Tag Archives: fridge

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!


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.