugar” and “100% juice” juice boxes…they’re a nice treat for the lunch box.

And for that picture! I wish my fridge looked like that! On any given day I’m thinking about how I should get to cleaning it out eventually…instead of just rearranging to make more space for the latest purchases.

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Jasmine September 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I have never used Pika pepper sauce myself but remember that growing up it could be hard to find so my dad would stock up on it — there were always three or four bottles in the pantry.

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Missy_in_WV September 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm

A-1 sauce, minced garlic in a jar, and tabasco sauce are also things we keep on hand.

Most of you probably consider this a pantry staple, but we ALWAYS have natural applesauce in the fridge. We have it at least twice a week (a habit from my childhood when we had apple trees on the farm, Mom froze bags of diced apples every fall and we ate homemade applesauce year round).

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ATL Cook September 23, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I have a new Whirlpool French Door, pull out freezer, similar to the photo. I have an extra bin under the top shelf. I got mine in mid June and just love it. No filtered water, but that is fine–I don’t even use the ice maker.

I keep left overs and pre cooked food on the top shelf. That has really been a big help as it is still hot and most dinners are cold plates made from precooked items. It is one of the coldest areas of the refrig too according to the manual. Cold air sinks, and it all comes from the freezer–the vent is in the very top of the refrig, so that top shelf gets the coldest. Don’t block that vent–#1 cause of needing a new one.

You might want to read the manual to your refrig before following any suggestions mentioned. Mine shows that things with a skin should all be stored together in a crisper and I have it set like that. The other one is set to reflect that everything has leaves. Refrig is set @ 36º and I can keep things about double what others can. I have to have it set like that for my shot–Byetta, (not insulin) for type 2 diabetic.

I don’t keep butter in the refrig–even in summer when Hotlanta lives up to her name. I store up to 2 extra pounds of unsalted butter on the counter away from the stove. This kind of year, the AC is set at 80º . I keep a stick of butter in the TOP of the butter dish–upside down. So if is melts a little, it is contained and the bottom goes on the top. Works out great and my butter always tastes fresh. Looks a little odd, but who cares if it contains any soft or oozy butter.

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Glenda September 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Oddly enough, aloe vera juice. Tastes odd (kind of like effervescent peroxide) but 1-2 tablespoons when you have an acid stomach will clear it right up. You can even get it flavored to mask aloes odd taste. We also soak soft clothes in it and lay it on sunburns. You can get it at Wal-Mart by the Rx where they sell laxatives. (It is sold as a natural laxative but to get that effect you have to drink considerably more)

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janet September 24, 2010 at 11:57 am

ATL Cook is correct regarding the coldest areas of the fridge. Always best to refer to the owners manual for the type of fridge you have. I have a new, though very standard, Top Freezer/Fridge; the top shelf of the fridge is 5-10 degrees colder than the bottom shelf and cripser drawers. Storing produce in the warmer areas is actually better than subjecting them to the coldest areas which can induce frost.

Also, using small plastic baskets to store like produce is a great way to keep everything organized, within easy reach and forces you to look at everything you have each time you pull out a basket to use something. It has really helped me almost eliminate spoiled produce.

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Stephanie September 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Additional must haves: apple sauce, soy sauce, Hershey’s syrup, and maple syrup. My fridge is never without these items as well, and they make meal time/snack time come together a little bit faster.

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Rebecca September 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Nice list!

Our must-have-at-whatever-price is soy sauce. We buy fairly large bottles of it from the local asian market, so it isn’t too terribly expensive, but they never ever ever have sales there.

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Crystal in Cincinnati October 19, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The one thing (if there must be only one) that I keep in the fridge whenever I possibly can is English clotted cream. It sounds horrid, but I assure you, you have not LIVED until you’ve tried it! It is like a thick butter, but creamy–you toast an english muffin, and add clotted cream and strawberry jam to it…and have it with a cup of strong tea. SOOOOO GOOD!

And yeah…my fridge has the freezer on the bottom, too, and the “rotter” drawers just above it…everything either rots or freezes in those drawers! Wish my fridge was as clean as the one pictured…we do what we call “the balancing act.” It’s kinda like Jenga for the fridge. LOL

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