Author Topic: Food storage in a studio apartment  (Read 7824 times)

savvyjourno

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Food storage in a studio apartment
« on: January 02, 2015, 10:43:33 AM »
Hello, I have only this week embarked on a MMM lifestyle. I live alone in an expensive mountain resort town and live in a small studio apartment. The place came fully furnished and that included a small mini fridge with one of those teeny freezer components on the upper part of the fridge. It frequently frosts over and can only really fit one thing in there.
I have a mostly vegetarian lifestyle, with some fish, and all I can fit in the freezer is several garden burgers taken out of the box.
I'm trying to figure out whether I should buy a separate freezer for additional food storage. The closest Costco/Target/Walmart is roughly 90 minutes away and the only stores proximal to where I live are upscale, mostly organic/gourmet, locally owned markets.
The food cost/lack of storage is my most difficult obstacle in becoming a better saver and planner. So far, I have allowed myself $15 every two days toward groceries, as that is approximately how much cold food I can store. $15 gets me a package of firm tofu, a pound of carrots, a pint of yogurt, two apples/oranges/pears, a bag of dried beans and a small package of cheese.
Do you have any ideas for me regarding food storage/cheap pescatarian options in an otherwise expensive town? I can use my parent's Costco card, so traveling to the city 90 minutes away is an option.
I work full-time at approximately $15 per hour and put some $200 a month toward my $3,500 student loan debt, which I hope to pay off quickly.
Thank you for your help and expertise!
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 10:49:13 AM by savvyjourno »

GuitarStv

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2015, 10:49:02 AM »
Buy a separate chest freezer, plan out all of your meals for the month beforehand, do the trip to the big store once a month (lots of frozen veggies, frozen fruit, dried beans, etc).  That's the approach I'd take.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2015, 10:50:01 AM »
Thank you! How much should I spend on the chest freezer? Keep in mind that my apartment is very small. Maybe I can use it as an extra chair, haha.

ioseftavi

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2015, 10:54:46 AM »
We shop at costco and make it work with 550 square feet.  What are you working with?  If your apartment is 400 sq feet or so, I would just suggest getting a full-sized fridge/freezer.  A chest freezer is too specialized and too obviously large to work in a space like that.  A standard fridge/freezer would still be really good, though.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2015, 11:10:11 AM »
Yep, it's just about 400 square feet. It will be a bit cramped with a full-sized fridge, but that doesn't bother me. My challenge will be finding a used one here--our Craigslist is notoriously bad. I live in a town of about 3,000 and it's mostly second-home owners. You can imagine the Craigslist offerings: $3,000 teak headboards, $500 antique lamps... I have an older-model Honda CRV, so I suppose I can travel to find the fridge.
Thank you both!

GuitarStv

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2015, 11:17:03 AM »
Thank you! How much should I spend on the chest freezer? Keep in mind that my apartment is very small. Maybe I can use it as an extra chair, haha.

It sounds like a fridge would be the better way to go, as you're super tight on space and they're upright.  Plus you can cook one or two big meals on the weekend and store 'em in the fridge to eat over the week - drastically reducing the amount of time you spend cooking.

Used fridges especially tend to pop up for very cheap (under a hundred) on craigslist.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2015, 11:42:22 AM »
Great idea. I will be making a trip to the big, big city in approximately 2 weeks to see some college friends, so perhaps I will get a well-priced fridge there. In the meantime, I'll just do my thrice-weekly hauls at the spendy place. Also, I consulted my landlord and my apartment is 380 square feet.

ioseftavi

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2015, 12:02:36 PM »
Sounds like fridge is the way to go.  You'll be able to store leftovers way better, as well as partake in the beauty of buying bulk foods (even in 380 sq ft). 

Is there a costco or similar near you?  If so, you'll be able to switch to buying meats and non-perishables there, and you might just save a ton of money.  When my spouse and I switched 1.5 years ago, we found that things we bought at Costco were - on average - half of what they were at our local grocery store when we bought small amounts.  We're in NYC, so it was particularly dramatic.

pbkmaine

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2015, 12:06:38 PM »
We have a small, under-the-counter upright (not chest) freezer. If I had a dorm-sized fridge, That's what I would buy. In the past, I have used it in the kitchen for extra counter space, with a chopping block on top. They are inexpensive and can often be found on Craig's list.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2015, 12:10:35 PM »
Yeah, I perused Craigslist and there was nothing within an hour's drive of me.
Fortunately, I asked my coworkers and one of them has a 4-foot-tall chest freezer in her barn that she doesn't use! She's going to make sure it works and then drop it off at my place sometime this week. (I live near work.) Hopefully that happens. A large fridge would be nice, but I will always go with the free option.
Yes, I can certainly exercise my Costco card. I've used it a few times for nonperishable items (couscous, quinoa, trash bags, etc) when I've had to go to the city to pick someone up from the airport. But it wasn't feasible for frozen items, especially, given my limited space. Hopefully the chest freezer my coworker has will work out nicely and I can stock up on items when I make the 2.5 hour drive to the state capitol in two weeks.
Any suggestions for well-priced fish-and-veggie items at Costco with a long freezer life?
Can't thank you all enough.

ioseftavi

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2015, 12:26:19 PM »
From costco, we get pretty much all of our meats.  They also sell a decent selection of fish, including stuff like salmon filets which are individually vacuum packed/marinated, super convenient.

You can also get bulk bags of flash-frozen veggies like broccoli florets, etc, for stir-fry.

Our biggest savings are on stuff like red meat, sausage, bacon, buying ground beef in bulk, buying many steaks at a time, etc. 

Good luck!

lifejoy

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2015, 05:02:58 PM »
This isn't helpful, I guess, but I see your situation as ideal. Your current fridge uses so little electricity, and I'm willing to bet you have very little food waste! Your small/non-existent freezer means that you're eating a lot of fresh foods. I like what you've got going on :)

Peony

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2015, 05:19:43 PM »
I'd be just a little careful with the freebie freezer that's been sitting in the barn. I'm not an expert on this but if it's a really old one it may not be energy efficient. I guess I'd accept the freezer but watch my electric bill very closely in case the food savings are offset by energy costs. Others on this site might know more about how expensive old vs. new freezers are to run.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2015, 05:21:00 PM »
This isn't helpful, I guess, but I see your situation as ideal. Your current fridge uses so little electricity, and I'm willing to bet you have very little food waste! Your small/non-existent freezer means that you're eating a lot of fresh foods. I like what you've got going on :)

I was thinking the same thing today! If I do get that freezer, cool, but I attempted to shop at the pricey resort market today and did pretty well. $41 for all this fresh stuff, including a giant butternut squash for $3. Turns out, even in the most expensive of places, you can get healthy, well-priced food if you're willing to spend a little more time looking.
Thanks everyone!

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2015, 05:23:17 PM »
I'd be just a little careful with the freebie freezer that's been sitting in the barn. I'm not an expert on this but if it's a really old one it may not be energy efficient. I guess I'd accept the freezer but watch my electric bill very closely in case the food savings are offset by energy costs. Others on this site might know more about how expensive old vs. new freezers are to run.

Good point. All my utility bills are included in my rent, so it won't make a difference to me. But I don't need to gauge the planet's resources more than I already do. (Although I think I have a comparatively small footprint.)

1967mama

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2015, 05:24:50 PM »
What about something like this which could fit on a counter or act as an end table with a lamp on it?

http://www.amazon.com/Haier-HUM013EA-7-Cubic-Foot-Compact-Space-Saver/dp/B000QFDNOE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420330842&sr=8-1&keywords=apartment+size+freezer

Or something a little larger like this which could also serve as a table but appears large enough to sit on the floor?

http://www.amazon.com/Danby-DCF038A1WDB1-Chest-Freezer-Cubic/dp/B00O2N4GRE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420330943&sr=8-2&keywords=apartment+size+freezer

My grandmother had this second freezer and kept it covered with a table cloth. It might be more useful in the longer term if you end up sharing a living space with someone else.


savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2015, 05:30:18 PM »
What about something like this which could fit on a counter or act as an end table with a lamp on it?

http://www.amazon.com/Haier-HUM013EA-7-Cubic-Foot-Compact-Space-Saver/dp/B000QFDNOE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420330842&sr=8-1&keywords=apartment+size+freezer

Or something a little larger like this which could also serve as a table but appears large enough to sit on the floor?

http://www.amazon.com/Danby-DCF038A1WDB1-Chest-Freezer-Cubic/dp/B00O2N4GRE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420330943&sr=8-2&keywords=apartment+size+freezer

My grandmother had this second freezer and kept it covered with a table cloth. It might be more useful in the longer term if you end up sharing a living space with someone else.

I love the first little freezer especially, but that's pretty pricey. As far as moving somewhere else with a roommate, my lease here is up at the end of May...unfortunately I have one of the cheapest deals in town, so if I want to live somewhere bigger, I'll have to move about 12+ south and in the opposite direction of work. I currently live two miles from work and it's wonderful.
Course I could also leave this resort town by the end of May, too! I'm from Hawaii, so expensive food has always been a reality for me. But this -10 degree weather and snow dump is NOT my cup of tea, haha.

PMG

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2015, 05:36:27 PM »
I also spent time with just a mini fridge with a laughable freezer section. I missed freezing free garden vegetables but was so happy with how little food I wasted. 

Sounds like your coworkers free freezer solvers your dilemma. Lowes and Home Depot carry mini fridges with separate functional freezers that were only a couple hundred dollars. Smaller than apartment size but probably slightly larger than what you currently have. That was the solution I wanted for myself until my landlord put in a full size fridge.  I store extra things in it as I've heard the a full fridge is more efficient.

 I live by myself in a 400ish square ft house 2 hours away from the big box stores. i like to stock up some but it can be a toss up whether the monetary savings are worth the hassle and space.  i don't want to be tripping over tubs of grains and staples.

If you do the long distance trip for frozen goods remember to take something to keep them frozen.  A cooler?  A pile of blankets?  It would suck to get home with a huge pile of partially thawed veggies, only to freeze them again in solid lumps and then lose the portionability of them!

HattyT

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2015, 05:41:13 PM »
Sounds like you've got some great ideas.  Here are a few more.
In college, we used a window sill.  Do you have any options for outside storage?  You could buy smaller amounts of things.  Cook more non-perishable items.  Veggies like cabbage and carrots have a long shelf life.  You could google to find how some people who live without a fridge do that.

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2015, 05:41:36 PM »
I also spent time with just a mini fridge with a laughable freezer section. I missed freezing free garden vegetables but was so happy with how little food I wasted. 

Sounds like your coworkers free freezer solvers your dilemma. Lowes and Home Depot carry mini fridges with separate functional freezers that were only a couple hundred dollars. Smaller than apartment size but probably slightly larger than what you currently have. That was the solution I wanted for myself until my landlord put in a full size fridge.  I store extra things in it as I've heard the a full fridge is more efficient.

 I live by myself in a 400ish square ft house 2 hours away from the big box stores. i like to stock up some but it can be a toss up whether the monetary savings are worth the hassle and space.  i don't want to be tripping over tubs of grains and staples.

If you do the long distance trip for frozen goods remember to take something to keep them frozen.  A cooler?  A pile of blankets?  It would suck to get home with a huge pile of partially thawed veggies, only to freeze them again in solid lumps and then lose the portionability of them!

I feel ya! And thanks for the tip about car storage! I have a little cooler that I'll definitely bring along. Fortunately, I live in a very cold place...even the town where the Costco is is very cold some 90 minutes away, so I should be good until April or so :) I'll keep you guys posted on the free freezer, coworker was gonna check to see if it still worked and I haven't heard back yet.
Re: tripping over bulk things in your tiny living space, I've been organizing my pots/pans/crockpot/dry goods on an industrial-strength metal shelving unit. It's collapsible, stainless steel and retailed for maybe $40. My mom bought it for me several years ago and it's still working great! I've moved several times and will simply collapse it, transport it and set it back up in my new digs. I think you could find something like it at Big Lots or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or the thrift store, of course. :)

savvyjourno

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2015, 05:43:59 PM »
Sounds like you've got some great ideas.  Here are a few more.
In college, we used a window sill.  Do you have any options for outside storage?  You could buy smaller amounts of things.  Cook more non-perishable items.  Veggies like cabbage and carrots have a long shelf life.  You could google to find how some people who live without a fridge do that.

Unfortunately, no :( I sure wish I did. I have one large window in my place with a sliding glass door that has a screen behind it. I do have an awesome fireplace though :) I wouldn't need a freezer if I could put stuff outside...it hasn't gotten above 10 degrees this week!
That's a great idea for someone with a sill though, hopefully people with similar living situations are reading this thread.

ioseftavi

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2015, 07:51:45 AM »
Just a follow up - my wife and I did our post on how we make Costco work in our <600 sq ft apartment.  I know you said that Costco is 90 minutes away, but you also said that you can piggyback on your parents membership, so that's pretty good!  Also, once we got our costco system started, we go grocery shopping a LOT less.  We go to local grocery stores every few days to grab a few small fresh ingredients things, but our "big" shopping trips are all at costco, and they only happen maybe once every 6-8 weeks, so it's not like you'll need to make that 90 minute trip every week.

It's a bit more detailed than what we wrote in this thread initially, and you can find it here.  Hope it helps!

pancakes

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Re: Food storage in a studio apartment
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2015, 08:02:36 AM »
This isn't helpful, I guess, but I see your situation as ideal. Your current fridge uses so little electricity, and I'm willing to bet you have very little food waste! Your small/non-existent freezer means that you're eating a lot of fresh foods. I like what you've got going on :)
I was thinking the same thing.

I've recently taken to storing empty containers and jars (sealed) in my fridge and freezer in an attempt to lose less cold air when I open up the doors and keep them running more efficiently.

Just about all I use the freezer for these days is ice (luxury) and frozen peas/berries but as it is attached to the fridge I can't exactly get rid of it.

If I was the OP and could afford to keep eating fresh foods I'd stick with it. I find frequent trips to the store work for me as I waste less and am not prone to impulse purchases.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 08:06:45 AM by pancakes »