Could a Fridge Triage Box Help You Stop Wasting Food and Money?

stop wasting food, eat me first box, fridge box, refrigerator box, fridge triage, food waste, green design, eco design, sustainable design, how to make an eat me first fridge box, how to stop wasting food, how to save money on groceries

stop wasting food, eat me first box, fridge box, refrigerator box, fridge triage, food waste, green design, eco design, sustainable design, how to make an eat me first fridge box, how to stop wasting food, how to save money on groceries

As a sustainable design writer, one question I get asked a lot is do I actually practice what I preach? The answer for the most part is yes: I recycle, I rarely buy stuff (and when I do, it’s usually secondhand), I sit in the sweltering heat instead of turning on my AC and I probably only drive five times a year. But there is one thing I do that probably negates a big chunk of all of my other eco efforts – I waste food like a mofo.

I don’t know when these horrible habits of mine began but I have identified some of the causes. First off, for some reason I can’t go to the grocery store without stocking up like Armageddon is near. I don’t feel that it’s acceptable to leave the store with just one type of cheese (you need the sliced kind for sammiches and the block kind for snacking), and anything that looks tasty in any way is going to end up in my cart whether it’s going to be physically possible for me to eat it all before it rots or not. And it’s not like I’m cooking for a large family. There are usually only two people eating and sometimes just one. So yeah, at the end of the week, there’s a lot of expired food that just gets tossed. For shame! If you read Inhabitat, you probably know that food waste is a huge problem, contributing to climate change and filling up our landfills, but it’s also just bad form and a huge waste of money. Cheese isn’t cheap, you know.

So after I spent a few days guilt-tripping myself worse than my own mother would about this situation, I decided to do something about it. But what? Well, certainly I could control myself a bit more at the market, but I also felt that the design of my fridge was part of the problem (blaming others is fun). Yes, the fridge is roomy and even has configurable shelves and nicely labeled compartments, but if you think about it, it actually has too many levels and food storage areas. So I’d have cheese in the cheese drawer, milk on the righthand middle shelf, veggies in their drawers and other perishable items scattered all over the place. Now I know that this is the way we’ve been taught that it should be – a place for everything and everything in its place – but that was before our lives got so crazy that we needed to hire virtual assistants in Asia to tweet things for us from our personal Twitter accounts. When I’m busy writing a story and it’s lunch time, I sprint over to the fridge and just grab whatever’s right in the middle. I don’t have time to look in multiple compartments for items that are sometimes hidden behind or under other items and I’m sure you don’t either.

Anyways, sorry for this extremely long-winded intro, but the point I’m getting at is that I decided to modify my behavior by essentially forcing myself to consume the things in my fridge that were in danger of going bad by gathering them in a central location that visually tells me to eat them – a fridge triage box. I’m (for the most part) not dumb, but I know that without this behavior-modifying “system” – it’s really just a shoe box with a sign on it – I wouldn’t be able to cut down my food waste as much as I have.

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  1. I like the idea of using a box to isolate all the soon-to-expire stuff. I keep trying to use the first-in-first-out system in my fridge but as you said, things get lost in there. The only issue is that you’ve got to keep on top of things and do a fridge inspection every now and then (monthly, maybe?) to be sure to find all the NEW soon-to-expire things. But if it means less waste, it’s probably worth a try.

  2. I’m so wasteful. This would be a great idea. Can I come over and have you fry me some kimchi in your deep fryer?

  3. This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard for saving food! I pinned this to Pinterest last night and it got 30 repins by this morning! As soon as I read this I went out and bought a plastic box right away (I figured it would be better than a shoebox because I can wash it when it gets a little dirty). This morning’s breakfast was ‘eat everything in the triage box because it’s overflowing’ scramble, and I think lunch will be a similar hodgepodge. Then, when the box is empty with leftovers, I’ll know it’s time to cook! Thanks for the idea!

    1. Wow Rosemary, thanks for your kind words and for pinning the article! The best flattery for a DIY blog is when someone actually takes the advice we post and uses it to better their lives. I’d love to hear updates from time to time to see if the fridge triage box is keeping you guys on the right path foodwise and I am totally going to take your tip about the scramble – what a smart idea!

  4. I’ve been doing this for a month or so now, since I first read your post, and it’s definitely made us more aware of food that needs to be finished. We’re more inclined to pull something out of the triage box to finish it before opening something else. Great idea!

    1. Thank you for reading Lisa! I’m so glad you gave this a try. It’s really been working for me too. Keep me updated about your food-saving progress!

  5. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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