Living without a fridge

I’ve mentioned many times that I live without a fridge or freezer. It’s not something everyone can do, but I thought it might be helpful to give a sense of the things that make this feasible. If you need a fridge to keep medicine, clearly this isn’t for you.

You need a cool box or other cool storage space – older houses sometimes have these. If you put frozen things in cool boxes, they can stay cool for some time (depending on outside temperatures and what else you have in the box).

I’m in the UK, which is cold or mild for most of the year. I manage in hot summers, but it can be a challenge. If you live somewhere really hot, this may be too difficult. However, it’s worth seeing what traditional solutions are/were for your part of the world.

I don’t think you can do this and store raw meat. If you are an omnivore and want to do without a fridge, you’d have to buy meat and cook it pretty much straight away. This is possible, but you’d have to be organised.

You can’t do big weekly shops in the way people do when they’re able to load up fridges and freezers. You have to buy less and more often and stay alert to what you have and how long it will keep. If you can’t do this without a lot of extra car use, it may not be a sensible trade-off.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I hardly ever have food go off – I don’t buy things that won’t keep unless I’m intending to use them straight away.

Many things don’t need a fridge. You only need to refrigerate plant matter if it’s been cut already. Fruit and veg keep well. Dried goods – pasta, rice, oats, flour, beans and fruit etc do not need a fridge. Things in tins and jars do not need a fridge. Bread is perfectly happy in a cool box. Margarine, I have learned by experimentation, keeps a disturbingly long time. Mammal milk can be kept overnight if it’s not too hot. Plant milks will keep indefinitely when they haven’t been opened, and last a couple of days when open. Cheese bought in modest amounts will keep for a couple of days.

You can’t do a vast amount of storing leftovers for later use. If you need to prepare food in batches and store it, you can’t do it this way. If you live somewhere that makes bulk shopping/delivery a practical necessity, fridgelessness won’t work. If you are able to produce and store food you may find it makes more sense to have a freezer.

As with most questions of greener living, the answers are complicated and depend on other factors in your life. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or occasional meat eater, if you are urban living with easy access to food, and you can sort out your food on a day by day basis, you might not need a fridge. Doing without one can save space – a significant issue for those of us living in small spaces. It will save you money both on the fridge and the electricity it uses. Your reduced energy use, reduced materials use and reduced use of environmentally harming chemicals is all better for the environment. It’s not for everyone, but it might be for you!

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

9 responses to “Living without a fridge

  • David Davis

    I have long wanted to live next to a Walmart. I always thought of it from the angle of not needing a car. Your post has now given me a second reason.

  • TPWard

    Eggs also don’t really need to be refrigerated. I keep mine in our basement, which is cool, and have found that in the hot summer months I’d best use them within two months if I don’t want them to go bad.

  • Jonathan Donald

    Wow – you are a brave and dedicated soul, to do without refrigeration in this society. I don’t think I could voluntarily forgo refrigeration. In any case, based on the way things are going, it won’t be long before many of us will be involuntarily living without refrigeration….

    • Nimue Brown

      It probably helps me that I have an interest in the lives of ordinary people in history, and from that a keen sense that most of them did ok without the things we think are essential…

  • RuthScribbles

    Whilst living in England we had a very small refrigerator. I thought I would have to shop daily, but I learned how to shop and store things in the little one. I miss the little one. We lose things in the big one.

  • Tim Waddington

    A good way to keep things cool without a fridge is to buy a standard bucket and two earthenware plant pots slightly smaller than the bucket. With one pot kept soaking in the bucket of water and the other upside down over the things you want to keep cool, switching the buckets 2 or 3 times daily, food like butter or cheese keep a lot longer than without.

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