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What To Do When You Have No Refrigerator

Uh-oh, sometimes emergency happen.  Your fridge DIED and it’s going to some time before you can replace it.  Or it’s been a rough year and if you don’t get that power bill DOWN it’s going to get shut off. Living without a fridge may seem unthinkable but it is not as impossible as it sounds.   Our family of six (at the time) lived with a tiny dorm fridge for over six months and no refrigerator at all for two months.  (We did have a small freezer to store meats).

It's important to have the ability to feed and protect your family from food borne illness if you ever find yourself with no refrigerator.

Having a fridge is nice, but it’s better if you are not beholden to it.  It’s a useful tool that can save quite a bit of time.  Even if you aren’t interested in living without a fridge full time it’s good to know how to survive with out it.  We still use the skills below in many different scenarios, especially to save space in our fridge.

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Here are some of the guidelines and strategies to keep your food from spoiling when you have no refrigerator!

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Store greens with their stems and place them in a jar of water for a day or two like you would cut flowers.  Do the same with celery, leeks and fennel.
  • Wrap herbs in a damp cloth and place in an airtight container.  (These first two tips I learned from My Plastic Free Life on how store produce without plastic).
  • Store avocado, cabbage, unhusked corn, cucumber, sweet peppers and eggplant on the counter for a few days.
  • Keep citrus, dates, uncut melons, nectarines, peaches, pears, peppers, and tomatoes on the counter for a week or two.
  • Store apples, garlic, onions, potatoes, and squash in a cool dark place such as a root for a month. Mother Earth News has 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.  Perhaps you can close off a spare bedroom and keep it cool for long term storage.
  • If carrots get rubbery, peel and soak in water until they are crisp again.
  • Buy the freshest produce you can that hasn’t been refrigerated yet (for example, a farmer’s market or CSA).
  • Don’t wash your vegetables before storing.  Keep them as dry as possible.
  • Grow your own sprouts or microgreens.  (Read more: How To Grow Awesome Microgreens Without a Garden).
  • Can as much produce as you are able for long term storage.
  • Eat fresh foods when they are in season and leave them growing in the garden until it’s time to eat.
  • Try try dehydrating fruits and vegetables and store in glass jars in your pantry. (Read More: Here Are The Fundamentals Of Dehydrating Foods Without Electricity).

Meats and Eggs


  • Ketchup, mustard, and vinegar based dressings don’t need to be refrigerated if you always use a clean utensil when serving out of the bottle.
  • Buy small bottles of jam and maple syrup.  They will last for about two weeks before getting moldy.
  • Use the small packets of yeast instead of a jar.  Or even better, make sourdough instead!


Before I had the courage to completely unplug I looked for others who live this way as well.  I was encouraged to find this discussion on Little Blog in the the Big Woods, about living with no refrigerator.  I also connected with family members who successfully dry camp during the summers with their children for an extended period.  We certainly weren’t the first people in our day and age to forgo home refrigeration, and I’m sure I will not be the last.

Research food preservation and storage techniques and give them a try!

It’s important to have the ability to feed and protect your family from food borne illness if you ever find yourself with no refrigerator.

What To Do When You Have No Refrigerator

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Angie macomber

Monday 20th of September 2021

My refrigerator died about two weeks ago. I’ve been buying small quantities of food and buying ice and keeping them in a Costco bag that is meant to keep things cold. I really appreciate your tips on how to store items to last longer. I did find milk in the carton in the store so I picked up several of those so I will always have some on hand. It’s been quite a struggle. Thankfully I am a person of one so I don’t have a big family to try and cook for


Thursday 23rd of September 2021

I'm so glad it's been helpful!


Sunday 4th of July 2021

Become a vegetarian. No need to store decompsing animal corpses/tissues. Dry milk (Nido) and powdered eggs (Ovaeasy egg crystals) if you are ovolacto vegetarian. Become a vegan and no need for powdered milk (they do make powdered soy milk, its.....ok) and chickpea flour/black salt for the occasional vegan "omlette". Coffee creamer for white stuff in your coffee. In the winter, get a cooler or two (any cooler, you don't need a yeti) if you live in a cold climate make some ice outside (in a milk jug or similar, duh) and you have yourself a "fridge". Freeze a whole bunch of water when its super cold in winter and store in a "ice house" underground. Pack that ice in sawdust. Its what they did in the olden times. They shipped ice packed in sawdust from New England to Brazil and they had ice all summer in Brazil. I know, sounds incredible, but its true.


Tuesday 6th of July 2021

Thanks for all the great tips!

Peyton Gill

Thursday 25th of January 2018

Thank you! I have been living in my rv for a month now and have yet to get a fridge that is 12 volt or propane (they are $$$). It is winter here in Orleans and I have been doing fine keeping my normal frigerated goods outside in a tin can. I was anticipating it necessary to get one before Spring, but I saw this link on another page and low and behold... at one time people did not have fridges and I am now thinking I could just go without one. I like the idea of slow-cooking my meats because 1 meat purchase could last one week at the most and I do not WANT to consume any more meat than that. I can put the crockpot and hanging baskets where the fridge would go and voila`! Healthy awareness. Thank you again for this post. AND my beer does not NEED to stay cold anymore because I am drinking quality beer. Craft beer tastes wayyyy good even at room temp ;>


Thursday 25th of January 2018

Awesome, glad it's helpful! It might be useful to grab a cooler and ice depending on how hot your area gets in the summer. Also, another popular off grid trick people do is run a small chest freezer off of a solar panel. It's nice to have lots of options and figure out what works best for you! :)

tessa Homestead Lady

Tuesday 20th of May 2014

Thanks for this, Kathryn! I'm trying to figure this one out - but I've always had a fridge!! It didn't even occur to me that I could live without one until recently. Off to learn more!


Wednesday 21st of May 2014

You're welcome. Having a fridge is nice, but it's ALSO nice knowing what to do without one!


Thursday 24th of January 2013

Fantastic information! I am saving it in my to do's. I also found your site through miss minimalist. Keep up the good work!

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