By Lindsey Cox
Maybe it’s an emergency situation, like a hurricane or thunder storm causing a long-term power outage. Or maybe it’s just personal preference – more and more people find themselves wanting to truly live the off-the-grid lifestyle. Whatever the reason, more people are making the choice to live without modern-day refrigerators. Some do it to cut down on hefty utility bills. Others do it just to see if they could live without refrigeration.
Could your family live without a refrigerator? For a few days? A month? A Year? Permanently?
You might be surprised at the answer. Here are some tips on living refrigerator-free:
Use alternative cooling sources.
Most people who go without a modern-day refrigerator still use some sort of cooling method to preserve food when needed. Simply put, cooling preserves certain foods so they last longer. Most folks who unplug their refrigerators have a backup system or plan in place, such as a zeer pot.  Many use a small cooler, or perhaps a mini-fridge or a small freezer to store very small quantities of items like milk or meat. And some people use their climate to their advantage – storing food items outside on the porch on a cold day. (It’s actually a very viable option for many colder climates!)
Change how you buy food.
There’s no way around it. If you’re going to live “fridge-free” you will have to change the way you buy food. Many fridge-free families grow or raise a good percentage of their own food. They are also usually very good at canning, drying and preserving their food so that they can save it without the need of refrigeration.
If you’re going to live without a modern day refrigerator, there’s probably not going to be any more trips to big-box warehouse clubs to stock up on meat … unless you plan on preparing it and preserving it in other ways, like making jerky, right away. Instead, you’ll want to focus on purchasing exactly how much meat (and other perishables) you can prepare and eat in a short period of time, because you don’t want to deal with storing leftovers.
Here’s what us country folk do: We buy a little meat when we go in to town, and then go home and cook it and eat it immediately. This means we don’t eat meat every single day of our life. It’s healthier, more frugal, and yes, it can be done.
If we want to cook something bigger, like a pot roast, we can keep it for 2-4 days without ever refrigerating it. This is done by cooking it on day one and then reheating it when we need it; keeping it tightly covered and carefully simmered in the between-time, being very careful to NEVER open the pot until we’re ready to reheat. Yes, this process is a bit unnerving to a modern day cook. It’s often referred to as the same procedure scientists use when sterilizing a Petri dish. And yes, this way of cooking does have its risks, to be sure. I’m not advocating that you try it. I’m simply pointing out what many country folks do in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. There are many good old-fashioned cooking books that can teach you the safest ways to do this, step-by-step, if you’re interested in learning more.
Saving a few dollars by unplugging your fridge can quickly be cancelled out if you waste money by letting good food go bad, or by making multiple trips to the grocery store. Count the cost and make sure it’s adding up financially, if that’s your goal. The best way to live fridge-free, not waste food, and save money? Raise as much of your own fresh food as possible.
What do our modern refrigerators hold, anyway?
Take a peek inside your fridge. Odds are you’ll find ice cream, soda, beer, and maybe some lunch meat or cheese … perhaps some condiments, butter, eggs, milk and so on. How many of these items do you absolutely have to have, and how many of them must be refrigerated?
- Butter can sit on the counter for up to two weeks … just ask the Europeans.
- The same goes for many types of cheese. Many people will tell you certain cheeses taste better never being refrigerated!
- Fresh eggs can last for more than a week in the cupboard or on the counter. Another great reason to raise your own hens … you’ll always have a food source!
- Milk can be bought in smaller quantities and kept in a small cooler, or you can use powdered milk. Yes, the taste and texture of powdered milk is different but it will do and most people get used to it. You can hardly tell the difference in your cooking.
- Many condiments do not need to be refrigerated; it’s simply something that’s become a habit to us as Americans. An unnecessary habit, with zero science behind it.
The truth is, many of the items occupying real estate in our fridge are simply unnecessary luxuries we can learn to live without, should the need arise. And we might just find ourselves a little healthier if these luxuries weren’t so handy and readily available to us 24/7! We might enjoy our ice cream, soda, and beer more if it is a special treat we get to enjoy and really savor … once in a while.
Could you live without your refrigerator? The answer is a resounding yes. People did without them for hundreds and thousands of years. You can do without one, too, if you put your mind to it.