If the characters are at all "Outsiders," be they members of a subculture (like stoners, slackers, hipsters, or rock musicians), modern artists, lonely single men (or sometimes women), or Cloudcuckoolanders, and their refrigerator is shown, it will be entirely or nearly empty, possibly save for a mysterious, unidentifiable stain, or a carton of long-expired milk. Any thing that could be, or could have been a meal would be something like an ancient, inedible sandwich, or leftover take-out ranging from the previous night to the previous year. The empty refrigerator is usually shorthand for alienation from society due either to lifestyle or poverty, and often both. Additionally, the shortage of edible food also tends to exclude such people from being viable hosts thus making the characters appear more alienated which feeds this trope. Generally, the more socially alienated a character is, the higher the probability that their refrigerator resembles this trope. Other variants of this include a refrigerator full of alcoholic beverages and little else, or a refrigerator stocked entirely with expired food. In very, very extreme situations, the refrigerator may contain a dead (non-food) animal such as a rat or pigeon, or some other random object not usually stored in a refrigerator, like old sneakers or underwear.
Often a symptom of a Lonely Bachelor Pad; the implication being that a bachelor can't or won't shop properly or consistently. They may be in Perpetual Poverty or from the Wrong Side of the Tracks. Frequently seen in the Broke Episode. Can show up in Standardized Sitcom Housing. Usually goes hand in hand with Men Can't Keep House.
- Troubled, but Cute Rei Kiriyama from 3-gatsu no Lion is shown to have a nearly empty fridge in the beginning of one chapter to emphasize his near-isolation socially. This analogy also extends toward his near-empty house.
- In Honey and Clover (which is by the same author as 3-gatsu no Lion), protagonist Takemoto looks in his fridge after experiencing yet another disastrous event in his life. He realizes the buzzing noise he hears from the fridge is the same noise that's been filling his head since childhood: the sound of emptiness. It triggers one of the major events of the plot and gives him a lot of Character Development, so the next time he looks in his fridge and it's empty, it doesn't bother him anymore.
- Ryougi Shiki in Kara no Kyoukai has a fridge that has bottled water in it. And that's pretty much it. Though she does occasionally have some Strawberry Häagen-Dazs courtesy of Mikiya.
- Divorcee Ray Ferrier's fridge is this in the 2005 version of War of the Worlds.
- In The Watcher, sad washed up FBI agent Joel has nothing in his fridge except for an orange that looks like a lemon, and a couple of condiments. He also has no job and no life.
- In Time Chasers, bachelor inventor Nick Miller's fridge is empty except for a head of lettuce (of indeterminate age). When Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured this movie, they quipped "Loser status: confirmed," upon seeing this scene.
- In TRON: Legacy, Sam had a couple of cans of beer and not much else in his refrigerator.
- Fight Club: "How embarrassing. A house full of condiments and no real food."
- Bridget Jones's Diary: After the breakup with Daniel, there is only very old cheese covered with ice in Bridget's fridge. But she mentions that she ate the entire contents of her fridge, though, so it's probably not a permanent state.
- In the TV movie High School USA, Otto (Todd Bridges) invites JJ (Michael J. Fox) over for dinner, but JJ declines, saying he has plenty of food. Cue Otto looking in JJ's fridge and seeing only a bottle of ketchup.
- In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, George and Harold escort an unconscious Mr. Krupp back to his house on Curmugeon Blvd., and decide to snoop around. They're somewhat disappointed to find Mr. Krupp lives by himself in a somewhat run-down but otherwise ordinary suburban home, with nothing in the fridge but a bottle of ketchup and nothing in the cupboard but a lone cereal box.
- In his autobiography, Meat Loaf revealed that songwriter Jim Steinman had a refrigerator that had nothing but an ancient milk bottle and some weird colored vine-like strands all over the place.
- Fight Club: "Yeah, I know, I know, a house full of condiments and no real food."
- In Young Wizards book 7, it is shown as a father who is still trying to get used to his wife's death.
- Smaller & Smaller Circles: Alex Carlos is a quiet loner, and his fridge contains nothing but an old salad, a peanut butter jar, and a few beers. The freezer, though, is a whole other story …
- Lister's fridge in Red Dwarf contains lager and, for some reason, a pair of trainers (sneakers).
- In an episode of Friends, Joey opens the fridge and says "We have... ice."
- Most episodes of Cribs.
- Both implied and averted in Seinfeld: Kramer comes to Jerry's apartment to eat, presumably because he has a refrigerator like this. Jerry's refrigerator is usually the aversion, but Kramer drank expired milk from it at least once.
- Sara Sidle on CSI reveals that she only had some take out cartons in hers during the search of a victim's house whose refrigerator was in a similar state. She throws them all out after considering Grissom's urging her to get a life and get out more, symbolizing her wanting to take his advice.
- In The X-Files episode "Chinga", Agent Mulder's fridge contains nothing but a huge jug of orange juice. He takes a swig straight from the bottle, makes a face at the taste, checks the date (which is at least 4 months expired), and spits the juice back into the bottle. He then puts the bottle back in the fridge. He manages to do this whole routine while he's on the phone with Agent Scully who took a weekend off and whom he misses dearly.
- When John has Sarah round in Sherlock, Mrs Hudson has to save him from 221B's empty fridge, which appears to contain one can of beer and a couple of empty bottles. We know that Sherlock going food shopping would be out of character on a worrying level, and John had a row with a chip and PIN machine.
- Barney's fridge in How I Met Your Mother. His whole apartment is designed to keep women from feeling at home, and all he's got for food seems to be Gatorade.
- In Dead Like Me, George's dad doesn't keep much in his fridge besides leftover takeout after the divorce.
- On Heroes, after Noah Bennet gets divorced, his fridge is empty save for some condiment bottles, water, and some milk and cereal. Peter Petrelli is a similar case, except that he just simply forgets to buy food due to his Workaholic tendencies unless his mother drops by with groceries.
- On The Last Ten Pounds Boot Camp, a reality show wherein the hosts help the weekly guest to lose a few pounds, the nutritionist goes through the guest's fridge and get rid of the bad food. On one episode the guest only had empty takeout containers and the host commented she was "taking out the garbage" rather than looking at the guest's eating habits.
- Silent Hill 4: After being stuck in his apartment a mere 5 days, all Henry Townsend has in his fridge is a carton of chocolate milk and a bottle of wine. He ends up drinking neither.
- The Wolf Among Us: All that Bigby's got in his fridge are some drinks, a few cigarettes, and an empty ice tray. When checking it in the first ep, he wonders aloud why he doesn't have a smaller one.
- The only things in Susan's fridge in The Cat Lady are a microwaveable burger and a bottle of sour milk.
- Homestar Runner:
- Used in a Parody Commercial for the Cheat Commandos' "Reynold's Apartment Extreme Playset".
Strong Bad: (as Reynold) Oh, I really need to go grocery shopping. I wish my girlfriend didn't leave me!
- Also, in the Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, the fridge in Strong Bad's house is either empty or has only one food item (Fluffy Puff Mayonnaise in Homestar Ruiner and a bottle of aerosol cheese spray in Baddest of the Bands)
- Used in a Parody Commercial for the Cheat Commandos' "Reynold's Apartment Extreme Playset".
- The Lane Family Refrigerator in Daria:
(Trent wanders into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator door)
Trent: Nothing. (peers into the freezer) What's that red stuff?
(Jane comes up beside him and also looks into the refrigerator)
Jane: Hmm. Nothing. (looks at the red stain) What do you think that is?
Trent: Cherry soda?
Jane: No, it looks more like cranberry juice.
(Amanda suddenly appears between them)
Jane: Well, hi, Mom.
Trent: Hey, Mom.
Amanda: What is that? Strawberry syrup?
Jane: I'm guessing cranberry juice.
Trent: Cherry soda.
- When Alex moves into his new apartment in Downtown, the first time he investigates the refrigerator, he finds some flies buzzing and two lumps of unidentifiable rotten food.
Chaka: Oh, look, you've got a microwave.
Alex: That's the refrigerator.
- Otto's fridge on The Simpsons, as well as his whole apartment, which is shown when he's evicted:
Otto: Can I at least get my stuff?Landlord: All I found in there was some mustard and some old Psycho magazines.Otto: Whoa! I have mustard?
- In the second future episode, after adult Bart and Ralph are evicted from their house, Bart complains that he had half a beer in there.
- In one older Woody Woodpecker cartoon, Woody looks in his fridge AND his kitchen cabinets, finding absolutely nothing but notes saying he has no food. This prompts Woody to Break The Fourth Wall and ask, "Would one of you mind stepping out into the lobby and getting me a candy bar?"
- One of the cartoons that Warner Brothers produced was all about fairy tales and, when they did "Old Mother Hubbard," she opened one side of her cupboard, showing empty shelves. Her dog opens the other side and finds it stuffed with items, and promptly yells, "Food Hoarder!!" (Remember, this was produced during WWII).
- While he isnt poor, Quagmire from Family Guy once remarked that it was hard work to make sure his "single guy fridge was sufficiently depressing". The fridge in question contains items such as his ex-girlfriends yoghurt, root beer from two Julys ago, and expired milk.
- Also used with Lois parents Carter and Barbara, and their "old people fridge", which contains nothing but ear drops and camera film.
- The same joke was used for a gag about "single guy apartments", though instead of focusing on the fridge, it had features such as a fake stove just for decoration, and "a cabinet to store your single plate".
- Happens in an episode of Davethe Barbarian.
The Dark Lord Chuckles the Silly Piggy: "Ugh...why do I keep looking in the fridge when I already know there's nothing there?? Oh man, I am so lame! Lame-y, lame-y lame!"