It hurts me physically to waste food, so I make a conscious effort to buy only as many fresh groceries as my family can reasonably eat in about a week. Even with the best of intentions, some items end up in the back of the fridge, wasting away behind a carton of almond milk, and they spoil before I can use them.
A simple but brilliant fridge organization hack from dietitian Alyssa Miller, the woman behind the @nutrition.for.littles Instagram account, provides a solution to this problem. This is called the “need to use” bin.
It’s pretty simple, but as the name suggests, the trash can is for items that you need to use up soon because they’re about to spoil.
“Things I put in there frequently include avocado halves, open containers of chicken broth, half bags of bagged salad, salsa, cottage cheese, or large containers of yogurt,” she said. Miller at HuffPost. “So the things that are ‘on the clock,’ if you will.”
Miller came up with the idea a few years ago after getting frustrated every time she found spoiled food in her fridge. Not only was it wasteful, she says, but it also hurt her wallet.
“I was trying to cut back on my grocery spending, where I always tend to blow my budget,” she said.
So she designed a better system.
“I [already] had a designated place for leftovers in my fridge, but a lot of those foods didn’t fit the mold for real leftovers,” Miller said. “It was just food that was about to go bad. So I had to create a new place for these types of foods and train myself to always look there first.
Reducing your grocery bill and food waste – one of the most overlooked contributors to the climate crisis – may be the biggest benefit of the “to use” bin. But Miller has discovered an unexpected benefit: It also helps him answer the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question.
“For example, if I have a half-used jar of salsa in the trash, it makes my decision to make something Mexican for dinner easier,” she said. “Or half-used avocado means avocado toast for breakfast. It actually helps me deal with decision fatigue and plan menus more often. »
To keep his system running smoothly, Miller regularly performs a quick sweep of the refrigerator before putting away new groceries, throwing out anything that has gone to bed and moving any urgent items to the “need to use” bin. or to the freezer. . If there is something in the freezer that she needs for this week’s menu, she also puts it in the fridge.
“Disposing of food waste can be a little painful and this reminder keeps me on track to use the ‘need to use’ bin and use what I buy,” Miller said. “When we let [the fridge] sitting around for weeks and not cleaning it regularly, not only do we forget what we have, but it’s also easy to feel like [the wastefulness] doesn’t happen as often.
For more food-related hacks that will save you time and money, head over to Miller’s Instagram.
And if you need a good bin for your fridge, Amazon has this one for $11.99: