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Empty Fridge, Empty Life

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"I'm miserable, I'm depressed... and I'm hungry."

"How embarrassing. A house full of condiments and no real food."
The Narrator, Fight Club

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 a counterculture lifestyle, depression, poverty, and often a mixture of these causes.

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 beer 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. Sister Trope of Bad Bedroom, Bad Life.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Honey and Clover (which is by the same author as March Comes in Like a 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.
  • Troubled, but Cute Rei Kiriyama from March Comes in Like a Lion is shown to have a nearly empty fridge at the beginning of one chapter to emphasize his near-isolation socially. This analogy also extends to his near-empty house.
  • Naruto struggles with this, which is part of why he likes ramen so much: it's cheap and easy for him to make. Often the only thing seen in his fridge is a carton of expired milk; this has also directly contributed to him having stomach issues.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022): Chip, who lives a workaday life with his (regular-sized) dog after retiring from acting, takes out a frozen veggie dinner from Frozone Food. The freezer also contains Looney Tunes frozen chicken and Ice Age ice cream.
  • Desperados (2020): Played With. When Wesley opens her fridge, we see she has some food in it, but at the same time, a recorded message reveals that the food was actually stolen from a child she babysits.
  • In Fight Club, the narrator comes home to find his apartment has exploded due to a stove accident. He sees his fridge empty of everything except condiments (see page quote) as representative of how empty and pathetic his life. This causes him to reach out to Tyler Durden.
  • In The Flash, while getting a beer for Iris West, Barry Allen opens his apartment's fridge and sees a handful of disgusting, expired food items and no beer. His solution is to covertly phase through the wall and steal beer from his neighbor. Only when he opens the beer squirts all over him, as doing this trick requires him to super-vibrate to a molecular level. Through Fridge Logic would ask why Barry wouldn't have a fully stocked fridge given his need to eat constantly to fuel his superpowers.
  • In the TV movie High School U.S.A., 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.
  • Major Grom: Plague Doctor. Grom has only a single fruit in his fridge, and his apartment is so derelict his punching bag drops out of the ceiling when he throws a punch at it. But the real sign he's Married to the Job is...
    Yulia: You don't have guests often, do you?
    Grom: Why?
    Yulia: Your bathroom doesn't have a door.
    Grom: (glances over, as if noticing for the first time) Oh. Right.
  • Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight II: After waking up from his Dream Sequence at the start of the movie, Adas grabs milk out of a fridge with a single sausage and little else in it, and then proceeds to eat cereal alone in his kitchen.
  • Quiz Lady: The socially awkward Anne has nothing in her pantry except bags of popcorn and pasta. Jenny disgustedly comments that "it's like a robot's house".
  • In The Squid and the Whale, Lili comments on how empty Bernard's fridge is, which highlights how Bernard's angst about his divorce is keeping him from paying attention to his kids, as well as his struggles keeping house without his wife.
  • 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, the reclusive Sam Flynn had a couple of cans of beer and not much else in his refrigerator.
  • Divorcee Ray Ferrier's fridge is usually bare in War of the Worlds (2005). His daughter Rachel takes note of it.
  • 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.

  • The Crosses-Boy's Counselor: The general blandness of Dover's life gets lampshaded by his sister Carolyn when she looks in his fridge during one visit early in the story. The fridge contains nothing but a bottle of water, a bottle of soda, two packs of salt-fish, a jar of peanut butter, and something else that she's "not even sure was made in this century."
  • 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.
  • InCryptid: Verity's fridge is shared with the Aeslin mice, and the mice's shelves are better stocked.
  • 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.
  • In Young Wizards book 7, the empty refrigerator is used to show a newly single father who is still trying to get used to his wife's death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Boys (2019). "The Female of the Species" opens with Billy Butcher dreaming of happier times with his wife Becca in a fully-furnished apartment. He wakes up in a sparsely furnished safehouse with only a packet of hot pockets in the fridge, showing how his vendetta against the Supes has taken over his life. As he eats the hot pockets for breakfast, he watches CCTV footage of Becca taken just before she vanished.
  • Variation on Crash Landing on You. Se-ri is The Beautiful Elite, but her fridge and pantry contain only bottled water, as despite all her wealth she's lonely and only eats out. Jeong-hyuk stocks it with food before leaving for a potentially deadly shootout.
  • 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 Dead Like Me, George's dad doesn't keep much in his fridge besides leftover takeout after the divorce.
  • Dan Lewis from Doctor Who is introduced as a soup kitchen helper and fake tour guide with no food in his fridge.
  • Forever Knight. Nick Knight's fridge only contains half a dozen bottles of blood in wine bottles, and a small piece of red meat as he has trouble eating solid food. His partner Don Schanke complains about the lack of food, but he just assumes that Nick has a drinking problem and informs him that you're not supposed to store wine in the fridge.
  • 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.
  • Subverted in the Russian series Hope. In the first episode, the eponymous Professional Killer lives in a derelict apartment with a fridge that only has a few sweet potatoes. However, Hope later returns to her real apartment in Moscow where her husband and daughter live, dressed as a stewardess and bringing the sweet potatoes to make it look like she's returned from overseas.
  • 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.
  • 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. In 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.
  • Played with in Person of Interest. When Sameen Shaw goes missing, John Reese goes to search her room. On opening her refrigerator he finds it stacked full of firearms, plus a jug of milk, indicating that she has little attachment to her temporary residence.
  • Both implied and averted in Seinfeld: Kramer comes to Jerry's apartment to eat, presumably because his own refrigerator is bare. In contrast, Jerry's refrigerator is usually quite full much like his apartment, a favorite hangout spot for his friends.
  • 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.
  • Six Feet Under: In one episode, a woman without any loved ones chokes on her microwave meal and is only found a week later. The Fishers can't understand how someone could be so satisfied without anyone in their life. They visit the house to pick out clothing and see the fridge is practically empty. Over the episode, they all begin to empathise with the deceased woman and understand her lifestyle.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Chain Reaction", Harry Maybourne's fridge contains nothing but beer and a single bottle of mustard. Justified, as he doesn't actually live there and it's implied that it's just one of several secret safehouses that he owns.
  • 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.

  • David Bowie claims that in 1976, during the era of his "Thin White Duke" Persona, he lived on "red peppers, cocaine, and milk."

    Video Games 
  • The only things in Susan's fridge in The Cat Lady are a microwaveable burger and a bottle of sour milk further emphasizing that her cats are the important thing in her life.
  • In Deltarune, Kris's dad Asgore tries to put on a cheerful front, but it's obvious his life isn't going so well. His "bedroom" is just an old air mattress in the back room of his flower shop, you find a letter from his landlord complaining about him owing rent, and if you check the fridge you only find a jar with a single pickle in it.
  • The main character in Katana ZERO, being a child Supersoldier war veteran being used for assassination for drugs to combat its extremely debilitating withdrawal syndrome, has difficulty adjusting to society, and his messy, Lonely Bachelor Pad in the bad part of town reflects it. When he brings in a little girl who asks him for something to eat, the only things he has in his fridge that's remotely edible is a fish head and protein paste.
  • Saints Row (2022): After the Boss loses their job with MDI in the previous mission, "Be Your Own Boss" opens with them struggling to get out of bed to get breakfast. All they can find to eat is a single frozen waffle, which they don't even get to enjoy when the toaster malfunctions.
  • Silent Hill 4: After being stuck in his apartment for 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. Keeping food in stock is not a priority since he never invites anyone over. When checking it in the first episode, he wonders aloud why he doesn't have a smaller one.

    Visual Novels 
  • Psycholonials: Z.'s fridge is almost entirely empty, fitting her status as a deeply depressed, emotionally unstable e-girl.

    Web Animation 
  • 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)
      Strong Bad: You know, I love how the fridge smells of rotting vegetables when there's never been a vegetable in it.

    Western Animation 
  • 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)
    Amanda: Nothing.
    Jane: Well, hi, Mom.
    Trent: Hey, Mom.
    Amanda: What is that? Strawberry syrup?
    Jane: I'm guessing cranberry juice.
    Trent: Cherry soda.
  • Happens in an episode of Dave the 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!
  • 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.
  • While he isn't 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-girlfriend's 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".
  • The Simpsons:
    • Perpetual loser Otto's fridge 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.
  • A variation in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Plankton, who is currently feeling empty in life, comes home for dinner and is served holographic meatloaf for dinner by Karen. Though the Genius Bonus of this is that real-life plankton use photosynthesis to generate food, but a way of further seeing it as this trope is that Plankton wants to experience luxuries he doesn't have (like real non-photosynthesized food) and can only afford boring necessities.
  • 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.)
  • 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?"