Living without a fridge may seem unthinkable but it is not as impossible as it sounds. We have been working toward being fridge free for the past six months and have been completely fridge free for the last two months. We still keep a freezer to store meats while I learn about alternative preservation methods.
(Update August 2015: After several months with out a fridge and almost a year using a dorm sized fridge for our (then) family of five we have resumed using a regular fridge and freezer. We have it, but we are not beholden to it. It’s a useful tool that, with a family of six, saves us quite a bit of time. We still use the skills below in many different scenarios especially to save prime fridge space. Even if you aren’t interested in living without a fridge full time it’s good to know how to survive with out it.)
As we work to becoming more sustainable, I am trying to be creative in our ways to become energy independent. It’s always easier to conserve energy then create it, so I’m being judicious in which appliance get to be a part of our home. Here are some of the guidelines and strategies we use to keep our food from spoiling:
My Plastic Free Life has a great list of how to store produce without plastic, including a free PDF flyer you can print out. This list includes a lot of great strategies such as placing stemmed greens in jars of water (like cut flowers), wrapping herbs in a damp cloth and placing in an airtight container, and guidelines for how long produce will last loose on the counter.
Mother Earth News has a lovely photo on their site: a guide to storing produce in root cellar conditions. We do not have a root cellar, but during the winter our garage stays at the correct temperature, so this is how we store hardier produce such as gourds, apples, and potatoes.
Here is a lovely guide to keeping food without a fridge based on their author’s experience living on a boat. This document gave me the courage to try keeping cheddar cheese and yogurt out of the fridge. I conducted my own private experiment and found that hard cheddar cheese will last for two weeks or more unwrapped and that yogurt will last 6-7 days before molding. We always use up the cheese and culture a new batch of yogurt well before these deadlines.
Before I had the courage to completely unplug I looked for others who live this way as well and was encouraged to find this discussion on Little Blog in the the Big Woods, as well as connect with family members who successfully dry camp during the summers with their children for an extended period.
I’m certainly not the first person in our day and age to forgo home refrigeration and I’m sure I will not be the last. If this appeals to you I encourage you to research food preservation and storage techniques, give a few a try in your home, see where it goes from there and come back and share what you are trying!
Update: We spent several months completely fridge free until the goat went into milk. As this was our first experience with goat milk I didn’t want to take any chances with the kids not liking it so we now use a small dorm fridge for our family of five. However, I have no desire to go any bigger and still use the ideas in this post as part of our daily living.