40 of the best foods and items you should be stocking your fridge with: a comprehensive, printable shopping list of fridge essentials, plus best methods to extend shelf life, as well as ways to incorporate these staples into your diet and everyday life! This “fridge essentials list” will arm you with the ingredients you need to make healthy food choices, impart variety and flavor into your meals, and allow you endless meal possibilities. (Pssttt…. you can click ‘Skip to Recipe’ up top here to jump to the bare-bones, printable shopping list!) Otherwise keep reading for the expanded, in-depth look at our ’40 Best Fridge Essentials’, accompanied by advice on best shelf-life practices (and usage in general).
A well-stocked refrigerator gives you the ability to whip up almost ANY recipe at a moment’s notice. Or heck, even with no notice at all… like when your husband conveniently ‘forgets’ to tell you that his friends are coming over; in fact they will be here any second now, isn’t that great honey? Oh… and they are bringing their appetites. I know… horrifying right? Fear not! If you keep (most) of these fridge essentials on-hand, stocked up in your Mr Frigidaire arsenal and ready to rock, you won’t even bat an eyelash the next time you get a curveball like that.
That being the case, a well-stocked and thoughtfully prepared fridge also holds you much more accountable! How? Glad you asked! There is literally NO excuse to continue ordering take-out for dinner 3 nights a week, or hitting up the fast food drive-through, or making Top Ramen and calling that a complete meal. No, no… those excuses are much less likely to fly now. Once you have taken the time (and money) to fill your fridge with healthy & fresh ingredients, your mind starts to shift, all on its own, and without your consent… the sneaky bastard. It will be hard to rationalize with your internal dialogue that yes, you DO in fact need to order a pizza tonight. Go ahead, repeat these words and imagine how silly it would feel to wage this battle: “Ok Self, listen up now. We’ve had a long hard day, you and I… we deserve this pizza. You heard me. Not to mention pizza is a MUCH better option than the treasure trove of fresh, healthy, energizing ingredients in the fridge. Plus I read somewhere that vegetables give you cancer, so it’s a NO from me. And it’s not like the ingredients we just spent a bunch of money on are perishable anyway. And since that is not a concern, we can draw the next most logical conclusion, which is: it makes perfect sense to spend even MORE money right now, on a pizza pie! A stuffed-crust, meat lovers pizza; side of breadsticks, 2-liter of Pepsi, to be specific. GENIUS, right Self?”
Overly-dramatic example aside, I think you get the point. So let’s move on to our top 40 best fridge essentials and shopping list! But one quick note first: Please don’t feel that you need to run out and buy each and every item on this list, or that you need to buy this stuff all at once. (In fact, please don’t!) This fridge essentials list simply serves as a blueprint/template that you can tailor to make entirely your own. If you don’t like an ingredient, leave it out of your shopping basket – it is not a ‘fridge essential’ for you and will only go to waste.
Fridge Essentials- A note about your Shopping List:
We recommend the following method for stockpiling your fridge essentials: Print this list. Highlight all of the ingredients you will get the most benefit from, & will actually USE. Again, don’t buy things that don’t interest you; they will be forgotten about and go bad. Write in any extra items that are fridge essentials for YOU, highlighting those as well. This now serves as your master list. Gradually check items off as you go along, just taking it grocery trip by grocery trip, until you are all stocked up with your fridge essentials!
Fridge Essentials List
- Your favorite fruits & veggies: this is a no-brainer. Every fridge needs an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. FYI: carrots, beets, cabbage, and celery are all vegetables that last a super long time in the fridge (about a month each, give or take). As for fruit: apples last 6-8 weeks, grapes last 2-3 weeks, and blueberries last 1-2 weeks in the fridge! If you’re not huge on fruits/veggies, pick a few of your favorites that you can enjoy, and stick with what works. If you are a bit more adventurous, try a new fruit or veggie every other week- it’s fun!
- Ripe avocados: Store avocados on the counter until ripe; then transfer to your fridge. They will keep an extra 3-5 days now! We love always having avocados on hand. Avocados can top any healthy meal or soup, pair with eggs for breakfast, turn into guacamole or dip, be used in a smoothie, etc.
- Butter (salted or unsalted), or Ghee: While we use butter/ghee sparingly, it is still a cooking/baking/fridge essential. Keep it in your fridge on standby; a good amount of recipes call for it. It is perfectly fine in small doses, plus a great flavor-enhancer. Bonus: ghee, (which is clarified butter), can keep for up to a FULL YEAR in your fridge.
- Fresh, organic Lemons and Limes: We already mentioned fruit, yes… but these bad boys get a very honorable mention all of their own. We ALWAYS have at least 4-5 lemons and 1-2 limes in our fridge… and that is on a bad day. (Such a low inventory level is worthy of panic.) Lemons and limes last a whopping 1-2 months in the fridge, but they never go bad because they always get used (in our house anyway). Lemons/limes can be used for cooking, squeezing over a home-cooked meal for a hit of tangy awesomeness, in your water for a detoxifying health boost, to preserve other produce, for household cleaning, blah blah blah JUST GET SOME LEMONS AND LIMES BECAUSE THEY KICK ASS! Also, make sure not to waste the rinds- zest your lemons and limes, and keep the zest stored in separate containers in the freezer.
- Jar of organic Lemon juice & Jar of organic Lime juice: Yep, we love ’em so dang much that we listed lemons & limes twice in a row, just in a different form this time… Bottled! (FYI, bottled lemon/lime juice is just as good for you as fresh, and is a time-saving option when you don’t want to ‘fresh-squeeze’ by hand. It’s a back-up if you happen to run out of fresh, as well.) Also please note: don’t buy those cheesy, plastic, squeeze bottle things, the ones that are shaped like lemons and limes, and that have about 15 drops of juice in them total. Waste of money. Buy a big glass jar of the stuff (organic is best), and get your money’s worth. This should last you a LONG time! One more note: It’s usually found in the juice aisle, in the tiny section where the “healthy” juices hang out.
- Garlic: Whole Head of Garlic, Peeled Garlic Cloves (vacuum-sealed), or a large jar of Minced Garlic. Garlic is a non-negotiable! The negotiable part is your preferred form. Minced garlic is most convenient but the least flavorful, so it is absolutely a trade-off to consider. We use it tons when we are in a rush (or want to avoid the smelly, sticky fingers that come from peeling and mincing garlic cloves). If NOT pressed for time, we will use fresh garlic cloves and cheerfully deal with our stinky fingers, knowing how much better fresh-chopped garlic tastes. We also love to take peeled garlic cloves (they are sold in vacuum-sealed pouches), throw the cloves into a food processor, mince, and set that aside in the fridge using a small glass bowl with lid. Then we can grab whatever amount we need for a recipe throughout the week. Note- do NOT store whole, unpeeled garlic head in the fridge. Leave garlic head in a dry cool place; only after you’ve begun to remove the cloves should you store in the fridge (use an airtight container).
- Ginger: Jar of Minced or Chopped Ginger, or Fresh Ginger Root. Just make sure that if you are buying fresh, you will be able to use it all up before it goes bad! We keep a small jar of minced ginger in the fridge specifically to avoid that (and for convenience). Fresh ginger obviously is better, but either way works perfectly fine.
- Additional Aromatics (Yellow & Red Onions, Shallots, Green Onions). Onions keep for-EVER in the fridge, and shallots can go for about 2 weeks there. (Or 1 month in a cool dry place). Green onions are the quickest to go; they never seem to last the whole week. But they are extemely inexpensive, and a very versatile/useful component in many dishes- so we have no problem buying a new bunch of ’em each week! TIP: If you wrap them in a very-slightly damp paper towel, it should help extend their shelf life during the week. Another option is to stand them up in a glass jar in the fridge, root side down, and add a tiny bit of water. Make sure to change the water each day with fresh water.
- Fresh Herbs: Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Dill, etc…. whichever herbs ya love the MOST, keep on hand! Buying the ones you love best ensures you (and your wallet) get the most use out of them. Use herbs that are a staple to YOU. When it comes to cooking, what you tend to gravitate towards in terms of flavor should be an indicator of which fresh herbs are best to stock up on. (ie, do you make tons of Mexican dishes? Buy the fresh cilantro over the fresh rosemary. By contrast, do you make tons of Mediterranean dishes? Buy the fresh rosemary over the fresh cilantro).
- Greens: Spinach, Arugula, Kale, etc. In addition to your favorite fruits/veggies to snack on, you should always have some sort of “green” handy to build upon. Having it on standby will encourage you to make a side salad, throw some in a breakfast scramble, toss some in your smoothie, make some kale chips, etc. Even if you don’t LOVE greens, the psychology here is this: if it’s in your fridge, you will likely make it a point to use it up before it goes bad. There are tons of creative ways to hide greens in your meals (as evidenced by just those few examples above). The health benefits here are too valuable to ignore, so stock up on SOME sort of green and figure the rest out from there!
- Eggs, Eggs, and more Eggs. I will stock up on the 18-packs of eggs at Costco, and still run out during the week. Eggs are egg-ssential in the kitchen, whether cooking or baking, I can not picture my kitchen without them… lots and lots of them. Great for breakfast, for adding a fried or poached egg on top of a meal/soup, for hard boiling and scattering all over a nice big green salad, or even just adding to your dogs food.
- Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, or Cashew Milk. Unsweetened, no flavor-added. You can use this for a dairy-free milk substitute, in baking, in shakes and smoothies, as a coffee creamer, etc. One thing I would like to add is: I hate that almost every carton says ‘Consume within 7 days after Opening.’ I have gone much longer than that, with no adverse effects in taste or health. Well… NOW, that is. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I used to do just that: TOSS the stuff after 7 days like an idiot, even if it was still 1/2 full…. until I figured out that there was no dairy in there, and there was no way nuts+mostly water could possibly go “bad” that quickly. How could it go SO bad, like bad to the point of being rancid and needing to be thrown away, in only 7 days?! I’m no expert, to be certain…. buttttt I think you can extend that shelf life quite a few days and be JUST FINE, PEOPLE 😉
- Small carton of Milk. Obviously if you like milk, go bigger. Personally I don’t drink milk, like… on purpose. But I do like it foamed up, and with coffee. Makes a great replacement for unhealthy, junky creamers- by the way have you ever actually LOOKED at what they put into coffee creamers? Yikes. Also comes in handy for many recipes- and even kitchen tasks. For example, if you cover/rub your hands with milk directly before handling turmeric, the lactic acid will actually help prevent your hands from staining. Weird but true. (Read more about that, as well as how to remove turmeric stain from skin in the article linked here.)
- Small carton of 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream. Again, I’m not drinking the stuff, but it is excellent to have on-hand for thickening sauces, soups, adding richness and depth, and for lending an unparalleled creaminess to any dish it touches. Very indulgent, always best to use in moderation, hence only keeping a SMALL carton around.
- Greek Yogurt (can also double as Sour Cream, among others). My love for Greek Yogurt is strong. Like, rock solid. Greek yogurt has long been my secret weapon, many times over. Fantastic for breakfast+fruit+granola, adding some tang or body to a dish, as a marinade, for thickening, or even to cool down a spicy dish. Another bonus: greek yogurt easily stands in place of sour cream; it acts as a VERY reliable and guilt-free substitution whenever summoned. Greek yogurt also does a decent job substituting a few others in a pinch: ahem, for example, the 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream (as listed above), mayo, buttermilk, cream cheese… you get the picture. Greek yogurt deserves a permanent space in your fridge.
- Nut Butter (Almond, Peanut, or Sunflower). Might seem strange to store in the fridge, as nut butters can absolutely be kept in the pantry for months. BUT, throwing (some) nut butters in the fridge after opening, actually extends their shelf life by double! The catch-22 is that it is much harder to spread with a knife upon leaving a cold fridge. But I choose conservation over execution; don’t care if my PB&J looks lumpy and ugly, as long as I can KEEP eating my ugly lumpy PB&J’s for twice as long! Also: not all nut butters are created equal. The ones I’ve found that stand up best in the fridge are almond, peanut, and sunflower. Please let me know in the comments if there are any I’m missing!
- Small jar of jam or jelly. Intended to go along with Nut Butter as an occasional treat, not routine consumption. Get a variety with reduced sugar, NOT a variety with artificial sweetener.
- Tahini. This is the magic glue that turns hummus into… well, hummus. But it is also excellent for homemade dressings, marinades, sauces, and dips. It also keeps for ages in the fridge!!
- CHEESE. In every flavor, variety, and form: wheels, blocks, cubes, shredded, crumbled, grated, you name it… no cheese left behind. If you have to choose, and narrow it down from the thousands of choices, our “fridge essential” endorsements are for: Parmesan, feta, and cheddar. In that order. Parmesan is KING! The amount of flavor you can achieve and impart into one dish, simply by having cheese (of any sort) at your disposal, is quite remarkable. I legit have a cheese drawer in my fridge in case you were wondering. The one weakness I will ALWAYS have, and will NEVER care to give up= CHEESE. Get yourself on my cheese bandwagon, and fill yo’ fridge up with the stuff.
- Cream Cheese. Whipped, 50/50 Greek Yogurt Variety is a decent choice, generally it has half the fat PLUS 2 times the protein of regular cream cheese.
- Pesto. There is no limit to the flavorful possibilities you can come up with. Just knowing that you have an open, 1/2-used jar of pesto in your fridge (vs. completely forgotten about in pantry) is enough to spark your creative genius. Lovely spread onto a sandwich, dipped into with crusty bread, drizzled over eggs, mixed into soups, or entered into a pre-arranged marriage with another dip, thereby creating a flavorful hybrid-sauce-fusion baby. Pesto begs you to get inventive when it’s sitting in your fridge.
- Miso paste (white, yellow, or red). Oh my gaaaaawd does this stuff elevate your seafood, potatoes, soups, and life in general. Plus it keeps in the fridge for literally 1 year, sometimes even 2 years. So this an already-inexpensive investment, that you won’t have to make again for at least another 365 days (if not many more). Miso paste is the bomb dot com at adding savory, umami notes to the dish at hand. It’s also a fantastic mix-in for a wide number of marinades, soups, and sauces.
- Tortillas. These things keep forever and A DAY in the fridge! I am partial to brown rice tortillas, but any kind/size will do. Having a vessel to quickly throw a bunch of meat and toppings into for a delicious, easy, and filling meal, can truly be a godsend. Tacos, burritos, wraps, quesadillas, tostadas, rollups, tacquitos, pinwheels, wanna-be flatbread pizza… you’ve got more than enough ‘meal options’ available to you, no matter how busy you may get.
- Bacon. Always on standby. Great way to round out an incomplete meal, or to upgrade an already-outstanding meal that doesn’t even need help. Wow please note: what I like most about the sentence I just wrote is that I am clearly always able to find any excuse to justify bacon, whether it makes any kind of sense or not. That’s a gift. Obviously in my mind, bacon just always makes sense. And perhaps that is why it is listed as a fridge essential…. because it wouldn’t make sense to not include my homie, bacon.
- Ketchup. Organic, with no high-fructose corn syrup.
- Mustard. Dijon mustard takes priority over yellow.
- Coconut Aminos (1st choice), Tamari (2nd choice), or Low-Sodium Soy Sauce (last choice). Stick to first 2 options wherever possible. I personally don’t notice a difference in taste, so limiting soy sauce in favor of the first 2 options remains an automatic for me.
- Worschestire sauce. I just spell-checked that it and still doesn’t look right, in case anyone cares. Dumb word. Who the hell came up with that dumb word. This is another one of those things I keep on standby in the fridge, even if it is a dumb word. It gets a pass, and is only allowed to be considered a ‘fridge essential’ on my list, thanks to the Umami elevation it is able to offer certain dishes. I love adding it to marinade blends, usually intended for tri-tip (or any steak really). That’s about all it gets used for- small yet powerful umami bombs, coupled with steak! Yum. Still a dumb word. #byefelicia
- Fish Sauce. The last of my “secret-weapon”, umami-rich condiments. This is one that I super love; it kicks the flavor up a good notch each and every time. Little goes a long way. I would actually pick this one first over all the others in the same category… it’s that good. Don’t be scared off when you hear ‘fish sauce’… it is one magic little potion, conveniently available for purchase in a bottle… so just focus on that. And Ryan Gosling. Focus on Ryan Gosling with no shirt. See? Already forgot about it, didn’t ya.
- Maple Syrup. Highly recommend buying maple syrup that contains only one ingredient… MAPLE SYRUP. Any added ingredients are junk you simply do not need. After all, maple syrup IS sugar in and of itself, which is kiiiinda already ‘junk you do not need’ except for emergency situations like pancakes and waffles and dreamy mustard-mashups and stuff like that. Maple syrup, while great to have around, should still be used sparingly.
- BBQ Sauce. Pick your flava’. (Nothing else to add here.)
- Hot Sauce. Sriracha, Tapatio, Cholula, Tobasco, etc. (Nothing else to add here.)
- Horseradish. Bottled kind! (Still nothing else to add here. This is a first…….)
- Capers. Capers give such a great bite to a dish! They are a burst of lemony, olive-y, briny flavor. Especially a standout when used in fish or pasta dishes.
- Sundried Tomatoes (glass jar). Top pizza, pasta, salads, soups- these lil’ flavor powerhouses will elevate just about anything you add them to- and the best part is that a little goes a long way!
- Olives (Kalamata Olives, glass jar). Cooking with kalamata olives gives such a satisfying, pleasant, almost meaty taste. Not only that, they are excellent on their own or as part of an appetizer, and are surprisingly healthy. And these are yet another item that will keep in your fridge for years (at least 1 or 2).
- Healthy Dip(s), such as: Hummus, Guacamole, Tzatziki, Salsa, Baba Ghanoush. To be served with vegetable crudite, or as a component to a meal. Obviously homemade is best for any of these options, but you can still find (mostly decent) pre-made options, without preservatives or added sugars. Check Whole Foods or a larger supermarket.
- Homemade Salad Dressing. Using a tightly sealed shaker bottle, your homemade salad dressing will easily last 7 days. Plus you know exactly what did (and didn’t), go into your dressing. I love combining Apple Cider Vinegar, Olive Oil, Lemon, Honey, and S&P. Super simple, with a fresh and zingy flavor. Just make a new batch each Sunday, and you will never need to buy another bottle of salad dressing again!
- A large, pre-made batch containing one of the following: Rice, Grains, Legumes, or Proteins, prepared every Sunday. This will simplify the cooking process and reduce your kitchen time significantly throughout the week. I can’t tell you how much it helps when to do legwork like this in your downtime (as in, the weekend). Then you are able to dig into your big stockpile of rice, shredded chicken, quinoa, beans, diced steak bites, etc throughout the week. You can easily create an entire meal, using any of the options you have prepared as a base/starter. From there get as creative as you want, and if you do the meals will never get boring. That is the fun part – starting each meal with the same blank canvas, yet creating wildly different pieces of art each time. Try it- you will be SO GLAD that you did.
- Sparkling Water (Flavored or Plain). An easy, middle-of-the-road beverage to keep in stock for guests, family, friends. Not everyone likes Mountain Dew, not everyone likes milk, not everyone likes green smoothies, and NOBODY likes coconut water because it is a disgusting, ass-flavored beverage that should be outlawed (or is that just me)… but most everyone can agree on a nice cold water, lightly accented by crisp bubbles.
That completes our 40 Best Fridge Essentials and Shopping List! We really hope you find use out of this! We hope that it ultimately streamlines the cooking process. We also hope that it simplifies the challenge of eating healthier on a frequent basis, instead of giving into temptation because you have “no groceries and nothing to make.” What about you? What’s in YOUR fridge? What are your fridge essentials?! We are genuinely curious to hear, please leave us a comment!Print
40 Best Foods to Stock your Fridge: A list of healthy Fridge Essentials with a printable Shopping List!
- Fruits & Veggies. (for snacking)
- Avocados. (add to fridge once ripe)
- Butter (salted or unsalted), OR Ghee.
- Fresh, organic Lemons and Limes.
- Lemon Juice (1 Bottle) & Lime Juice (1 Bottle), Organic.
- Garlic. Whole head of garlic*, OR peeled garlic cloves (vacuum-sealed pouch), OR minced garlic (large glass jar). (*refer to storage notes in main article.)
- Ginger. Jar of Minced/Chopped Ginger, OR Fresh Ginger Root.
- Additional Aromatics: (Yellow & Red Onions, Shallots, Green Onions, etc).
- Fresh Herbs. i.e. Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Dill, etc- whichever ones you love MOST.
- Greens: Spinach, Arugula, Kale, etc. (these will be used for meals, not snacking)
- Eggs. (organic, free-range or pasture-raised eggs)
- Almond Milk, OR Coconut Milk, OR Cashew Milk. (unsweetened)
- Small carton of Milk.
- Small carton of Half and Half, OR Heavy Cream.
- Greek Yogurt.
- Nut Butter. (almond, peanut, or sunflower)
- Small jar of jam or jelly. (get variety with reduced sugar, NOT variety with artificial sweeteners)
- Cheese: Parmesan, Feta, Cheddar. (plus any other cheese you desire)
- Cream Cheese. (whipped, 50/50 Greek Yogurt version has 1/2 the fat & 2x the protein of regular)
- Miso paste (white, yellow, or red).
- Ketchup. (organic, no high-fructose corn syrup)
- Mustard. (dijon mustard over yellow mustard)
- Coconut Aminos (1st choice), OR Tamari (2nd), OR Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce (3rd).
- Worschestire sauce.
- Fish Sauce.
- Maple Syrup. (the only ingredient should be ‘maple syrup’)
- BBQ Sauce.
- Hot Sauce.
- Horseradish. (glass jar)
- Sundried Tomatoes. (glass jar)
- Olives: Kalamata. (glass jar)
- Healthy Dip(s), as in: Hummus, OR Guacamole, OR Tzatziki, OR Salsa, OR Baba Ghanoush.
- Homemade Salad Dressing. (can make using apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon, honey, s&p)
- Large, pre-made batch of: Rice (i.e. brown), OR Grains (i.e. quinoa), OR Legumes (i.e. beans), OR Proteins (i.e. meat).
- Sparkling Water. (flavored or plain)
Use this Fridge Essentials Shopping list as a Blueprint/Template for a healthy, well-stocked fridge. Personalize and adjust according to your diet restrictions and preferences.
You do NOT need to buy everything on this “fridge essentials” list. Add anything that is missing. You can split this list up between multiple shopping trips over time. Eventually you will wind up with one well-stocked fridge!