Friday, March 30, 2007

No Refrigerator- for 30 years...

The topic of green living is vast and variable. It would be quite easy to get lost in the details. I don't really want this blog to turn into a discussion of my lifestyle on a farm. Most of the people on the planet don't live on farms; and aren't going to, any time we can see in the future. We are now a city based species.

My life here is relevant to city life, however; I hope. I want to start one such conversation here today.

I live without a refrigerator. Have for 3 decades. If you live in a city- you do not need a refrigerator. AT ALL.

-->> It would be easier to do without one in the city than it is in the country.

A great deal of what's in your fridge absolutely does NOT need to be there. If you're interested in trying this, just start by taking all these things out of your fridge, and putting them in a pantry type situation:

Butter/margarine - shelf life about 2 weeks
Eggs -shelf life at least a week
Cheese - keep covered, shelf life variable- taste when unrefrigerated hugely better
ketchup/mustard - shelf life - forever
honey - shelf life - forever
onions/garlic - shelf life - 2 weeks
tomatoes - shelf life - 4 days
cabbage - shelf life - 1 week
cooking oil - shelf life - months
peanut butter - shelf life - months

Ok, long enough list for now, though of course there's more. Some of you are saying "he's crazy, I never keep cooking oil in the fridge!" True, I'm sure; but I know plenty of people who do; just to "be safe". And every time they take it out to cook dinner- the bottle warms up, the door is opened twice, and somewhere, some coal is burned to re-cool it when it goes back in.

What about meat? Milk?

Yeah, refrigeration is a good idea, if you have to keep it more than 6 hours or so.

So don't.

Here's what we do, out in the country; we buy a little meat when we go in to town, use it immediately. Sometimes, if it's a bigger cut like a pot roast, we keep it for 3 or 4 days- cooked on day one, and re-heated whenever eaten- then carefully simmered with the tight top on the pot. And we're very careful NEVER to open the pot- until ready to re-heat. It's just like sterilizing a petri-dish, or hospital equipment- heat it, keep it closed, it stays sterile. Soups- same thing.

Milk- we buy in town sometimes, or use powdered milk in cooking or for kids if they need it. No, it's not as tasty usually- but we all live through it. Can't tell the difference in cooking, I think.

Much of the rest of what folks use refrigerators for clearly comes under the category of "luxury". Ice cream; beer, pop.

Would you be better off if they weren't so handy? If you're like me, if the ice cream is there- I'll eat it. Then buy more. How much of our obesity epidemic is due to having a handy supply of treats in the fridge- all the time?

In a city- it's dead easy to "stop off" somewhere, and just buy - a little ice cream; a little meat; one cold beer.

On days when you aren't going out - do without. Won't kill ya to have potatoes and canned peas for dinner, or a cheese omelet.

This, potentially, is a big deal. Refrigerator lust is one of the things driving huge energy use increases in the developing world- everybody wants one; it proves you're modern.

If we start a movement here in the Overdeveloped World to get RID of them in homes (sure, the restaurants, the stores, need them) - some folks in the OverdevelopING World would pay attention- and perhaps put the brakes on their country's rush to refrigerate. Maybe.

I've worked in China- in places where the nearest refrigerator was probably 100 miles away. Guess what? They manage just fine- and don't "need" it, until you tell them they do.

It would be relatively easy for them to KEEP their healthy habits-rather than try to recover them, after a little romance with refrigerators.

More on this coming. Please send this around- and let me have your comments.

(OH, and true confession - I HAVE rented a locker at the "freezer plant" in town, from time to time. Not at the moment.)


Crunchy Chicken said...

Hmmm. That's a very intriguing idea. You know, you grow up with one and you just don't ever think of not having one.

I suppose we all rely on it merely for the convenience. Sure, I could stop by for my daily milk, yogurt, meat, etc. but it's so much more convenient to already have it there waiting for me at home.

And you're right, it's easier to do without in the city. We just don't have the culture of daily food shopping for the freshest produce, breads -- less European and more Costco.

Most of the rest of the world has aseptic style milk, so cold storage isn't as issue there (although it doesn't exactly taste the same and it doesn't make yogurt as well).

We don't eat much meat, if at all, so I suppose we could do without. But did I mention how convenient it was?

Greenpa said...

Crunchy Chicken- by golly, I think you did mention the convenience. :-)

But; and we'll cover my buts in more detail in coming posts-

Is the convenience REAL, or just habitual? Remember that this was one of the selling points drummed into us to get us to buy fridges.

And- is convenient good for us? Mostly it means- hey, you don't have to think, and you don't have to walk. Gotta say, I'm not at all sure either of those is good in the long run. Our convenient culture is largely the problem. I think.

Anonymous said...

Here's what we do, out in the country; we buy a little meat when we go in to town, use it immediately. Sometimes, if it's a bigger cut like a pot roast, we keep it for 3 or 4 days- cooked on day one, and re-heated whenever eaten- then carefully simmered with the tight top on the pot.

I lived in Latvia in 1993-94 (a few years after liberation from the USSR), staying with a family there who were managing more or less the way all Europeans had done 50 years before, during the post-WWII years. I was surprised by how little food they refrigerated and, at first, was sure I would come down with food poisoning. Your roast/stew method sounds exactly like our dinner ritual -- meat, stored in a cupboard! But there was a careful system in everything they did, and I never did get sick.

Oh wait, I did pick up a lovely parasite... one whose size measured in inches, not microns. But it was the kind you get from eating poorly washed raw vegetables, like tomatoes and lettuce. The main place I ate anything like that was at the new western-run bistro, where I'd splurge on a sandwich every week. Serves me right.

Teri said...

I don't think it's wise to encourage folks to get rid of the fridge without encouraging food storage. Life without a fridge is simple when you have a pantry full of grains, legumes, dried and canned fruits and vegetables, even smoked and canned meats. I'd hate for anyone to depend on supermarkets always being stocked.

One of the things we used to do was larding. You cook hamburger to where the meat is no longer pink but not fully cooked. Put into a jar and cover completed with melted shortening or lard. We would take it out once a week and reheat it, then recover the top. As you take meat out, you cover what is left with grease. Now, no one will recommend this as they are afraid of being sued. But it does work.

No fridge for us the last year and we've done this before. We'll likely use ice again in the summer, but I'm planning to learn how to can butter, milk and cheese. We have goats and will be milking soon.

Robbyn said...

Hmmm...I'm reading the list and I'm wondering if we might just pull that off. If we had our own goat or cow someday, the milk issue would be solved.

Do you use fermented foods often, and if so, do you have a good resource so that a person like myself can know if how to keep foods safe? Seems we've lost a lot of collective traditional knowledge in our age of "progress"

Unknown said...

I'm sitting here in my little office right off my kitchen and after reading this I looked over and right next to me my HUGE fridge is looming over me. I opened the door and removed a lot of the items from your list. There's a lot of room in there! Downsizing is certainly achievable. Complete removal? - not an option. I know I just would never be able to bring myself to it. Not just yet, anyway.

Let's face it. The majority of people living in our 'civilized' culture are not going to buy into this after they have experienced the covenience. I would say that at least people could downsize.

My grandmother provided food for 5 people out of a minuscule fridge at our summer cottage which was far removed from any stores - a boat was needed to depart the little island. She lived at the cottage for 3 months every year and is now 92 and as strong as ever!

I love your blog. It's making me think. For so long I've been dormant to environmental issues. I have a friend who has introduced me to others as her "hippie" friend although I am far from that category. So far the furthest I've gone is composting, line drying laundry, CFL's (no sleep issues here), white vinegar for cleaning, no pesticides/herbicides, recycling. These contributions may not sound like much compared to your way of living but they're more than the majority of what my neighbors do.

I once told a friend that "I just don't feel like I'm doing enough" and her response was "you're doing more than your share." Her comment to me was unbelieveable. Afterall I'm a Costco buying, mini-van driver who has used disposible diapers for her children for 5 years for goodness sakes! Not very hippie like yet but I'm on my way.

Tina said...

Greenpa ~ I am sooo GLAD I discovered your blog via another blog. It really has me thinking!

We have *gasp* two fridges. I wanted to sell one last summer but my husband just didn't agree. Great for storage of excess...

I am totally rethinking that idea now and want to get rid of the second fridge.

Thank you for making me think.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I just realized how much JUNK I'm keeping cold, 24/7, that I just wind up throwing out anyway. The food I actually use takes up about a sixth or less of the space. My son and his girlfriend fill up the rest of it with convenience foods, condiments, ice cream, snacks and leftovers that never get eaten. Turning off the fridge would mean shopping more often but eating fresher food -- a major mind shift for Americans.

tansy said...

i've been playing around with this myself. if it were just me and my kids i could do it but the other adult would not be receptive to the idea.

i leave all sorts of stuff out to test their far, so good.

question on the eggs, how do you know when they've gone bad, the smell? do they instantly stink?

Isle Dance said...

Terrific post!

Without intention, I'm essentially fridge/freezer-less...but wondered how common this was. Thanks for making me feel sane.

Since I'm on an island, I don't shop daily, but instead receive most everything via bulk shipments. These, I've wondered about...

Could I really get away with keeping a bulk jar of Mayo out of refrigeration? Do I want to risk testing this out? Of course, in the future, I'll ideally make a fresh batch as needed, so that would solve the whole dilemma.

Once a week I buy a bulk order of cooked poultry (a temporary thing) but see myself keeping some free range in the freezer in the future. So, I'm guessing I really do need a small freezer drawer, at least. Or?

Do you recommend a particular cooking pot brand that seems to work best for unrefrigerated meat cooking/storage?

I keep a week's worth of fresh organic fruits and veggies in a low, cool cabinet. However, fruit flies can be an issue (even if stored in sealable containers). Maybe I've just not found the ideal container? I've assumed this means I should really be refrigerating these things to avoid the hassle.

One of my favorite Mother Earth News articles (about fifteen years ago) displayed instructions on how to build an outdoor underground/stream fridge. I've always wanted one...but there are lots of rats on islands...ew...I might be too girly to deal with them near my food!

Allen Klesh said...

Well I have followed in yours and Vanessa (Green as a Thistle)'s lead and as of 7:37pm 9/29/07 I have unplugged the fridge. If it's ok with you, I would like to link to your blog within mine.

It's so quiet in the apartment without it. It's kinda... spooky. But a good feeling too. Eating fresh has reminded me what growing up on a farm was like. Thanks!

pelenaka said...

And I thought living with a restored 1934 non electric ice box was pushing the limit.
Good for you!
~~ Pelenaka ~~

Natural Louisville said...

I realize I'm behind the curve on this, but I just happened onto this post.

I think it's a great idea to toss the fridge. I really hate mine -- it moans and groans and essentially makes the house like a scene from "Call of the Wild".

Unfortunately, there is also very little storage space in the kitchen ... so it's a major source of shelving for me. Bummer.

I'm rambling pointlessly, but the gist is -- this is a great idea and maybe I should shut up and just get a shelf to store my food on.

AND this aseptic milk idea, which I'd never thought of, may make it entirely possible.Woohoo!

Thx for the brainfood.

fraidy cat said...

My fridge died today, I was never really comfortable with the idea of having the thing run constantly for mainly unnecessary things. I'll have to give up ice cream, the milk (must have organic milk) can keep at work but what do I do about romaine lettuce which I am addicted to? I live alone so don't use up food as quickly as a multiple person household would.

Am thinking that I will eat out more, I stockpiled food so I could eat at home for less expense, but, with the cash I save from not having a fridge maybe eating out won't be any more (and I'm not talking restaurants, mainly delis and Subway) expensive, and would be more convenient for me as I don't have a lot of time to cook.

And tansy's question about eggs, was unanswered, I'll raise it again, after being violently ill after eating an egg, this happened two times; just how does one know when the egg is starting to turn dangerous? The eggs that made me sick were from a free range farm and I'm blaming the sickness on the shell not being clean, the eggs themselves tasted and smelled just fine.

Natural Louisville said...

Tansy and Susan -- I've always tested my eggs for spoilage by putting the egg in question in a bowl of water. The saying goes that if it sinks, it's good; if it floats, there is air inside the shell in which bacteria can grow.

This may very well be an old-wives-tale quality story, but I've never had food poisoning except once from a kiwi fruit. I've used the method to test eggs left at room temp for days and eggs that survived my cats knocking the fridge door open for a weekend while I was out of town.

fraidy cat said...

You're right green panther, I did a quick check about floating an egg, here's what I found from : :
Q:How can I tell if an egg is bad without breaking it?

A:Most everything has changed in the world of cooking in the past 250 years, but not the method for determining if you've got a bad egg.
There is a small air pocket in the large end of the egg. When the egg is fresh, the pocket is only about 1/8th of an inch deep and as large around as a dime. As the egg ages, however, it loses both moisture and carbon dioxide — shrinking — so that the size of the air space increases. And the size of the air space determines the buoyancy of the egg. So if you submerge a very fresh egg in water, it will lie on the bottom. An egg that is a week or so old will lie on the bottom but bob slightly. An egg that is three weeks or so old will balance on its small end, with the large end reaching for the sky. And a bad egg will float.

According to Harold McGee, author of On Food & Cooking (Canada, UK), Hannah Glass gave this practical advice to cooks around 1750, and it's as valid today — a "way to know a good egg, is to put the egg into a pan of cold water; the fresher the egg, the sooner is will fall to the bottom; if rotten, it will swim at the top."

Thank you! I guess that's a bit of nearly lost knowledge due to "progress".

Greenpa said...

well, shoot, I thought I'd answered the bad egg question. Ah well. You found my answer anyway, pretty much.

A few more details- the gas in the egg can be from spoilage, not just age- likely to be sulphur dioxide, which is what gives rotten eggs their renowned bouquet.

The ultimate trick is to crack each egg separately into a bowl and give it the eye and nose test. If it looks and smells ok; it pretty certainly is- unprotected eggs spoil very fast.

fridge and shelves- hey, the shelves still work with the power off ya know. :-) Or if you remove the fridge, you'll find a BIG hole- were you can put- shelves!

Anyway- glad you're here- let me know how you progress!

fraidy cat said...

Thanks! I am grateful for the support. Now that I am over my initial panic from reaching into the freezer to get the ice cream only to feel hot air coming from the vent in the back!!! I'm actually getting a little excited about the possibility of new found space :-)

Natural Louisville said...

I doubt my landlord would be too excited about me chucking his fridge ... he's just not that kind of guy. To use it without power, I'd have to exercise some real self-control (at least at first)

I'm not quite ready to transition -- I'll have to reprogram myself to look for and buy the aseptic milk -- but way to go, Susan! I hope to be right there with you soon. The way my fridge motor sounds it may die any moment, anyway, which would be a big impetus.

Beelar said...

Been a lot going on in my life, but with the new posts here I figured I should probably chime in. I've been fridgeless since a move I made in September, without mishap or really any missing either. Of course, I largely grew up that way, so the jump wasn't a big one. Embarrassed I didn't do it earlier. However at the moment I'm also living without a root cellar or outdoor (cold in winter) pantry, so there's actually even quite a bit less cold storage than I grew up with.

For keeping leftovers mostly I use the simmer-and-keep-the-pot-closed method (which I call pot canning). Note: this is much easier and faster (and maybe even takes less energy) if you have a microwave and microwaveable pots; in that case you also don't need it to be soupy to get the sterilizing live steam. Unfortunately, I don't have microwaveable pots at the moment : (.

I don't eat ice cream generally, so that isn't a problem. I use instant milk for nearly all my milk needs. Admittedly, I don't generally drink milk plain.

I eat a lot less meat– this is something I'd been intending to do for some time anyway. Plus, now the meat and cheese (and canned tuna, I'll admit) I do use are local and mostly organic. (And TASTY) I can afford it because I'm not eating as much. I still need quite a bit of protein; beans supplemented with sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter. Also I've been rediscovering eggs recently. I currently have three left on the shelf from a dozen I bought about two weeks ago. I'll admit I didn't know the float test; bad eggs are pretty rare I guess.

Boy, that was a lot. I guess I should stop.

Oh, except for the question about lettuce. Many green vegetables like that can be kept quite happily as if they were a cut flower. You can keep them for a few days without, but they'll start to wilt and you might not like that. Recently I've been keeping cilantro for weeks in a water-filled cup. Just be sure you change the water often enough. This will vary with temp and health of the vegetable.

fraidy cat said...

That's great news about the lettuce, I live for romaine. Does the simmer-and-keep-the-pot-closed method work for chicken and turkey too? I think beef might be a little more forgiving than poultry. Years ago I forgot a couple of pork chops left in a frying pan, it had a lid on it. I ate them for lunch the next day and they were just fine.

Beelar said...

Hey Susan- yep, somehow I also have the feeling that beef and pork keep better than poultry, but I have fine success doing this with pretty much anything that spoils, including chicken. Of course, if you keep a big pot of chicken stew for a week and keep re-simmering it every day after you get your dinner out, the chicken falls apart in a somewhat less texturally pleasant manner than stewed beef. But that's a somewhat separate issue.

Don't think it was mentioned in the original post; but I usually close the pot and simmer for ten minutes before shutting the head off. When using a microwave, I basically just did it until there was hot live steam; time varies with the amount of food.

About the lettuce: I'll admit I haven't actually kept lettuce that way within recent memory, but have done other stuff. Suspect it should work; let us know!

And since I'm yakking already, I'll mention something else about the economics involved here. I'm currently living in an apartment with a roommate who is essentially fridge-addicted. It isn't currently worth the effort and strife for me to convince the roomie to go fridgeless, but rommie was happy for me to pay less on the electric bill because of it. Well, I did some digging and calculations (maybe I'll post those links here later), and determined that the fridge costs us about $3/month to run.

Pretty cheap, yeah? Especially out of a $30 bill. Not going to subsidize a whole lot of fresh vegetable purchases. But the generation and transmission related components of the bill (those are the ones actually having to do with the amount of electricity used) add up to only $9. Yup, on average about 1/3 of the electricity in that apartment goes to the fridge.
The electricity is artificially cheap, but the energy consumption is really substantial. Maybe I'll be able to convince my roommate to deduct the price for the carbon that fridge is producing, too.

fraidy cat said...

Just found a great site for no-fridge cooking:
This person travels a lot on his boat. Can't wait to try the Chick Pea Curry.

Wonderchild said...

okay greenpa & y'all--I did it! I've been unplugged for almost an hour now...and I emailed some friends to spread the word and keep me from slipping back into my nasty old ways. Thank you for your encouragement to pull the plug!

dried said...

I might try this. I'm going into my second year of college, and the only thing I really use my fridge for is keeping beer cold -- which will be pretty easy in the winter.

In short, you're inspiring, and rock on.

fraidy cat said...

I've been fridgeless for two weeks now. So far it's only been a minor inconvenience, the cold weather has helped, I keep the milk and eggs in the carport. While searching ways to keep butter in the summer I came across something called a zeer pot, it probably won't work here as it gets quite humid in the summer but I just might give it a try anyway, here are the instructions:

Wonderchild said...

thanks, susan--good to hear (about the zeer pot). My mom never did refrigerator butter, so I never really knew that I was "supposed" to. I've never had any problems with just sticking it in a small bowl and leaving out out (unless you count using it a lot more often when it's in sight a problem). Even with the humidity I would think that you'd be alright. You could cover it with something if you really wanted to (like the old butter dishes with the tops). Good luck!

jlpicard2 said...

Correction: mustard definitely will go bad without refrigeration, even unopened. It will take at least over a year or two though. Refrigerated, it will last for quite a few years. Yellow mustard will turn browner, and smell and taste funny when it starts to go bad.

It's not really in the same category as honey and sugar.

Anonymous said...

In 1980, I moved into an apartment in Jamaica Plain (Boston) that had no fridge and we were all too cheap to buy one. In winter, we kept milk on our back porch. I already knew that butter keeps fine in a covered butter dish on the counter indefinitely. I still keep butter that way and in some countries it's standard practice. Ditto for eggs; the local Hispanic-run store stacked their eggs in the middle of the store, no refrigeration. I figured if an egg was bad I could smell it on opening it up. Never got sick from eggs.

Anyway, in this vegetarian house, the meat issue never came up. It was a bit inconvenient, and we did eventually buy an old fridge, but we managed without it for about 9 months. Where I live now, I can't walk to any stores, and I think buying food every day would use more energy than running a fridge. But when this one goes, I'll look for a smaller one. Older fridges are total energy hogs.

I can confirm that fresh herbs keep fine on a counter in a glass of water for days. Also, tomatoes lose their taste when refrigerated and should always be kept at room temp. I also don't buy any but local tomatoes in season--no reason to buy those hard, smell-less ones grown in Argentina or wherever. Onions, garlic, potatoes should also not be refrigerated. Unfortunately, pure maple syrup always gets moldy when left out; so does jam, and I refrigerate both. I wonder about mayo at room temp.

Also, in my JP apartment, we routinely left out grain dishes overnight and ate them the next morning for breakfast cold or reheated, with never an ill effect. I still do that sometimes.

It's a shame that people have become so afraid of food. Authorities warn against eating anything left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. For some things, that might be wise, but for lots of stuff it's just so much hogwash. A frightened populace is easier to manipulate. I remember when raw chicken was not a toxic substance, when you didn't have to worry about getting mad cow disease from beef or unwanted hormones from milk.

Thanks for an inspiring example of self-sufficiency and green living.

Tara said...

Okay, I just found this post - sorry I'm so late! Does anyone else here live (a) in a hot climate and/or (b) in the 'burbs? This is my situation. I'm wondering what adjustments, if any, should be made in a place that stays above 60 most of the year and tops out at 110 or so. In high summer, when hot water is coming out of the "cold" tap, I'd sorely miss ice and cold drinks! Plus, I just worry about the heat. Also, I live in the suburbs and buy pastured meat from a farm about an hour away - I have to buy a quantity of it at once. My food sources are somewhat far flung, there's no public transportation, and it's just not really feasable for me to buy food daily. I think for us a very small (dorm-size?) fridge would be a good solution. Any thoughts on either of these points?

Natural Louisville said...

Anonymous (Jamaica Plain) -- its my understanding that mayonnaise is fine at room temp as long as it has never been refrigerated.

I worked in a restaurant where we stored and used mayo in this fashion, and as far as I know we never had trouble. Opening and using it, refrigerating it, and then bringing it back to room temp is the danger area, I believe.

Unknown said...

I think this may well be fate. My husband and I have been investigating ways to become "greener" and yesterday was one way that kicked us in the rear. When we got back from grocery shopping, found our refrigerator was kapoot. And the funny thing, we'd been talking about being non electrical all day. Guess this will really test our grit, since we have no means of buying a new one right now. So, I googled "living without a refrigerator", and this blog page popped up. Great stuff, Greenpa! I so want to live this way. I'm a little scared, I must admit, because I've grown up with a fridge, and I've always done "freezer cooking" to have food always on hand. So, living without one will be a MAJOR culture shock, but after my initial "fit" that I threw because the fridge didn't work, I'm actually ok with it. Still looking for more resources on how to live without one. Will be curing my own meats soon, and I'm looking forward to that. Will be gardening for us soon as well, which I haven't done since I was a kid. The good thing is, I love this way of life, and hope to be pretty darn good at it :) Thanks for blogging!

Heather said...

For the last month we've chosen to live without our refrigerator and haven't missed it once. Our only problem is we haven't been able to sell it and it's only a year old! I searched online for helpful hints on what to do without a refigerator and your blog came up. Fantastic blog and thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

This has been a funny week! Our refrigerator started working again, but it WILL stop eventually. I plan to unplug it before EVENTUALLY anyway. Then the TV that we only have for watching DVDs went out. Oh, well, we get a lot more done around the house :) We'll never miss the TV. We've been without television or cable for almost a year anyway!

Unknown said...

And to Tara...
to answer your question...late, I too live in the city, not far from the city you're in. I don't see why we can't do this "no fridge" thing. I'm still learning, but i think if we have a pantry with "stuff" in it, we don't really need a fridge. As Greenpa said, it's easier in the city than in a remote area. If we just have to have cold meat for dinner, all we have to do is run by the store on the way home and use it that night :)

rkg14 said...

Hi... we don't have a fridge right now and while searching for options in our daily menu i stumbled upon your blog. It's very very very encouraging, but you didn't mention the temperature of the place you are located in. We are lucky on most days when its normal, but when the temperatures rises to about 38-40 degree celcuis, the eggs crack open if we don't submerge them in water, and sometimes they get bad, so its good we're green right now, but we will be getting a small fridge as soon as we can and a lot of the stuff sold in the city is not fresh so it gets bad when its out of the ac environment, even when its raw sometimes. We have honey, butter n all the stuff you mention, but its not so bad to be able to reheat last nites pizza for brkfast, we work too hard so we're not gonna get obese for sometime hahaahaaaa but i agree withyou on the whole ice-cream bit and you know diabetes is so scary, one of every five indians ha it, and tho im girl by indian standard im disastrous in the kitchen. And also indian cooking has lots of vegetables within the meat dish, so the onions or tomatoes are going to spoil the party first, followed by the potatoes, even if you sterelize it! But you should probably paste a recipe of how you make the meat best so it doesnt get spoiled. thanks anyway. Very useful. i fwded to my better half :)

ChazFrench said...

I came across this post (and the blog) while doing a google search for food poisoning from eggs.

I've known that a lot of stuff doesn't need refrigeration, (like butter can be kept in a butter bell), but this post and the comments have really opened my eyes, and have me thinking.

I'll be moving early next year and living alone. If I have the option, I'm going to go with a small cube fridge for things that I must chill like wine, water, milk, yogurt. And yes, I need my filtered water chilled, it's quirk, but I can't stand drinking water that isn't frigid.

Greenpa said...

ChazFrench- welcome! Regarding your need for frigid water- I wonder.

We've kind of been spoiled in America, and we're encouraged by the whole consumer culture to announce/pronounce that we "NEED" stuff. Like MTV, for example :-).

Bearing in mind that the entire UK loathes frigid beverages- and are just as adamant about it as you are- it seems likely that most humans COULD adapt- in either direction.

If you're up for the experiment- you could pretend; for a week; that it's WWII, and your country NEEDS you to drink plain water straight out of the filter (or something similarly motivating for you). Just for a week- no other options.

Then, at the end of the week, see if your preferences are still so absolute. I'd be fascinated to hear the results!


I'm flexible, myself- for purposes of full disclosure. On a hot sweaty day, I'll cheerfully drink tepid water, and love it- but I'll also walk an extra 100 feet or so if I can get cold water from the well - at about 45°F.

rkg14 said...

hello greenpa, since the discussion is about cold, cool and lukewarm water, i thought i should tell you. (you must try)That if you keep water in an earthen pot it will become cold irrespective of how hot it is. Even if the environment temperature is up to 40degrees celcuis (like delhi gets in the summers)it will still be like a cold. It works like magic and harms noone, not the environment, not the bills and not the human-body. N you don't need a fridge. We all have fridges but its believed to be unhealthy to drink very chilled water if you came home from the hot sun and thats when 'matke ka paani' meaning 'water from the earthen pot' is just heavenly... try it, i dont know where you are from so i dont know if you will find an earthen pot easily but its quite scientific because the pot has one way pores that take the heat out and don't let it get in, over n above the earth cools the water...any earten pot will do and many come with a faucet attached...

Anonymous said...

I live in a small RV and don't run my fridge (it's a hassle in an RV).
buying in small lots can work.

If you're living communally, in India people have a way of always having milk available without refridgeration.
The local milk seller has a huge wok and constantly simmers the milk very slowly. You buy small quantities of milk from him just before use.
This milk is considered vastly superior to 'packet milk' (refridgerated, pasteurized milk).

Anonymous said...


so happy to hear from you. I'm writing from Berlin, Germany and now hear me: Since ever I hadn't this completely silly, loud and awful maschine, called a refrigerator. And hear this: People who even eat food which is frozen, are really not ok in their body and brain. Not even an animal eats frozen food. What of course ice-cream not includes. But fish, bread, meat and others.
I feel so happy. Since at least 10 years I try my best to convince people that they don't need a fridge AT ALL, for NO food. Normally I ask them to tell me ONE food which could need a fridge.
Most tell me then beer and butter. To the item butter you told something. Butter you put in a clay-bin, its then colder inside the bin.
To beer this: You just let out 20 liters of waters out of your water-tap. Water will be very cold enough for cooling beer (env. 11 degrees C.).
Milk by the way is in the mode you can buy it in the supermarket a nearly dead product. Unopened you can leave fresh milk nowadays around one week in the room with 20 centigrades Celsius. After open milk you only have to care about hygiene.
In the end stupid people have the chuzpe to leave their living-place expending energy there.
Without fridge I not even live better, means in better health, but pay aswell for my electricity 10 Dollars a month. And I have aswell a washing-maschine and a computer.
My best greetings to you, very nice that you exist and I'm not longer alone.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't imagine not having one, its just one of those things taht we take forgranted these days.

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Yes but how much more energy are u expending in fuel for trips into town all the time?

Greenpa said...

Anon- lol; no extra energy for trips into town; that would be silly, yes? We only go to town when needed for some other reason.

Steven Kurutz said...

I'm a reporter for the New York Times and often do stories about green living. I am interested in interviewing people for a story about living without a refrigerator. Enjoyed reading this conversation thread and am hoping some of you who have unplugged or are thinking of doing so (including Greenpa) will chat with me. My e-mail is: Thanks.

Je Suis Cette Fille said...

This post is fantastic and gives me confidence! I will be living in a flat without a fridge for about a month. I know certain fruits and veggies will keep for longer amounts of time, but I had no idea about things like butter, eggs, etc. Now I don't have to eat RAW all the time! I am still a little confused about the meat issue however- how does that work again? I love making quick chicken dishes for dinner.

Justbecauseitmakesmesmile said...

Very interesting idea.

I think I would be too scared to do the meat sterilising trick.
What about things like homemade ketchup?

I think the deal breaker for me would be milk and buttermilk as i hate these at room temp...i wonder if there is a way around this...

thanks for making me think

Anonymous said...

This was one of my goals 20 years ago, in the city to not use a refrigerator, damn noise keeps me up.

Then my wife's folks bought us a suite of electrical appliances as a housewarming gift. COuld not believe it.

I think the solution to living without one is to have airtight packaging, tupperware, for all your perishables, vegetables, even an airtight container for milk.

You just re-use the containers each time you come back from shopping.

After reading your article , I just unplugged my refrigerator.

No noise, no electric bills, FREEDOM!

Beelar said...

Careful with the "airtight everything" idea. This helps for some things, and particularly if sealed while boiling, but a lot of vegetables and so on keep better if they can breathe a bit, and thereby not be over-moist and mold prone.

For instance, fresh greens just keep like fresh flowers in a vase (or mug, or whatever). Carrots I leave in the bag (yes, I often do get bagged carrots, shame on me!) but open both ends of the bag (which requires poking holes in the bottom.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a small town in southern India...with no refrigerator. The milk man delivered milk twice a day, the vegetable vendors knocked on the doors early morning. Every morning, my grandma would instruct just how much and what to cook and it was all somehow used by the end of the day. Once in a blue moon, father would take us to the ice cream parlor for a nice treat.
As kids, yes sometimes in summer we yearned for a chilled drink that some of our friends enjoyed in their homes, but father was so sure that we didn't need that appliance to live comfortably.
But, this busy city lifestyle in a foreign land has certainly drawn me far away from father's conviction...

Anonymous said...

I've been living without a fridge for 97 days now and loving it. I moved into a new house in October, looked at fridges, couldn't find any I liked, got busy and just ended up without one and not minding it at all. Now I'm thinking I'd like to go at least a year without one. I eat fresh food, don't waste as much food (i.e.getting a salad one day and realizing a week later that I didn't eat it and throwing it away), my electricity bill is very low, no constant refrigerator humming noise. The only thing I have really missed is butter and cold dill pickles. I drink water at room temperature which I believe is better for your body anyway. Plus I feel like I'm doing my part to help the environment (though I haven't seen any specific stats to that effect). All in all, I am activity celebrating my fridgelessness. Great blog ... keep up the good work and please post more for us less fridge-centric people.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this post! We are planning on going off-grid, and didn't know what to do about this. I knew about some of those shelf lives, but not all. This is so helpful. And by the way, I would love more details like this in your posts. But it's your blog, not mine! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Greenpa - after reading your post over a year ago, I finally unplugged my fridge today. I've only known of one other couple that did not have a fridge and I was intrigued but never thought about it for my life. I finally decided to go for it this week after much delibration. I live alone and hardly have anything in there anyway. I'll have to make adjustments for the things I do keep in there (leftovers, bread, mayo). But clearly it can be done. Thanks for the inspiration and telling us how this is possible. I don't like being so dependent on the grid/big systems and this is another step away from that. I also don't own a car anymore and I can't imagine going back to that. I assume it will be similar with not using a fridge. Some inconveniences, huge benefits. Also between you and me, I don't understand why Thistle/Vanessa plugged back in... ;)

Anonymous said...

Such a great post, thank you. I've been living without refrigerations for about 4 months now, and its been a truly interesting journey.

I've found that evaporative cooling works well. Whenever I have left-overs, even meat-based foods, I cover it with a wet cloth, the evaporations keeps it cool until the next evening. I always re-heat my food to a proper temperature, and I've haven't run into any probems so far. Also, I like to keep my wrapped-up cheese and salad greens submerged in water- this also seems to be an easy way to keep these foods fresh.

Wow, this post has really re-affirmed this lifestyle, and I'm so happy to know that there's a community out there experimenting with and enjoying the benefits of this way of being. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found this post. I haven't used a fridge for about 5 years now and I don't really think about it or do anything extra or weird or especially diy. I don't can, dry or lard food, or keep meat in strange situations or anything that is potentially dangerous. In fact, not using a refrigerator is insanely simple-- buy just enough food for dinner. Cook it. Eat it. Do you really need to store milk, butter and cheese? You shouldn't be eating that stuff anyway. I'm not even a vegan, I'm just realistic.
I don't know that not having a refrigerator really saves that much energy, but I can tell you that Americans stuff unbelievable amounts of soon to be wasted food in their fridges. We buy way more than we can eat and we fill the fridge just to fill it. I really believe that our obesity epidemic has it's roots in the 1950s consumerist culture-- and the popularization of refrigerators was at least one of those seeds.
So, thank you for writing this, it makes me much less self conscious. I thought i was the only one!

Unknown said...

Hello GreenPa,
I have to say that we are mid move "off the grid", but we are in town, so we'll still have sewer. We encourage everyone to do the same. The worst part of our PG&E bill is the refrigerator. We've had the same one for 10 years, so I know it's a hog. Now that it's going out I was looking for the next latest greatest biggest one I can get, with 2 small boys that drink 2 gallons of milk in less than 5 days, I need more room. But now that I've read this, I think I might just let it go out & see what happens ;)

I'd love to not have a fridge at all, but I think we might go half way for now. I work from home so I don't go out as much as most. We also grow most of our own veggies & fruits so that reduces the trips to the store. I'm going to try the powdered milk to see if the boys will like it.

I think it's great that you live off the grid. We have reduced our use of resources by over 50% in the last 2 years (when we had the cash to invest in the house). I don't think we can go any further until we do some large projects.

Thanks for the helpful information & keep up the green ness!!

Anonymous said...

I'm single and live paycheck to paycheck so in all reality i am concerned about pizza and beer recently i started an antidepressant so beer is slowly falling out of the equation I have been without my fridge now for 2 weeks because im trying to same money on things i don't need as much of beverages..electricity etc.. the internet has been my TV, newspaper.... etc. My biggest question is if there is some direction some one can point towards; to foods or recipes i can cook single serving style, and that i do not have to have a fridge for the ingredients.
My biggest concern is that fact that i can afford my bills, but not much else (and can no longer eat ramen-_-)so im trying to save money and help the environment at the same time any suggestions from anyone would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

ok so here's the deal.My partner and I are doing a project for social studies class.On refrugeration.We were wondering and think it would be perfect to have you as a person we interview.Over the web of course,seeing how were in Boston Massachusetts.Do you think it would be possible to contact us over e-nmail? well my name is Gwen and my partner is Kristina heres her email adress - we would greatly appericate it.

Sleeping in peace said...

I'm so glad I found this page and all the helpful comments, because I just went fridgeless. I've lived in two small apartments in a row where there was a noisy little fridge beside my bedroom.

It never occurred to me to just turn it off and go without until one night a couple of weeks ago when I had insomnia and the loud motor drove me nuts. Now my apartment is greener AND more peaceful. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Hello I'm from Holland and I live 10 months without a fridge. The first one was more than 35 years old I got it from my parents when I left home for studies. After 10 years the fridge had done it's work. Then I moved to a bigger house. I never felt like buying a new one. Because I don't see the need of it. Now it's winter and all the food I keep outside in a coolbox. The only thing i'm wondering is how to keep drinks cool in summer and meat.

Thank you

Simply Natural Homestead said...

Nice post!

I've recently learned how easy it is to live without a fridge. Haven't tried these ideas yet, but they sound much easier than the failure of an idea I tried before...a block of ice in a cooler. I always forgot to check the ice, and ended up with a lake of cool-ish water inside, with too-warm milk and wet icky butter.

Here's what I've learned:
Meat- can, dry, jerk, smoke
Veggies and fruit- lacto-fermentation, can, dry, root cellar
Condiments-can or lacto-ferment
Milk-use while fresh, after that, turn into cheese, yogurt, kefir, etc.
Eggs-can keep at room temperature a week or so, or pickle them, or put into waterglass. Also heard of one woman who scrambled them then dried them in a food dehydrator, then vacuum sealed them. USDA probably wouldn't recommend that though.

I plan to try some of this stuff soon, for practice.

WolfMamma said...

Our fridge broke, Hallelujah, just two days before my second child was to be born (at home). We plugged in a friends small bar fridge and 8 days in to it are considering not going back. I will state that I'm a huge foody and cook ALL the time. We do have a small apt size chest freezer though. Unfortunately we are very low income (I'm a stay at home mom, no income and my husband is a full time student, about 18 000 in student loans plus tax benefits means we live on less than 25, 000/a) so eating organic means buying in bulk. I am putting in a LARGE garden on a friends property and studying up on canning/drying verses freezing this year. Any resources for canning meat/dairy? We live in a small town so just buying stuff as used is not an option however we are learning to live w/ less dairy and that's about the only place we've felt it.
I've been doing the "peas porridge in the pot nine days old" thing my whole life, the benefit of growing up poor and ignorant :).
What I really need is a small goat so that I can have fresh milk daily and make my own cheeses which I could then toss out as they went bad to my chickens. So far I've got chickens and rabbits but I'm afraid my town will create a new bylaw for us (as they did when we didn't mow our lawn) if I push it much further.
Eventually we'll get our 10-20 acres.

Annie said...

I have thought about eliminating a refrigerator but in a different manner. I stock up on meats in the freezer and traditional fridge/freezers don't hold enough or store efficiently. Thought about switching to a small chest freezer and using 2-liter bottles frozen in it for a cooler if needed. Has anyone ever tried that method? It seems that the chest freezer (a small one) would use less energy than a upright fridge, so wondering if that would help the electric bill as well..

freedom_of_the_bluesky said...

I have a family of 7. my husband and I have decided that electric is a good thing to have but we can do without it 24-7 so he put up solar panels which run tv, fans, radio, and a lamp and if its cloudy and I must have electric we use a generator. It took a while to deal with not having a fridge of food waiting for me. But I have learned to cook double the meat and pack in cooler for the next day we use ice with rock salt sprinkled over it. I have learned what last in the pantry and what doesnt by trail and error I enjoyed reading others thoughts of this life choice my kids will understand this choice one day. we save money for family outings by not paying a electric company..

rkg14 said...

hi freedom
stock up on a whole lot of raw vegeies, you know surprising potatoes are very easy to grow, its a very thrilling feeling to grow ur own food n eat it, try to get ur hands on some seeds and ur kids (atleast one of the many) will cultivate a green touch, i grew up in a family of 6 and that wierdo was me :D

shane said...

I have been without a fridge for under a week now and am enjoying it - because it makes me cook and eat fresher.

Milk - I buy individual portion size milk (250ml) in multi-packs (much like kids juice box's) and use as needed (hot milk on cereals / beverages) no wastage.
The milk is aseptic (UHT - in Australia)

This site has some interesting things to construct for storing vegetables and some interesting anti-fridge-facts:

Im drinking more tap-water than ever.

I lived in Indonesia for many years which taught me how to be more resourceful (I didnt have a kitchen where I was staying for a few months). I remember buying margarine and cheddar cheese that was stored on a shelf - not a refrigerator - and this is in the tropics!

I think there should be a tax on refrigerated items in supermarkets ;-)

Good-luck Y'all

Shane - Sydney, Australia

Anonymous said...

Proper refridgeration is part of proper food handling in restauruants for 1 main reason, 1 restauraunt could make dozens of people sick or die. Proper refridgeration slows bacteria growth. Its about the numbers. That is also why restauraunts wipe counters with a bleach solution, scrub up and glove up etc. The story I always hear in food sanitation courses is Typhoid Mary. Poor sanitation made dozens sick.

That being said, humans have only had refridgeration for the last century or so. Our species seemed to have survived just fine without the ice box.

Wash your hands, pots, utensils. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria contamination. Keep things clean and no contamination.

Greenpa said...

Of course restaurants should have fridges, and the supermarkets etc. Absolutely. It's just the home fridges that a great many of us really don't need at all; and their power consumption is huge.

I do keep track of the continuing comments here. And I am still committed to writing a new and more thorough discussion of fridgelessness (has to be a better word!). That may be a few months away, though; I'm just totally over my head in alligators in the real world just now. :-)

Keep on swimming!

Anonymous said...

hi Greenpa - thanks for your wonderful blog and especially this post. It first occurred to me that maybe a refrigerator wasn't necessary when I read "Food Not Lawns" by H.C. Flores a few years ago. I've been dreaming about ditching my fridge since then. Your post helped me decide I could do it. It's been gone for almost three weeks now and has made a small improvement in my quality of life already :)

We kept our chest freezer and so we use a chest cooler with frozen jugs of water to keep a few things cold. You can read more at my blog -

Julia Bloom said...

Oops! Actually, more about our fridge-free life is at my other blog, Sorry for the mixup.

Ken said...

Well, I'm just retiring to a 25 ft houseboat in Florida that will not be based at marinas but rather "on the hook" tucked up one of the numerous rivers and creeks. I've been looking at refrigerator alternatives. Unfortunately Zeer and similar evaporative coolers don't work in hot humid climates.

Intellectually I knew that lots of things didn't need refrigerating if kept covered. This blog and all the great followup comments have brought it home to me that I simply don't need a fridge.

I'll be making my own flatbreads and other baking. Growing a lot of my own fresh veggies (year 'round salads from a pot).

As a carnivore, I can eat less meat to start. I'd already planned on using mostly canned, dried, salted meat; and fresh-caught fish; as well as things like "jager" sausages that don't require refrigeration.

Thanks for reminding me; and re-enforcing the idea that we can live without refrigeration.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, you know, I like this idea.

I am wondering if there is some way to keep things cool without a refridgerator, for the few things that might need to be cool. Any ideas? Something in the basement, maybe...

I eat a fruitarian-and-vegetable diet, so fruits and greens are the only things I need to keep. Usually they don't need refridgeration, but once they're a little past ripe, I stick them in there... Lettuce, of course, does best refridgerated.

Any ideas?

Marie said...

Cheers! I live off the grid, and our solar panels don't provide enough power for heating or cooling, so we don't use a refrig either. It didn't take long to get used to it, to learn what vegetables last awhile and what to use first, to not need ice for drinks, to use evaporation for a little bit of cooling when desired.

I wish everyone would replace their giant refrigerators with small, energy efficient ones. It is hard to ask people to give up what they deem as a necessity, but if they can learn to cut back and get educated on what works outside of the fridge, we could see huge changes in energy consumption.

Eco-folks are so concerned with turning off the lightbulb but rarely mention the gobs of electricity refrigeration uses.

Nice post!

Justin Groot said...

For people planning on removing half of the stuff from their refrigerator, thanks for thinking, and thinking progressively. One good way to decrease the energy used by your refrigerator is to place (waterproof) boxes, containers, blocks of wood, whatever, in the fridge. Every cubic foot of stuff you have in there is a cubic foot less of cold air that can escape when you do open it. Your fridge will also be less susceptible to temperature changes.

LLM said...

I've been living in Guatemala for the last few months without a fridge and I am amazed by the number of things I can cook and how much less food I waste. I make frequent trips to the market, buy cold foods in small quantities, and only buy enough food for two meals at a time. The result has been that I eat significantly less processed food, eat more vegetables, and waste less food! I think living without a fridge is definitely a positive step forward.

Dani said...

Thanks for the link Greenpa - I didn't know that was a search block in the top left hand corner.

We had decided that we wouldn't be having a fridge on our farm, but would rather have a solar operated freezer. We have discovered that whatever food we need to keep cooler (in our 30 - 37oC summer temperatures) we can easily do using a cooler box and a 5lt bottle of ice - re-freezing and replacing the bottle as it melts.

BUT, you have made me think about our fridge here in Cape Town - we have a box freezer which we switched off months ago - why not try the opposite - and use the freezer and switch off the big fridge.

We could use the empty fridge as a pantry / cooler box - especially for my man's beers - luke warm beer in summer is apparently not on - especially when watching rugby!

"More on this coming. Please send this around- and let me have your comments" - did you write more?

Thanks again

Dani said...

Greenpa - please ignore my question on later posts - I have found them.

Now why do I keep running out of internet time - must be the amount of blogging I'm reading.

Worth it!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think the shelf life for garlic/onions/tomatoes is way longer than what you suggest. I've never refrigerated any of those. Also some hot peppers can be air dried really easily (cayennes or thai peppers both fall into this category), and a lot of things can be fermented into a more preserved state.

Unknown said...

Beer is not a luxury. It's a necessity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article , I am in process of moving off grid. I have moved into a house in florida in which the fridge didnt work I still have gotten it fixed. Im coping

Snells with a Mission said...

I lived in Africa for four years and we had power on a very irregular basis and yes most things we refrigerate really don't need to be. My husband worked up in the rainforest building a research camp and kept mayonaise in the cupboard for weeks! He didn't have meat so that wasn't an issue. I now live in a two family household and we have TWO fridges how UNGREEN have I become!!?? But, I guess if were living in separate houses we would have two anyway. I digress...
Just a thought, and maybe someone has said this already (there's a bucket load of comments)-how green is it if I have to drive to the grocery store every day? I supposed I am probably out toodling around anyway so it's just another stop, but if you live out in the country and wouldn't normally travel in every day is your fridge worse than your car? Just a thought...

Greenpa said...

Snell - heavens to betsy, yes, driving to town all the time would be way worse. :-) Somewhere here in the maze of follow-up posts and comments that comes up. There are just plenty of ways to cope with it all; and no real deprivation needed; just a little adjustment.

earthgirl said...

have been wanting to get rid of my fridge for about 6 months,most of the time it is half empty anyway. i am thinking of keeping a small cooler with ice for dairy products, maybe we will eventually wean from those as well afterall there is a minute mart just down the street.

Anonymous said...

i unplugged my fridge 6 months ago , and i really dont miss it , i did it because i really wasnt using it , as i live out of canned food , and eat out in resturaunts , so the thought of using that unessersary hydro for a few things bugged me ,
also i unplugged my hot water heater , if i need to shower then i use my girlfriends shower , plus if i need hot water for doing my dishes , 6 minutes in the microwave and its hot, after all going green means to me ,, that the green(money) stays in my pocket ,,,
besides this, im very healthy, so theres no issues there

Anonymous said...

I'm alarmed at this practice in a household with children. If an adult gets food poisoning, they just get very sick, but with children, their organs shut down and they die. The same with the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. Is it really worth risking a child's life? Plus who wants to be violently sick. that would freak me out knowing every time I eat I might get sick.

And as far as eggs are concerned, other countries keep them unrefridgerated because they have a coating on them, a coating that we wash off here in America, so it doesn't have the same protection.

I can't imagine eating a pasta salad with warm mayonnaise, yuck. Plus I love my cold drinks.

That pot on the stove sounds like a science experiment crossed with Russian roulette.

Who wants to go grocery shopping every day for fresh food? Not me. I'm busy enough.

I'll keep my fridge thank you very much.

rkg14 said...

Hey pasta salad lover, if all the children and the human race died of poisoning without the fridge ... we wouldnt be here

Anonymous said...

Unintentionally I inflicted a mortal stab wound to my fridge a while back. Silence is golden!

Ghee is fantastic and so is olive oil and home made yoghurt. Yet to try kefir. Expensive condiments can easily be replaced by fresh herbs and spices. Better for us too.

With summer coming on I'm going to try making a salt box for keeping small lots of fresh milk. Did you "freeze" ice cream in a container which is packed around with salt?

aiyappamacton said...

This may very well be an old-wives-tale quality story, but I've never had food poisoning except once from a kiwi fruit.

Anonymous said...

there are so many more factors in being able to live without a fridge, its hard to list them all, just think harder, tbh. the ppl that would benefit from this most are poor ppl, who work too long and make too little to afford to go to the grocery store so often. I buy bulk, I buy on sale, and there is no way the food I buy would last outside of my fridge for as long as I needed it to. Most fresh food is ridiculous expensive, in comparison. As much as I would like to be "unplugged". There is a reason 98% of poor ppl have fridges.

Greenpa said...

Anon; 11/4/11 - a good thoughtful reply. If you are truly interested in exploring this, though, I'd suggest you make a serious experiment, and try it.

The thing is, doing without a fridge for a few days; even a week, is mostly a matter of constant annoyance. Nothing is the way it "should be".

Experimenting can be very useful "prepping", too- your family can learn to truly cope, for the day down the road when the next "record breaking snowfall" knocks your power out for 2 months, instead of 2 days. (That's actually increasingly likely-cutbacks on maintenance, you know).

Plan ahead; and unplug for a month. My prediction would be- at 3 weeks, it will be easy, and automatic. Of course in the 4th week, you'll be thinking about ice cream all the time. But still- you'll learn a lot. :-)

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Greenpa said...

Web- dairy is really not all that difficult. Neither cheese nor butter need refrigeration if used in anything like a normal time frame. Milk can be purchased in smaller batches- but my own preference is dried milk.

I know- "ick!" - but; a) you and the kids can get used to it; b) there are tricks to make it more palatable; c) if you search a little, there are WAY better tasting dried milks available out there; try a grocery store that caters to Mormons or Mennonites, and see what they've got.

Anonymous said...

Is there anywhere I can get a LIST of foods that dont need refridgeration and what their shelf life is and how to keep things from spoiling?

Greenpa said...

KDK - I'm not aware of any unified list, alas. If you'll follow the thread and comments here, there are quite a few later posts on "refrigerator" or "fridge", that mention lots of experiences; in the comments too.

Partly it's a matter of learning "types" of foods; what's at risk, how fast, and what's possible.

AliB said...

Ok so I'm seriously out of date but this post turned up on facebook today and I enjoyed the read. I live with a tiny bar fridge and do fine (I do like a freezer though cause I love making ice cream). Love the thought though.
Oh...and btw Tansy...if you put an egg in a glass of water and it floats...don't break it. If it sinks you are good to eat. :)

Fruit Stripe Ape said...

I really enjoyed this article.
Anyone consider a chest fridge? I have a conversion article on my blog. Look up FruitStripeApe for my blog. The chest fridge in question used less than 1kw/hr a day and is easy to use in places with no power. Use a few small solar panels and/or wind turbines.

Anonymous said...

Love your article and the idea of living w/o a fridge, but you seem to be excluding what I believe to be the most important thing about a fridge/freezer - saving money on food. Like being able to buy large quantities cheaper, freezing the extras until you need it. Also, when something is on sale, you buy as much as you know you will eat before the expiration date. If I only bought food on the day I was to eat it I'd spend at least twice as much (or more) than I do now. And I am a very careful shopper; I look at prices as well as quality and ingredients. I do not eat white bread and store bought ice cream, heavily processed foods, etc. Smart shoppers who need to or want to save money need a fridge and freezer simply due to the high cost of food and the need for creative shopping and buying via sales. This is where I believe your thoughts on this issue are flawed (for lack of better term), you are not taking into consideration the cost of buying small amounts a little at a time, you are not taking into consideration that not everyone has time to stop off at the store 7 to 21 times a week, not everyone lives in the "city" where there are stores and bodegas on every block. You don't seem to be taking into consideration those who live in the suburbs that may have to drive a mile to get to a store (can't ride a bike or walk if you're a mom with 3 kids, etc.). You are not thinking of all the other possibilities that make shopping every day impractical. If I was growing all or most of my own food on my own property and did not have to rely on supermarkets then I'd easily be able to live without a fridge. But the average person does not have the ability to grow their own food in that quantity. Food for thought.

Greenpa said...

"You are not thinking of all the other possibilities that make shopping every day impractical."

Oh, yes I am. :-) Your comments are excellent- very well trained- in the proper use of refrigeration.

You DO realize- the great majority of people are NOT "very careful shoppers". That is more where I'm aiming.

And, indeed, "not everyone..." fits. Of course not!

Did you read through all the followup posts here, and all the many comments and responses? I think quite a few of our objections are dealt with there. I grant you, this first post can be read as rather dogmatic; but it's not intended to stay that way when you remember it next month. In particular, you can follow the experience of Vanessa, aka "Green as a Thistle"; who went from "you're crazy" to actually living without, and not suffering at all. It wound up in the sub-title of her book!

I DO need to do an updated and consolidated post on this issue; it's... just... been too crazy...

Anyway- I don't disagree with much of what you said there- but- there IS more to the discussion. You're not quite "outside the box" yet, and the view is different out here. :-)

SaMaman said...

I am happy to have found your blogg. We have a famiy of 3 young children and spent 4 months in the bush in a tent, going to the city now and then. Every year I'm looking for tips to find thing to what to bring to eat, and now I found your blogg. Growing kids are always hungry !!!! I will read trough your blogg when I have time, for now I'm in the process of packing.

The Knowledge Junkie said...

I absolutely understand your lack of time as that is my reason for such a short post. Maybe not too short;) but in comparison to all i want to say and ask. I want to start with saying I am so happy to have found this blog. Ive never blogged or read blogs so... I wanted to chime in about the eggs real quick. They do come with a coating that naturally preserves and yes we in America do remove that but a coating of oil on not only fresh but also store bought eggs extends their life dramatically. Mineral oil is the best as far as my understanding and of course always wash your eggs before cracking. That's not exactly a something we should forget anyway. I've used regular vegetable oil and olive oil. I have one chicken(which is a wonderful story I'm sure you'd all enjoy) so I keep fresh and store bought. I choose my store bought eggs carefully and always wash and coat eggs immediately. I store them piled in a cloth lined basket proudly displayed in my kitchen. I have been doing this for over a year with not one rotten egg.

Anonymous said...

Hi Greenpa! In searching for a compact fridge after opening my eyes and realising my fridge was too big for me alone, I discovered your blog, then continued to read others' blogs, and then researched about food storage, all the while experimenting here and there. How inspiring!

In the meantime, I've been slowly eating what's in my fridge, and it looks like I'm really going to unplug my fridge! I wish the zeer pot would work for me, it would make for a truly easy transition, but alas it's too humid here. However, I already go shopping quite often (every 4 or 5 days), so really what I'm finding is it's more about making choices about what I will eat, with meal ideas in my head, rather than what I might want to eat in a few days, with vague ideas in my head. I think someone called this "planning ahead". I haven't even unplugged yet, and I'm eating out less, because I need to eat the food that's on my counter, before it goes bad; eating healthier, because I have a plan, not a "diet"; and have a lot less false hunger pangs, because my goal is to eat what I have in home and having an idea of how much food I have for each day (before it might go bad) makes me feel like I don't need to eat as much, even if it's healthy food, because what I plan for is enough, if this makes any sense.... I think I might have touched on the negative side of the refigeration culture here.

So, this is a huge learning curve, but one I am happily embracing. Thank you for taking the time to write about fridglessness (you could go French with this and call it "Sans Frigo" Ha ha!).

Anonymous said...

i unplugged my fridge about 2 yrs ago ,, im a healthy 70yr old male ,, i grew up without a fridge as a kid , in the 60,s it was a novelty to have one, i buy canned foods that i eat , and dry foods ,, also i fish for protien that i might need , and get free range eggs when ever i can ,, so living without a refrigerator b is no big deal for me ,, the western youth of this day have never experienced life without the fridge , i feel sorry for them , as they feel that they will perish without one the social media have brainwashed the youth of this day into believing that they will get sick/die without a refrigerator because of all the bacteria associated with unrefrigerated food, so what happens when the hydro ceases to be ,, who will survive??? simple ,, us who grew up without the refrigerator

Anonymous said...

create a pantry of foods that you eat , i have done this , if there wasa food crisis , then i have enough food to last me 3 months or so ,other than that , buy a fishing rod go fishing, bull rushes are healthy to eat ,, the early spring leaves can be boiled as veggy,s the dried roots can be ground and used like coffee ,

Unknown said...

Hey! I enjoyed looking over your blog. My refrigerator has been broken for 2 weeks now! Your blog has given me hope that my family just might survive with no refrigeration. I hope you don't mind I shared a link to your blog on my blog: The Ruminating Room. You can access my blog at

Veggie Vixen 138 said...

Our family went almost a month without a fridge when we decided to move into our cottage house. Even if we wanted a fridge the space for one in the new house is too small. As we were emptying it out for the last time, we realized that it was a layover between the stove and the garbage for leftovers. And cooler of beverages and condiments. Oh. And did I mention it was LEASED!
I went to one of those Rent to Own places and leased it for what could have bought me a decent used car over the span of a year! This was done at a time in my life I had just lost everything and was starting over...again and thought it was as vital as food and water.

Fast forward to today, and my kids don't even think we need one. They like taking the more frequent trips to the store and only getting enough for the day or two. They get to learn the difference between wants and needs and impulse buys too since we don't buy any produce that we know we won't be making immediately. I did cave and borrow a counter top one to hold beverages. To each their own. But as for the full size model, I'm vegan so I don't have to store animal meats milks or cheeses. But I am curious how long the plant counterparts of these products can last on the counter then maybe the fridge can go out...for good!

Katherine said...

I spent time on a sail boat about thirty years ago. We had blocks of ice that they put in a metal (zinc?) lined box in kitchen area; looked like the old time ice boxes. The ice blocks melted and got smaller but we still had some of the blocks left at the end of the trip. It was in a harbor town and the captain bought the ice blocks at a marina before we sailed out. Everything stayed cold. We had milk, eggs and salad which stayed good and cold all week. The ice blocks where about 8"x8x"8 and were mostly melted by the end of the week but there was still some ice left. I was surprised it lasted that long.A drain at the bottom of the box let the water drain out as the ice melted. The box open by a small lid on top which helped keep the cold air in.

Meow said...

We live in a semi and would love to learn how to keep food so we can eat healthier. We have extremely limited space.

Anonymous said...

to those people asking about what foods need refrigerating and what don't , look in your supermarket shelves , eg, ketchups, mustards jar foods,bottled foods ect , if the foods are on the shelves , then they will keep without refrigeration, opened juices will keep a week without refrigeration, worried about meats , buy canned meats, just take a look in your supermarket it will give you a better idea about these things ,, I haven't had my refrigerator plugged in for over 3 years now , im a healthy 71 year old man,, I grew up without refrigeration after WW11, at this moment I use my refrigerator as a pantry , keeps the bugs out of my food, like someome said on this post . people have lived without refrigeration for thousand of years , if they did,nt make it , then we would,nt be here

GrannyAnnie said...

I am so glad I found this post! My refrigerator went out nearly 2 months ago (dead of winter). Since it was so cold and I was broke, I decided to just go without it until the weather gets warm and I could get another. But I am doing so well without it, and amazingly, having MUCH LESS food waste, that I am now going to see if I can completely live without it.
Walmart, over in their ethnic section, had a powdered milk by Nestle called Nido. It is powdered whole milk, fortified with vitamins. It tastes wonderful and works so well!!!
Thank you for posting this!

Luxury Apartments Lady said...

I KNEW you didn't have to put ketchup in the fridge! So many people told me otherwise, but I absolutely knew!

Chloe Hadjimatheou said...

Hi there,
I am a BBC journalist working on a radio documentary about how fridges change people's lives around the world. We are in New York this week and looking to meet someone who has chosen to live without a fridge. Can
you help? Please contact me either via FB ( or else via email or phone +447974105829.
Many thanks!!

k├╝lmikud said...

My family is also no refrigerator for 18 years and I see it is really normal

Anonymous said...

My fridge broke down in the summer.. I figured if I can manage that I can cope with the winter..

Great blog.. Very inspiring... I now buy much less produce and plan my meals better and waste 0%. Everything keeps fresh..meat/fish if consumed is cooked on the day and kept in the pot. Im also learning how to pickle things.

I will most likely buy another fridge at some point in my life, but for now I am enjoying the challenge...
Good to see others with similar views.
Gabriella ,single female london UK.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered solar refrigeration? Living off-grid and powering your own solar fridge/freezer is what I do. If you aren't familiar with them, take a look here:

Greenpa said...

Anon Dec 10 - You bet we have! We've even done it, several ways, all unsatisfactory- but also all years ago with very primitive solar panels (shade one cell and zero power) and primitive refrigerators.

Many thanks for the link- we'll use it. We were just starting to make plans for trying it seriously again next year; using new tech, which I know is better.

Unknown said...

Many years ago people in the north, used to use what is called a window refrigerator. It was made in the form of a box, that was the size of your window, that was made of tin that was connected to the outside of the window, and all you had to do was open the window, open the tin box and take out your food. I have 2 of them and will be installing them on the outside of my home/garage. It's a finished 12 x 32 garage with a living room, large kitchen, bedroom, and bath. It's my beach "resort" for summer, and some of the winter too, and I live there in the summertime. Of course I have very cold weather in the winter, so it will work for me. I will also be building a refrigerator in the ground, and hope to fill it with ice in the winter, using buckets of water. It will be my cold storage for my produce, but hope to have ice for the summer too. It's mostly like a root cellar, with Ice in it. It has to be deep enough to hold 8x8 feet of ice 6 feet high to work. I have been working on this for years, because I will be going off grid to my property hopefully this fall. This summer is going to be the last of my "to do" list of the things I need to move in, so I'm very happy to be able to share what has worked for me. (I have used the window fridge) and it works great, but does freeze things in my area. Makes a great storage area in the summer too! The company that made them was Lawco and it's called a Lawco Refrigerator. It could be built very easily, and YES it was popular in New York City where everyone had one. Bless, and thank you so much for your blog, it has really given me a boost to finish my "to do" list. Sheila

Greenpa said...

Sheila- thanks for the details, people find them useful. We have something similar, which is a cupboard just outside the door. Having one wall in common with the house, it doesn't get as cold as just on the porch; but works for many things.

One of the problems with any such food storage is - mice. They WILL find a way; or chew one, over time. Only real defense is to expect it and watch for it. We have about 6 porch cats; mostly for mice- we still get mice, though unquestionably fewer.

The trade-off for all such passive cooling is- you HAVE to pay attention. This is not a bad thing; you're not likely to suddenly wake up, find your thermostat died, and all your food is spoiled. If it's getting out of range, you'll have been aware long ago. But. It's a different habit. Takes time.

Best of luck going off-grid!

Unknown said...

I really appreciate the post. I live in the Northwest where rain abounds and one could forage and hunt for days with no issues. My knowledge of the body and how it plays host to trillions of bacteria fascinates me and has turned into an obsession that has spread its roots far and wide into a more simplified, utilitarian and ultimately healthier living. I have been really trying to find ways to not use the fridge and turn it off when we aren't using it for anything important like meat. I don't know if I could get my husband to approve of getting rid of our fridge, but it isn't too big and most of the stuff in it is just as you said, "unnecessary", as in it can survive outside in a cupboard. We live primarily off bulk dried goods like lentils, beans, grains, and seeds with very, very little dairy and typically always some form of meat. If it were up to me, we'd get rid of a lot more.

Also, may I suggest to everyone to get rid of your TV packages. You don't need them. You will get the news for free. Pick up a free books at the library and use their media centers. We could all use a little de-modernization in the technology dept. And you can turn down your water heater when you're away or get a tankless water heater to also save. Great blog. Thanks again.

Greenpa said...

Rachel- thanks for the kind words. And a little kick in the pants; this post was the beginning of a fairly long thread comments here; not all with this post. I've been wanting for years to do an update and consolidation- this is more incentive.

We still do just fine with no fridge. Including in regard to meat - we're omnivores, eat plenty of meat- and you just don't need the fridge to manage it; as our ancestors proved from the last 20,000 years (considering village-town needs) - up until the past 200 (including the ice industry). And as more than half of current living humans don't have a fridge either - and it's not about to kill them.

Wow, I can still start ranting on this topic really easy! :-) Easiest point on meat - get it cooked in a reasonably short time after you purchase it at the grocery store. Cooked meat can still spoil, of course - but far far more slowly than raw meat, and the spoilage bugs on cooked meat are not the same as those in raw meat that might kill you; plain compost bacteria- not even likely to give you a bad tummy in small numbers.

Just a week ago, I finally terminated a "slow cooked" high meat stew I'd been eating, and feeding to family and friends - for 3 weeks. Carefully bringing to a simmer after each time we removed some for eating, and keeping the top meticulously NOT opened. Sterile in there - just like in an autoclaved petri dish. I ended this stew not because of spoilage concerns; but because the remaining original stock and meat components were hitting the end of their flavor. Typically these kinds of things are tastiest around Day 4; but extremely long simmering of any meat/stock I've ever played with eventually gets to a stage where flavor is going downhill; less "yum" and more "what?"

Remember your Great-Great Grandparents! Apparently living with no fridge did not kill them. :-)

Unknown said...

My frig has crapped out on me now twice within a year. I'm tired of throwing hundreds of dollars worth of food away. The store is a block away, I'll just buy what I need for the day. My parents lived through the Great Depression, can learn a lot from them.

Gabriella said...

Great Blog.... been reading for past 2 years since I posted anonymous "May 20, 2015 at 4:44 AM" and I'm Still going strong!!

I don't have a fridge and manage just fine.. No point in me repeating what most people have already said but to summarise:

- I was very wasteful with a fridge...I dont waste anything anymore.
- Butter,jam, eggs, vegetables keep in my garden all winter.
- Lettuce, celery, parsley, spring onions etc in jars with water like flowers.. You will be surprised at how many cuttings I get, most things keep growing.
- I save on energy, space and noise, my kitchen is peaceful.
- I have shops 24/7 if I REALLY need anything.
- Keep leftovers in the pot, eat the next day.
- Socially awkward, but friends and visitors will just have to make do with either a hot drink or tap cold water... Worse things in life.

Love to know anyone in the UK doing this too... Gabriella London