Let’s talk about the most visited place in my entire house today…the fridge.
Even before my family’s switch to real food our fridge was stocked with decent food. Sure, we bought grocery store eggs and artificially-flavored yogurt, but when compared to the pantry (hello, Pop-Tart City) and freezer (Toaster Strudels anyone?), our fridge was decently stocked with semi-real foods.
While a real food pantry and freezer can be expensive to overhaul all at once, the real food fridge is an easier switch and much lighter on the budget. Once the flavored yogurt and canola oil-based hummus is gone, it’s time to stock better alternatives. Today, I’m going to show you exactly how to stock healthier alternatives without compromising taste or hunger.
The list below is a guide of what I consider real food essentials in my fridge. Your list may differ and that’s okay. This is simply a guide, a reference list to build on or take away from. Your fridge inventory will also change with the seasons and your family’s current favorite foods.
Tour My Fridge
How to Stock a Real Food FridgeBasic Staples and Essentials
Fresh Fruit and Veggies: Fresh fruit and veggies are essential in the real food kitchen. Buying seasonal produce will help keep your budget in check and provide vital nutrients. Most fruits and vegetables are best kept in bags or storage containers, and stored in the crisper drawers.
I love buying organic produce, however, 100% organic isn’t always possible, so I stick with purchasing organic produce from the Environment Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list.
Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs add flavoring to homemade meals. Add fresh herbs to recipes or garnish meals for extra flavor. Fresh herbs not only add flavor, but also pack health benefits. My favorite herbs include: rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, and basil. Fresh herbs are easy to grow and take up minimal space.
Condiments/Sauces and Dips: Homemade sauces and dips are easy to prepare and much healthier than many store-bought counterparts. I’ve also been able to find many quality store-bought condiments and dips from my local health food store. My favorite sauces/condiments include: mustard, pickles, ketchup, mayo, salsa, salad dressing, sauerkraut, and sour cream. My favorite dips: sour cream and yogurt (for homemade ranch or dipping fruits and veggies), homemade hummus, homemade guacamole, salsa.
Grass-Fed Raw or Low-Temp Whole Milk and Cream (or Dairy-Free Alternative): Modern day milk (particularly organic milk) is commonly ultra-pasteurized for a long shelf-life and comes from corn-fed cows. This milk is heated to such high temperatures it’s stripped of all nutrients and vitamins resulting in a dead milk that can last months before a carton is opened. Real milk should come from grass-fed cows, sheep, or goats and undergo minimal to zero processing (raw).
Whole milk is the best choice. Cream can be found on the top of whole low-temp pasteurized and raw milk. The cream can easily be skimmed (resulting in skim milk). Cream is also sold separately at many natural food stores and farms. Cream is most commonly used to make homemade ice cream, quiche, sauces, mac and cheese, and homemade coffee cream.
Dairy-free milk is a great option if raw or low-temp dairy milk is not available or tolerated. Almond milk can be subbed in most dairy recipes and is very easy to make at home.
Butter: Look for butter with only one or two ingredients: cream and salt. Real butter should not contain added oils or preservatives (other than salt). Look for butter from grass-fed cows (I like Kerrygold or Organic Valley). You can also make butter at home with cream. Butter adds flavor and beneficial fat to meals.
Cheese: Cheese should be “real,” not a processed cheese product. Buying cheese in a block is generally the best option for price and avoiding anti-caking ingredients found in shredded cheese. If possible, look for cheese from grass-fed or pastured cows, sheep, or goats as it contains beneficial enzymes and good bacteria. Hard cheese, such as cheddar, can easily be shredded at home and stored in the freezer for convenience. My favorite brands are Heinis Raw Cheddar, Kerrygold, and Organic Valley.
Kombucha: Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea containing beneficial bacteria that’s good for your gut and health. The sugar used in making the tea is consumed by the bacteria and yeast with the final result being a fizzy health-packed drink. Kombucha can be flavored with juices or fruit, making it a healthy alternative to soda. My favorite store-bought kombucha brand is GTS.
Whole Milk Yogurt and/or Milk Kefir: Yogurt is an excellent probiotic-rich food to include in your family’s diet. Look for yogurt containing “live cultures” on the ingredient list with no added preservatives, flavoring, or sugars. It’s best to purchase plain yogurt preferably from grass-fed cows, sheep, or goats. Natural flavorings can easily be added to plain yogurt such as: blended fruit, honey, and vanilla. Yogurt is very easy to make for those looking for a homemade alternative. Yogurt can be used in smoothies, as a snack, for baking, and in homemade dips.
Milk kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains healthy bacteria, much like kombucha. Milk kefir is achieved using kefir grains and leaving milk to ferment on the counter (with the grains) for approximately 12 hours. The final result is a slightly sour, thick milk loaded with cultures for a happy gut. Milk kefir can be enjoyed straight (if you like tang), blended with fruit, used in baking, or added to smoothies.
Miscellaneous Foods: The above foods are always stocked in my fridge, but you can also find a good mix of make-ahead ingredients/meals (rice, beans, hard-boiled eggs, etc.), leftovers, and easy snacks for the kids (Applegate lunch meat or pepperoni, homemade pb&j).
Eggs: I don’t keep eggs in the fridge because our eggs are fresh from the backyard. Fresh eggs that haven’t been washed or refrigerated don’t need to be kept in the fridge. I recommend staying away from egg products (egg whites, “eggs” in a box). Focus on purchasing eggs from “pastured” hens with roaming space, a rich diet consisting of bugs and supplemental feed, and clean living conditions.
How to Organize Your Fridge and Keep Food Fresh
Now, let’s talk about fridge storage. This post and video tour takes a look at my fridge–from how I store fresh ingredients to my number one organization tip. For example: Did you know that storing green onions like a bouquet will keep the onions fresh for a couple of weeks?
Just found your blog and have been binge reading since I am laid up at the moment from surgery. I also live in Florida and was wondering if you would mind sharing where you do most of your shopping, especially for bulk items. I tried Whole Foods & The Natural Food Store near me and was hit with sticker shock. Would love to do farmers markets but I work weekends and that is the only time they are open here and hubby wont go (hates the crowds.)
Hey Pauline, I do most of my shopping at a local health food store called Nature’s Foods Patch. I’ve also been able to find a good local produce stand in our area called John’s Produce. Produce stands are incredibly reasonable. Florida also has many farms for beef, poultry, and pork. http://www.eatwild.com/ has been a great resource for me to get connect personally with local farms. I also shop at Publix for a few things.
Kristin…you say fresh eggs do not need to be refrigerated. How long will they last that way?
Hey Barbara, If the eggs aren’t washed they will last for about three weeks on the counter. Eggs naturally have a protective coating (which allows them to sit in the coop after being laid by the chicken), but once the eggs are washed the protective coating disappears and they must be refrigerated.
I’ve been LOVING this series!! Thank you!!
Thank you, Daisy! I’m so glad you’re enjoying this series! We’re going to talk about other areas of the house (AKA: the medicine cabinet/bathroom linen closet) soon, too.