Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Where all that food goes

 Engie asked for a fridge and pantry tour, and what the heck? Except SPOILER there is no pantry **whomp whomp**

We DO have a gross basement fridge (nothing wrong with this fridge except that Ben is in charge of cleaning it, and it has **never** been cleaned.)

It mainly holds overflow milk, bread (I like my bread in the fridge **shrug**) and random alcohol and mixers. Sometimes if I have ingredients I don't want the kids to eat, I stash them in here, and it is the official Thanksgiving Leftover Storage Spot.

The freezer on top is... a waste of space? I mean we do have a whole ass DUCK in there that I will never let Ben cook because I think duck is gross. Also popsicles, overflow chicken nuggets (LOL) and... other stuff that's too gross to eat because it has been frozen longer than 3 of my kids have been alive. There's at least 1 homemade pot pie and probably a lasagna from the time of the Obama administration. Plus big bags of frozen fruit that I overbought at some point and maybe some bagels in the back?

Also not my space to clean, so **shrug**

The upstairs fridge is kind of an organizational nightmare. It is REALLY deep, and the stuff in the back is ALWAYS hard to access. I have started following fridge organizing Instagram accounts, and some of these women have SALAD BARS in their refrigerators, and this will never be me, but it is so so so awesome.

What I have? Is a mess with LOTS AND LOTS of condiments, and even though I clean them out every few weeks, I always have more than we can reasonably use.

I also wipe the whole fridge down every week and clean out the meat and veggie drawers, and my fridge is still messy and has spills and crumbs. WHY?

In a perfect world, the upstairs fridge would be counter-depth, and this particular fridge/freezer combo would live in the garage to hold snacks and ice cream and beer. SOMEDAY MAYBE.

Right now, it is ALWAYS super full, first with groceries and, then, as the week progresses, with various tupperware containers of leftovers.

Always both produce drawers and usually the very bottom shelf are full to bursting

MORE PRODUCE cut up and ready for snacking on the shelf
Current lunch and snack fave-- mini bagels. The perfect size for Minnie's bento box!
Stephany asked about favorite breakfasts, and this is mine. I like to eat it in the car with a coffee on my way to work or home from school drop off while I listen to a book. It is a ton of calories and really well balanced and keeps me snack and craving free until lunch time.
Dorothy has been LOVING these meat and cheese snacks from Aldi-- she takes one for lunch with pretzels or crackers, fruit, match sticked baby carrots, and something sweet, and it's a perfect sandwich alternative for a kid who does not like sandwiches.

Our cabinets are kind of a shit show. Actually, if you come over, you will see that EVERY DRAWER, CLOSET, AND CABINET in the house is a shit show. It is just who I am, and I am not going to change NOW if the first 45 years are any indication.

We have one teeny little terrible spice cabinet

This other regular size cabinet gradually also became spices and small baking ingredients (the big stuff like sugar and flour is in an even bigger jumble-- I AM WHO I AM)

Also with flour and sugar is SOME BUT NOT ALL of my casserole dishes and pie pans and also parchment paper and foil and frosting bags because why would I ever store them with, like, frosting tips?. It makes zero sense.

We do not have a pantry, but DO have 2 really big cabinets jam effing packed with food of all kinds in a manner that defies categorization.

Like the fridge, these cabinets are really, really DEEP in a way that is actually super not helpful because WHO THE HELL KNOWS WHAT'S ALL THE WAY IN THE BACK? That's a rhetorical question because I know in the space of my brain that used to be absofuckinglutely BRILLIANT when I was, say, a PhD candidate defending my preliminary exams or researching my dissertation. Now I am a Wisconsin-sized mom who can always find you that particular kind of protein bar or box of tea you've been searching for in the cabinet. ASK ME WHERE YOUR PISTACHIOS ARE because I KNOW THAT ONE, too.
Like 3 rows of cereal deep

And then! In the laundry room! Right as we are on the way to the garage, we have boxes of random prepackaged snacks that we can grab to fill activity bags or the center console of my minivan or my purse. NO ONE LEAVES WITHOUT A SNACK DAMNIT.

Underneath those are bins of other stuff we need to grab on the way out the door: lipstick, lip balm, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, Minnie's tablet, tiny jars of play doh, mess-free coloring books, random kiddie books, markers, stickers, bouncy balls, small wooden puzzles, ziploc bags of Legos with a Lego mat to play on, etc. NO ONE LEAVES WITHOUT AMUSEMENTS, either.

Phew! There you have it. WHERE ALL THAT FOOD GOES.

While I was writing this, I thought of some mom hack stuff I have learned over the years, namely about things to always have on hand because you never know when a million kids are going to be at your house, etc.

Treats you should always stock:
Cinnamon rolls in a tube  (can be a fun breakfast or a cozy snack)
Cookie dough  (when you don't even have time to make cookies)
ingredients for chocolate chip cookies (specifically THESE)
brownie mix
frozen pizza
popcorn (we have a whirley pop and a really cool glass microwave popper)
Twizzlers and/or gummy bears (with the pizza and popcorn you are ALWAYS READY for movie night or a fun matinee)
stovetop hot chocolate ingredients
tiny marshmallows
Back up meal at the ready:
Frozen chicken nuggets
Boxed mac and cheese
canned green beans
(this stuff like NEVER GOES BAD, and when it almost does JUST SERVE THIS TERRIBLE MEAL and restock for like $6. But chances are you will have an oh shit dinner night long before anything expires)
Smoothie stuff: (the quick and dirty oh my god it has been a whole day since my kid ate any fruit edition)
frozen fruit

If I always have all of this stuff on hand, I can solve all situations with food. LIKE THE EMOTIONAL EATER I AM.

Any essential items you keep stocked that might be surprising to others? Does anyone have a fridge salad bar? What's your emergency cabinet meal that you always have on hand?


  1. Feeding seven people is a lot, so it's not surprising that you have to stash food everywhere in case of emergencies. My emergency meal for teen guests is probably those tiny personal pizzas from Costco + ice cream. If it's just us, it would be some kind of stew/salad with beans and veg.

    I like your pit stop on your way out with snacks and amusements! Wish I'd thought of that when my kids were younger. My favorite thing about our current fridge is its snack drawer (between the fridge and the freezer), so people aren't rooting through the rest of the fridge and messing up my organization.

  2. Why are posts like this so fascinating? I don't know, but they are. I always have tons of canned chickpeas, and a variety of noodles (pasta and stir fry) and I can make a stir fry out of pretty much anything. My older son is moving home today, just in time for my husband and I to go on a trip, so the food situation is...I don't know. It's fine. The guys will figure things out. I always have frozen bananas because I love them for smoothies, but I don't know if that's weird or surprising.

  3. These posts are among my very favourite. I clicked over to that salad bar and, I mean, I guess it's my dream...but it would look like a disaster after one person used it!!! I love the look of overstock or these sorts of etc, but it seems so unrealistic.
    Also, we have the worlds smallest apartment-sized fridge so I don't have any fancy doors or drawers. In fact, it is FALLING APART. One of the crisper drawers is broken, the freezer is tiny (we have a small deep-freeze in the basement) and one of the handles is cracked. But it works. I suspect it is from the early 90s?

    I must have peanut butter, toast, eggs, and oatmeal in the house. I can solve any problem with those ingredients. My husband wants to make sure we always have at least 5 bags of Sunchips.

    I cannot imagine feeding 7 people.

    Also, I think you should just throw everything in the basement freezer out. It would make you feel better, I bet! You could even store overflow snacks in there - we always put crackers and chips into the freezer after we open them, or things like graham cracker crumbs/cereal will stay fresh wayyyyy longer if they're kept in the freezer. The basement freezer could be longer-term storage but for ingredients you'll use?

    Didn't one of your spice jars fall and...break your stovetop? Or did it just shatter everywhere? I can't remember the details, but I remember the spice cupboard being involved in a harrowing story!

  4. I cannot imagine having to feed that many people and our kitchen has an actual pantry. I mean, our pantry is maaaybe the size of one of your giant cabinets, but it's easier to access and organize, I suspect. I am dumbfounded by how much food this is. I can keep track of food in our house because there are only two people. How do you know when someone eats the edamame or finishes the blueberries? Do you have a list on the fridge? Do other people update the list?

    Of your emergency provision list, the only things we regularly have in our house are cookie dough, popcorn, yogurt, and granola. But we don't have kids so people aren't randomly stopping by. If someone does (!!!), I would give them tea and cookies AND THEY WOULD LIKE IT. I'd say our emergency provision list is eggs and Bob's Red Mill Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal which we can eat in a pinch for ANY meal or snack. But they both require a bit of prep, so I guess that's not necessarily a great option for quickness. Or for feeding seven people. You'd need dozens of eggs to feed a crew that large. The logistics are mind boggling.

  5. LOVED this post!! I need to make one myself.
    My essential items are similar to yours. The problem with gummy bears or twizzlers - we will eat them. Movie or no movie, we will eat them. Because we don't have any self control (myself included).

    Emergency meal: ramen or chili.
    Essentials are:
    instant coffee, milk, oatmeal, dried cranberries, nuts, graham crackers, peanut butter, edamame, lox, and prosciutto. Also berries and Greek yoghurt. bagels and cream cheese.

  6. I love seeing what other people's kitchens and fridges are like!!!!!!

    Some of our pantry "essentials" (things I stock immediately when they are in danger of depleting) are pickles, capers, pepperoni, black beans. Fridge essentials include yogurt, iceberg lettuce, and shredded cheddar. We always have so much cheese. So. Much. Cheese.

    I am not great with emergency pantry meals, but my emergency freezer meals include chicken nuggets, frozen peas, and frozen fries AND/OR frozen chicken breast and some sort of bagged veggie something; my grocery store stocks something called "broccoli and cauliflower bake" which is surprisingly yummy and filling, so I always buy a few bags when they go on sale. And ALL THE FROZEN FRUIT.

  7. I relate to this so very much. Our gross basement fridge now resides in our dining room. My t-giving turkey went bad in there a few years ago, maybe '19? When we were having it hauled away (when the new MUST HAVE functioning fridge arrived for the basement) I panicked and asked the delivery guys to park it in the dining room. And there it sits - cold enough for produce and water bottles. The freezer works.

    Additionally we have a counter deep fridge tower and freezer tower. Before we redid our kitchen and put on the addition, I had a side by side fridge that was so deep, things were lost. Coach once pulled something out and we were legit afraid of what it was. It looked like meat? It had weird 'marbling' on it. We asked the kids and Ed confessed (age 10-ish?) that he'd opened a tube of cin. rolls and eaten a few RAW and then put the rest back in the fridge in a baggie. Huh?

    I'm forever hollering at people as they leave, Did you bring a snack? Do you have a bar? We are not buy stuff to eat while on the go, so best to be prepared. My sport kids are forever teased about showing up to games with a partial meal in a thermos. I will NOT be buying the pizza at concessions for you, so here's your thermos. More dinner at home.

    I love the record number of shrugs and lol's in this post. We do have a pantry - added when we did the addition. Plus we have 2 fridge drawers in the 'snack bar' (mini island between the kitchen and family room). I thought that would be a great place for kid snacks, so they'd stay out of my actual fridge, BUT - even with a tower fridge, a gross dining room fridge, and a basement fridge - I need the 2 fridge drawers to store everyday essentials in there.

    I am like you - I KNOW WE HAVE X, JUST STEP ASIDE AND I WILL FIND IT. or die trying.

    We have rice and black beans, cans of soup, pancake mix, and chicken strips on hand for panic meals, but most of the time my go-to is boneless chicken breasts, cream of chicken soup and shredded cheese. It's a casserole everyone loves, but I do have to be home for an hour and a half for it to cook.

    Loved the peek into all of your food storage places.

  8. I love those fridge organization instagram accounts because it's all so pretty and GOALS...but when you really look at what's in there it's so not what real people eat. It's all bubbly water and pretty colored vegetables. Sorry but you can't' survive on that! Teh amount of beverages in all those fridges is seriously fascinating to me...like do people not drink water anymore?? That is precious fridge space especially if you are feeding more than one person! I only have 2 kids (and they are both girls under the age of 10 so not huge eaters!) and we have one fridge/freezer in our kitchen and one fridge/freezer in our garage and both are packed at all times. Not with beverages! We have a separate wine fridge.

  9. I really cannot believe you wipe your fridge down once/week!!!! I do it once/year and might wipe one shelf down if it gets particularly bad. We just have 1 side-by-side fridge/freezer, but we only have 4 people in our house and 2 do not eat much. In my home of origin, we had a fridge/freezer in the kitchen, then a full-size deep freeze (like the size of a fridge/freezer) in the laundry room, another fridge in the basement, and another deep freeze that was like 4' tall or something like that in the basement. But it was necessary to keep a family of 7 fed, especially since my parents would usually buy a 1/2 of beef from a local farmer so they had a ton of beef products to keep frozen (but it was a far more economical way to buy beef versus the grocery store!).

    Our fridge is pretty empty compared to others. Super full fridges kind of are triggering for me. But I can see why yours would need to be so full with 7 kids. I more so get the shakes when I see my parents fridge! There are 2 people! Why do they have so much stuff! But they do host quite often (and they have 2 fridge/freezers, and that same really tall/large deep freezer). Old habits die hard. So in 20 year, you and Ben might still have a ridiculous amount of food in your freezer - but hopefully not the Obama-era lasagnas. Come on, Ben! Do a purge!

  10. Erica4:08 PM

    I am the opposite of Lisa; I am triggered by an empty fridge and in particular running low on eggs. I think this dates from the pandemic when fresh food was hard to get. But I make sure we always have spaghetti and peanut butter, which are essentially all my kids eat. And chocolate; it would be upsetting to run out of chocolate.

  11. Woah. That is a crazy amount of food. And my next question is: how do you pay for all of this?? LOL

    Our fridge is empty at the end of the week as we meal plan every week and most of it gets eaten. Our pantry is pretty small (which is to be expected for two people, I guess.)

    I LOVE Perfect Bars (my favorite is the almond butter one). One of the only bars I will eat. The other one I like is GoMacro Bars.

  12. So this is my kitchen if I had five kids. Embarrassingly, it's almost my kitchen now when for a lot of the time I have none kids.
    I love the snacks and other stuff in the on-the-way-out space. That is super smart.
    I don't think I have anything always on hand that is weird. I always have curry paste, coconut milk, eggs, Kraft Dinner, pasta and pesto and wraps and cheese. Black bean and cheese quesadillas in times of desperation, or trashy-good KD.
    WHY are deep cabinets and fridges still made? We got a fridge after our bottom of the line moving into the house one died, and it has deep DOOR shelves and shallower main shelves and it is MAGICAL. I do still have to do periodic sauce purges (the condiments multiply on their own, they do, I swear it).
    I hate when the fridge is too full to organize well, but when it's not that usually means we're out of everything, which is also not good. It's a conundrum.

  13. It actually sounds like you have things organized really well! At least, in your own mind. You know where things are, you know how to find them, you have the emergency snacks and dinners on hand... AND you're wiping the whole fridge down every week? I don't do that! (er, I guess I should.) I would say you're nailing it.
    i hope Minnie is feeling better (your last post... yikes!)

  14. This is so fascinating! Keeping seven people fed has to be such a big job - especially considering some of those people are hungry teenagers!! I can barely keep myself fed as it is. I need to be better about stocking emergency food for those times when I don't feel like cooking, but I'm so bad about doing that. I could learn a lot from you!

  15. I... wow. Just, wow. I, too, wipe down the fridge every week but I am one person and don't eat as much as your teens. Holy moley. I want to know how you know what to buy for the next week, too! Do you keep a running list? Do people just... tell you?