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14 Foods To Stop Refrigerating When You Have Limited Space

The mailbox lid clinked shut, and the dog started barking at the window as the mailman walked down the sidewalk to the next house.  My daughters, just barely four years old and two clamored at the door to “help” me get the mail.  I tried to keep their fun spirit as I lifted them up over my pregnant belly to grab the envelopes, but inside I felt sick as their little hands ripped opened their “letter” and handed me the mortgage statement inside.

My husband had been at work all day, and wouldn’t be home until late.  Yet still, each month seemed a little longer than the last, the bills seemed to come more frequently.  Big life changes were headed our way.

Stop refrigerating these 14 foods to free up room in your fridge! It's good to have the skills and knowledge to scale down in unusual circumstances.

The question in my mind was would we be able to do something drastic enough to make sure those changes were for the better?

I’d been shaving corners here and there.  Thirty dollars saved by hanging the laundry out to dry.   Wood was gathered and set aside on the winter to avoid those upcoming heating bills, growing as much produce as we could, and so on.

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Most of the valuables we owned had already been sold.  Gone was my piccolo, my husbands wedding band, both of our cars.  Yet still, it wasn’t quite enough.  That night when my husband arrived home, I presented a last ditch plan to make next month’s house payment.

“Let’s sell the refrigerator.”

It wasn’t a hard decision.  If we kept the fridge, we’d have to sell it before we moved.  If we sold the fridge now, maybe we could make it through another month.  So we sold it.  And we made it through that month, and the months following too.

After a few months my parents came to visit and offered to purchase our family a small dorm fridge.  We knew we could afford the extra electricity usage at that point, so we accepted it.  (One of many generous gifts we received during this period of our lives.)

Having a dorm sized fridge for a family of five felt like a dream.  But it wasn’t exactly overflowing with space either!  When you are working with only a small amount of space, you definitely need to prioritize.  Here are some of the foods that can be left out of the fridge if you’ve run out of space:

14 Foods To Stop Refrigerating When You Have Limited Space

These foods are easy to keep out of the fridge, and you may not even refrigerate them to begin with.  However, if you want to stop refrigerating more foods, check out How-to: Store Fruits and Vegetables and Cool Ways to Keep Food Without Refrigeration for more comprehensive lists.

Whether you need to clear out some fridge space for a big party, adapt to a smaller fridge while traveling, or  make a drastic attempt to make ends meet, here are 14 foods you can keep out of the fridge:

  • Apples (Store in a bowl on a counter for up to two weeks and longer in a root cellar or cool storage).
  • Pears (Same as apples, eat as they ripen or make pear sauce).
  • Citrus (Keeps for a month on the counter).
  • Tomatoes (Refrigerating destroys the flavor).
  • Bread (It goes stale in the fridge anyway).
  • Tortillas (Growing up they were always in the fridge, but they actually stay more flexible at room temperature).
  • Ketchup (Think about all the restaurants where the ketchup sits on the tables).
  • Mustard (Same as the ketchup).
  • Jam (Lasts for about two weeks at room temperature).
  • Carrots (If they turn rubbery before you use them up, soak in water to restore crispness).
  • Spinach (Place stems in water like a vase of flowers).
  • Broccoli (Same trick as the spinach).
  • Farm Fresh Eggs (Read more about when to refrigerate eggs here).
  • Butter (It’s softer at room temperature and lasts a few weeks in a cool spot in the kitchen).

One tip though, if you stop refrigerating previously refrigerated produce it will NOT last as long as produce that was always stored at room temperature.

By moving these foods to the counter you can free up room in your fridge or even downsize to a smaller one.  Even if you have a standard size fridge and no plans to go smaller, it’s good to have the skills and knowledge necessary to scale down if needed.

If you’d like more information on how to survive without a fridge feel free to check out What to Do With Leftovers When You Have No Fridge and What To Do When You Have No Refrigerator

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gen agustsson

Monday 6th of August 2018

i am vegan for 2 years and i find eating animals cruel, unhealthy, and unsustainable plus if you leave fresh animal products such as meat and eggs out of the fridge, it would have been spoiled for days.


Saturday 11th of August 2018

Unwashed eggs will actually last for quite some time out of the fridge because they have a protective covering called bloom on the shell.


Tuesday 19th of January 2016

We lived in Germany for a few years, I was surprised to see the eggs at the store were not refrigerated and found out from a German friend why this is. Thanks for the info!

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

Tuesday 19th of January 2016

Yup, European eggs are not washed, and therefore don't need to be kept in the fridge!

Scooba Steve

Friday 18th of September 2015

Thank you so much for this informative blog. I managed restaurants for about 10 years here in Memphis, I am quite sure there is no difference in this area between grocery ketchup and restaurant ketchup. Restaurant ketchup is packaged without FDA info, because it doesn't need it as it is not for resale. The only trick the restaurant has is keeping the bottles full, limiting the exposure to air. Some use smaller bottles and throw them out. Personally, it's sugary and bad for me, so I simply go without it. Our family has been living in our RV for the past year, and we have recently bought 6 acres with no development or utilities. I intend to build a small kitchen and I greatly appreciate this post. I hadn't considered digging a basement, but I see now why it would be worth the work.

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

Sunday 20th of September 2015

Awesome thanks for sharing about the ketchup! Yes, a root cellar would be fantastic.


Wednesday 18th of June 2014

I think leaving ketchup and mustard out is fine at restaurants because they will be eaten up quickly. If you have the same ketchup bottle at your house for six months before you use it up, it should be refrigerated. Some restaurants also leave tartar sauce out on tables, unrefrigerated, and I definitely wouldn't advise that!

I keep bread in the refrigerator because I live in Florida and the humidity makes bread get moldy quickly if it's left out. I always refrigerate jam to make it last longer.


Saturday 21st of June 2014

I hear you on the humidity, bread molds quickly here in Oregon as well. We go through things like bread and ketchup quickly, which is partly why it works to keep it out.


Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Ketchup you get at the grocery store says "refrigerate after opening". Ketchup supplied to the restaurant industry is preseved differently so it doesn't need refrigeration. Read the bottle. Unless the restaurant bought it at a consumer products retailer then they are storing it wrong and it will get rancid.

Has anyone ever washed eggs before? Do you mean not from a store but directly out of a chicken? If so, this info applies to about 1% of the total population so thank you. How would washing affect weather it needs to be cold or not?


Sunday 17th of January 2016

Any condiment with Vinegar needs not refrigeration including Mayo. Vinegar is a natural preservative.


Wednesday 11th of June 2014

Good points, thanks TF! Everyone should use their personal discretion about disregarding labels. My personal experience, and the experience of many others is that ketchup from the grocery stores is fine at room temperature just as it is in a restaurant. I have not looked at the formulation differences between the two. I'd love to see the ingredients differences if you have a link!

Regarding eggs. In the US all eggs from a store are required to be washed by law. If you buy eggs from a farmer it's good to ask if they are washed or unwashed. The reason to refrigerate is that washing removes a protective coating called bloom from the outer shell of the egg and it becomes more permeable by bacteria.

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