Don't let things get murky in the frigde while you're on vaca.
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There is no greater feeling than knowing that you’re on the brink of a vacation. However, whether it’s a luxurious, week-long getaway or just a casual weekend excursion, it’s important to have a plan for the food that’s in your refrigerator. While it may be awesome to detach, relax, and not worry for a couple days, it’s way less awesome when you come home to an empty pantry and a refrigerator packed with spoiled food. Don’t make the end of a vacation any sadder than it needs to be, and make sure you accomplish these simple tasks so that you can get right back into your food groove immediately upon your arrival home.

Try to Avoid a Big Shop in the Week Leading Up to Your Travel

While it may be tempting to head to the grocery store and pick out all your favorites to help get you through your final pre-vacation week, you’re likely going to end up throwing this food away. Resist the temptation. Instead, try to get creative with the food that you currently have (honestly, you’d be surprised), and if you are going to buy something from the store, buy something that isn’t perishable. Pasta, grains, oats, canned beans, canned or frozen vegetables, and popcorn are all foods that you probably already have, so why go to the store and go crazy in the produce aisle when you don’t need to?

Assess Your Produce Drawer

A couple days before you’re leaving, make note of the fruits and vegetables that you have, and do everything in your ever-loving power to use them up. Salads, omelets, soups, stews, and stir-fries are all quick/easy ways to use up the loose ends of whatever vegetables you have and call it dinner. If you’ve got more veggies than you can handle before you leave town, you can also stash some in the freezer for a later use. Same thing goes for fruit—if you’ve got more than you know what to do with, store the extra in your freezer and use it later in smoothies and oatmeal. While you’re at it, toss an apple or a banana into your backpack, because travel snacks are important, too. As long as you’re not abandoning the produce to rot and stink up your entire fridge, then you should be good to go.

Stay on Top of Your Dairy

If there’s one food group that you need to be most cautious about while you’re away from your home, it’s dairy. The worst thing you could do to your pleasant-smelling kitchen and your fragile sinuses is leave a carton of milk or a half-eaten log of goat cheese to fend for itself while you’re relaxing on the beach. Want to know something that tastes delicious with milk, cheese and yogurt/sour cream? A frittata! Make one, and pat yourself on the back for finding a delicious and clever way to clear out the dairy drawer. If you cannot find a way to make use of any milk, cheese, yogurt, or other miscellaneous dairy products with quickly approaching expiration dates that you’ve got tucked away in your fridge, it’s imperative that you toss them before you leave. You don’t want to know the kind of havoc that they can reek on your fridge.

Pick a Freezer Meal, and Make It

Aside from clearing out all the food items that could potentially spoil while you’re away, it’s also a good idea to make sure that you’ll have something to eat when you return. The answer to this dilemma is the freezer. From chilis, to casseroles, to lasagnas, to enchiladas, there’s plenty of big-batch meals that you can make before you leave, stuff in your freezer, and thaw when you return.

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If you’re the kind of person who saves packing until the very last minute and doesn’t have the time to quick whip up a casserole between loads of laundry, then just be sure to have a box of mac and cheese, a couple cans of beans, or a dozen eggs that will be ready for you when you get home. This way, you can bum at least a couple meals before you find time to head to the store. If it’s going to help keep you from the drive-thru and get you back into the routine of feeding yourself, then you’re already ahead of the game.

Clean Your Kitchen

This might be obvious, but there’s nothing worse than coming home to a dirty kitchen, especially after a long week of relaxation and fun. You’re already struggling to get back into your cooking routine, and there’s nothing that will deter you from that noble goal more than a fully loaded dishwasher and over-crowded counterspace. Take a couple minutes to wash those lingering dishes, wipe off the counters, take out the trash (this is mandatory), and sweep the floor. Your future self will definitely thank you.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane