Woman standing in front of an open fridge.

If you’re leaving town for a bit, it’s a good idea to take inventory of the food in your fridge. That way, you don’t come home to withered leafy greens in the crisper and unsightly mold in unforeseen crevices. Not to mention, it can help reduce food waste and grocery bills.

Wondering how to clean out a fridge when you’ll be away on your next vacation or work trip? We have a few suggestions.

Take inventory of what’s in your fridge

First, clean and organize your fridge, going through your items one shelf at a time. What will go bad while you’re away? Likely suspects include produce, dairy products, meat and leftovers. Since you’re here, you might as well check the expiration date of bottled items such as sauces and salad dressings.

Next, decide whether you want to throw your still-good food away or donate it. See if a neighbor might make use of what you can’t eat, or post perishable items as a “flash give” in your local Buy Nothing group. You’d be surprised how eager people are to receive food that’s about to go to waste. You don’t come home to rotten meat, and the giftees don’t have to spend money. It’s a win-win.

Stash and store what you can

Another way to avoid tossing out perfectly decent food is to freeze certain items to use upon your return. You can freeze bread, pastries, packaged raw meat, deli meats, cooked pasta and most leftovers. You can also chop and freeze fruit such as bananas, strawberries and mangoes and stash them for future smoothies.

Cut back on grocery spending

A few weeks out from your planned trip, make a concerted effort to scale back on your grocery spending. Aim to purchase only what you need for that week, especially when it comes to perishable purchases of produce, meats and cheese.

Another easy tactic to avoid tossing out a bunch of food when you clean out the fridge is to grocery shop online. You can tally how much you’re spending before you hit the checkout button. And additional charges like delivery fees might make you think twice before you purchase groceries you might not actually need.

To further boost your savings while grocery shopping before a trip, check for coupons and cash back offers on our app.

Get creative with your recipes

Maybe you’ve proudly whittled your fridge down to the bare bones … but now you’re stuck with several halves of miscellaneous vegetables. Or maybe you’ve finished your fridge inventory and found small amounts of multiple kinds of meat. In that case, get creative with what you cook up for dinner.

Toss that medley of veggies into a soup or pasta dish for some flair and flavor. Or, stir together your remaining ground pork, chicken and beef with some herbs and the crumbs from that last slice of bread, and come up with your own version of a tasty meatloaf.

Come home to a clean fridge

Figuring out how to clean out a fridge may feel like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. To avoid dumping everything in the trash at the last minute, give yourself plenty of time. Then, get methodical and a little creative. Who knows — you might find tricks to make it easier the next time, and you might even have fun!