Life without a fridge

I’ve been fridge-free for over five years now. Instances of throwing away edible food – zero. Food going off is pretty rare and tends to be because we’ve bought fruit that was reduced to clear and didn’t eat it all in time. Sometimes, the consumer goods that look like they are helping us, are not as helpful as they seem.

In order to do without a fridge, we buy little and often, which means there’s a plan for anything bought, but we can also respond to whim and bargain. We gave up cow’s milk when we started this – it just doesn’t keep well enough. Everything else does just fine in the cool box.

No doubt our diet makes this easier – two vegetarians and one omnivore, and I don’t buy raw meat, so that’s far more manageable. We eat a lot of fruit and veg, a lot of dried rice, pasta and pulses lurk on the kitchen shelves. Much of this doesn’t go off quickly and can easily be spotted when it does.

Having lived with fridges my whole life, I was obliged to change tack while on the boat – they just take too much electricity. Other boaters advised the switch to a cool box. It proved easy – far easier than I’d expected. The absence of a fridge means having to be aware of what fresh food is around and how long it will last – variable with temperature and whether anything frozen has gone into the box recently. The attraction of a fridge is that you can put a lot of things in it and not feel a need to think about them, but this is how the unspeakable horror at the back of the fridge comes to be.

Having been fridgeless for a good five years now, I do not see fridges as a quality of life improver. Expensive, yes. Big consumer items that take up a lot of space. Energy I don’t have to use. Taking the fridge out of the equation has given me a better relationship with food. I can’t say it would work for everyone, but I can say it’s always worth questioning the apparently essential things, because you may well find some of them aren’t so vital for you after all.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

14 responses to “Life without a fridge

  • Rick Finney

    Hi, Nimue: Sorry to ask a question so completely off the topic of your post, but I don’t know how else to reach you. Can you recommend any UK-based publishing houses (apart from Moon Books, which we’ve tried) that handle fantasy fiction, especially stories set in the Celtic Otherworld? My oldest daughter has written something that I think is incredibly good, and I’d like to encourage her to submit it somewhere. Thanks, – Rick

  • Adventure Girl

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Climate Change recently, and what I can do in my life to make a difference, every day. When searching for ideas, I stumbled across ‘using less electronic devices’ and my first thought was mobile phones and tablets, but I never would have thought of living without a fridge. I’ve always had one in my house, and just assumed it was a necessity. But I guess going back in time, people never had them. Food for thought!

    You mention you use a cool box, is that like a picnic cool box? And where do you keep it in your house to keep at it’s coolest? Adding frozen goods would help keep it cooler too. I do buy milk and raw meat, so perhaps buying the meat closer to the time I would cook it, though I may manage better in the winter when it’s cooler. We now have much warmer summers (due to global warming), but buying little and often may be the answer. Thank you!

    • Nimue Brown

      Yep, regular picnic cool box in a cooler part of the kitchen. If you buy things as you need them its pretty low risk, and if you have easy access to a supermarket – they have fridges 🙂 Using natural cold in the winter ( a cool box outside for example, is very cool indeed) and using the fridge in the summer when you genuinely need it might be a workable solution. A closed fridge will still keep things cooler than a cupboard would.

    • Siobhan Johnson

      My Dad’s a boater, and we bought a cool box full of raw meat the day before it was intended to be cooking, and it was fine. This was in high summer. The temperature got to about 30 Celsius inside the boat so we added an emergency bag of ice around lunch time the second day, but I don’t think we needed to have bothered. It was our first time keeping raw meat without a fridge for more than a few hours, so we hadn’t a clue. (Meat was a contribution to a huge group barbecue. We aren’t some strange hungry carnivores or something.) Our fridge is broken (vintage boat, vintage fridge.Vintage toilet = not cute.) but considering how easy it is to buy fresh each day or couple of days and then eat leftovers or straight out of the pantry the fridge is the last on the boat renovation list, if at all. It may only get refitted for posterity’s sake, as she is a boat of historical importance. Fridgeless living is easier than you think.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I have small bar size refrigerators, no bigger than the small one I recall my English aunt having in her Kitchen when I visited back in 1968.

    It is only about half the size of our smaller ones here across the pond, and less than a fourth the size of most of the monsters in normal in this country, with no freezer. But it can hold up to two weeks of the food that I use, though normally I shop once a week. I can’t walk far and I can’t drive with the town being ten miles away. I also do not eat meat, except when I eat out, but that is more due to never having bothered to have hot water put in here. As for animal protein, well that is why I have cheese at every meal, also for the calcium.

    For things that use water, as I have to pay to have water hauled out to me, I do my laundry and shower in town. A shower costs me $2.00 once a week, two weeks worth of laundry costs me between $12 to $15 to have done for me.

  • mabhsavage

    This is fascinating, and so true about the unspeakable horrors at the back of the fridge. I think I would have to be so much more organised than I am to contemplate being totally fridge free, but this has given me a lot to think about, thank you.

  • Forward Planning (Or, Why Do We Have Three Packets of Prawn Batter and No Prawns?) - Siobhan Johnson

    […] The other day, we were having a discussion in the comments of Nimue’s latest post, Life Without a Fridge. […]

  • Elen Sentier

    Not a starter for me as I cannot get the wild meat I need to eat from anywhere nearby without using the car. I eat paleo, this what my body requires, and I live half a mile from the nearest B road and 7 miles from nearest town. And the town doesn’t sell venison or boar meat. Have to travel 25 miles in car to get that. I also need milk from type-2 cows which is delivered once a month so I need a freezer, and for the wild meat which is also delivered once a month. I have leaky gut and 3 autoimmune diseases. When I was growing up on the edge of Exmoor we had no fridge, nor did we need one, there were only type-2 cows at the local farms and Dad + friends stalked and did hedge shoots. The beef, lamb and mutton were all what’s called organic too, there wasn’t any other way. We ran a cool box, larder and meat safe very successfully until I was 18. Can’t do that now.

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