Going fridgless

Going fridgless, to most people would be paramount to going topless, many people couldn’t imagine living their lives without having a 19+/- cubic foot energy eating, leftover storing, inefficient cold box sitting in their kitchen. Now days refrigerators do so much, in my old life, I worked for a big box electronics store, the one with the blue shirts and the little yellow price tag, they were starting to put computers in the door, not just electronics, but a real computer screen that could access the internet and help you with your shopping and let you watch TV on your fridge.

I haven’t had a refrigerator, at least not a full size one, in my house since we went off-grid over 3 years ago. We do have a small dorm sized cube fridge in the house, but we so seldom use it, we mostly use it when family comes to visit during the summer months. Honestly, most foods that say they “require” refrigeration, actually do not. Things that have lots of vinegar in them, think of pickles, relish, mustard… vinegar is a preservative, also some hard cheeses, especially the ones that have a wax or plastic coating on them do just fine outside of the fridge, I buy Velveta processed cheese, it says it needs to be refrigerated after opening, but I don’t do that, I just keep it sealed up well, and keep it in the cooler part of the house, I use it up within a week of opening it and it has been just fine. Fresh eggs will keep for at least a week, especially if they are unwashed. Of course you have to be smart about things, you don’t want to make yourself sick (or worse), if your kitchen is hot, then don’t expect foods to last very long, even though many foods do not need refrigeration, they still need to be kept cool. I don’t buy Velveta in the summer unless I buy a small brick of it and I am going to use it quickly, the same thing goes for a lot of other foods, just use your brain and you should be OK.

When I did have a full sized fridge, living in town, most of what I kept in the fridge was leftovers, I kept them until I decided to toss them out. The money I spent keeping leftovers cold until I was ready to throw them away could have purchased lots more food. Now I’m more careful about how much food I prepare, we generally do not have leftovers, if there is some food left after we are full (and that would be only a tiny bit) we go ahead and throw away, that really means putting it outside for the critters to eat, it’s always gone the next morning.

I will not lie and say I don’t miss refrigerators and freezers completely, I do miss having a gallon of milk on hand, I also miss sour cream and ice cubes, though I don’t use ice as much as a lot of other people I know. In the summer, I miss having cold beverages at my fingertips.

So we are working on getting refrigeration for our foods, especially now that we have a good shelter over our heads and life has slowed down quite a bit.  Hubby and I have taken 2 different approaches toward setting up some refrigeration in the house now, I purchased an external thermostat, it will be used on a small chest freezer, you set it for refrigerator temps and once it reaches the set temp, it cuts off the power to the freezer. Chest freezers are much more efficient than refrigerators, they are better insulated, but more importantly, they open from the top, when you open a refrigerator, all of the cold air drops out of the box, right across your feet into the kitchen. With the chest design, the cold air stays inside the box. This is reported to be very good for off-gridders with limited power.

Hubby is removing a propane powered fridge out of an old travel trailer, it needs to be cleaned up, and there is no guarantee that it still works, though we are pretty sure it will. We will see which one is the most efficient and least costly to us. It will also be nice to have 2 different options for refrigeration, we can use which ever one we have the most resources (power or propane) for.

But until we have one or both of those set up, we will continue to live essentially fridgless, using canned, dried and otherwise non-refrigerated foods, or when we do purchase things like fresh meat, we use it the same day.

Of course there are other ways to keep your foods cold, there is the zeer pot, ice, coolers (filled with ice), root cellars, I’m sure there are more ways too. I was inspired to write this because of another contributor here, Elnav, he started this thread in the forums here.


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15 Responses

  1. Just a quick note to say that the first house we ever rented had no fridge or freezer, instead it had an old fashioned larder/pantry which was north facing. The small window was covered with fly mesh and left open all year round. We had a wide marble shelf used to keep the meat, fish, cheese, butter and milk on. It was always cool. The milk, cheese and butter was stored in bowls/jugs sitting in a larger bowl filled with cold water. They were covered in muslin which draped down into the the cold water keeping the items cool. In all the time we were there we never had any rancid cheese or butter, the milk never curdled and meat and fish stayed fresh. It’s only since we’ve moved and had fridges (modern houses don’t have good larders) that we’ve had problems keeping food fresh. Even vegetables keep better in an old fashioned pantry instead of a modern fridge, in spite of what supermarkets/govt. agencies would have you believe.

  2. I have read a lot of what you all have said. But we need to look at what they use to do. For the ones that live in the cold parts of the world you cold use a winter refrigerator. Use the cold weather cool your leftovers and other stuff. Or you mite want to make a Ice refrigerator and have the cold nights make your ice for you. Also in the old days they would cut ice out of frozen lakes and store the ice in a basement storage with lots of saw dust to hold the cold. I am talking about lots of ice. Then they had ice for most of the summer to keep their stuff cold.

    As for the root cellar with a small cold spring running through the root cellar would keep it colder then most. There is many more ways to do it. Just need to learn what they use to do in the old days when we did not have all this newer stuff around….

  3. I have no Fridge , for 2 Years by now. And I do not miss it at all. In winter I have all the fridge I want on my balcony, it is the biggest one I ever had. In summer I have to watch to eat fresh, but my body gets to use to consume even some that is not fresh with out getting upset. I feel stronger and the Electricity the fridge would use I use for something else. Over all. Fridhge ? No thank you!

  4. I live on a boat and don’t have a fridge, but I use a small Personal Harmoniser from the Centre for Implosion Research in the UK. I put it by the yogurt I buy for a few minutes when I get it home, and after that the yogurt will stay good for a few days even at room temperature. Without this it turns really fast, as you can imagine. I’ve done this with dozens of pots of yogurt, even in summer. There’s a link to CIR on my website at http://www.tonymills.me.uk. Yes, I’m an affiliate now, but you may want to be too if your experience matches mine. They are very inexpensive devices.

    The Harmonisers are full of vortex imploded water, and they energise the water in anything around them, making stagnation difficult. I use a couple on my water tank too, so the water on the boat always tastes fresh and alive with no chlorine taste at all. In fact, 2 days after putting the devices on the tank, all of the scale on the sides of my kettle just fell off. It had been building up for nearly 3 years.

    My next thought, also based on the work of Viktor Schauberger, as the Harmonisers are, is to make an egg shaped preserving pot, with the harmoniser inside. The egg shape allows excellent energy flow within, with no corners for air to stagnate in.

    This all made me realise that cold is only one method of encouraging freshness, and there are other ways that can be explored instead or as well. I hope you find this info useful for staying off the grid and outside of the box :-)

  5. Great ideas. We are off-grid, have a fridge but only run it when we are running a generator. During the day, we use our motor home batteries , while they are charging, the fridge is on. At night, we use a propane generator for a couple of hours [too expensive to use more than that] and the fridge runs during that time too. In the interim, we keep canned foods in all available spaces in the fridge as metal, once cold, holds the chill and helps regulate the fridge temps during the off hours. We have all our batteries, are now saving for an inverter so we can run off our 18 batteries. Can’t wait to see how much time they give us. In our area, it never really gets over 85 degrees with few exceptions, the house is manufactured and very well insulated, so no HOT days inside ever. a fan is all we’ve ever needed to remain very comfortable on the warmest days. I’m sure that helps w/the fridge. This is the second reference to using a freezer instead of a fridge that I’ve seen in the lasts 24 hours, so maybe I’ll check that out; the freezing part is much more important to us as we are too far away from grocery stores etc to do other than stock up once a month for the duration. Just a head’s up, one can purchase dehydrated sour cream, butter, etc at emergencyessentials com on line.not quite the same but not bad and way better than none. Our garden is providing us [2 people] with enough veggies for daily meals finally. My winter harvest will keep for months in a dark cool room once they’ve been picked.
    anyone have any advice about root cellars and rodents? we have mice, ground squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits all over the place…won’t they raid the root cellar? how to prevent that? thanks . really enjoyed reading all this. oh and if anyone has any advice on how to get solar panels we can afford, it would be a blessing to hear it. have a great one. nice to see so many others on this road with us. :)

  6. Thanks for the tip! You gotta be careful with canned goods though as high cholesterol diets that involve a lot of aluminum (like in canned goods) are directly linked to causing Alzheimers.

  7. Hey,

    I was just reading the comments, and thought you might want to think a little further out side the box and do it the way it was done before we had refridgeration….a root cellar. It will keep veggies fresh for much longer than a week, and you can have all the cold dairy you can handle for up to and in some cases longer than a week.

    I don’t know what your living arrangments are like but you don’t need much room, there are even DIY plans out there for free that will show you how to build one out of a garbage can. Just a thought, and the only power you’ll need is the muscle power to build it.

  8. A small enough underground cellar can easily maintain refrigerator temperatures during the summer. Even a hole in the ground, it just has to go deep enough. Permafrost is only about 4 feet down. If you dig deep enough you could freeze as well.

  9. Just wondering… if the propane fridge could be heated with solar. That is if it could be placed in a part of the building that has a wall properly oriented to catch sun. (with a reflector this could even be north) It would be have be concentrated of course. The other thing that would work for sure for freezing but I am not sure with cooling is to use a colder set point during the day and warmer at night (requires timer) so that battery storage is not required. During the day when the batteries are already full (late afternoon?) run the freezer beyond the normal cold point (freezing point of sea water 0F) then at night the set point would be 14F (still safe but soft ice cream). So that chilling would be done on almost free power. Hopefully the freezer would not come on all night. Having a few bottles of sea water in any empty space inside would help too….. in fact, at night one could be transferred to the fridge to keep it from cycling.

    We have a son who is very sensitive to antibiotics and so can’t just buy any old meat at the market. We tend to buy side at a time from a known source, so for now (till we learn to preserve it other ways) a freezer is pretty important. (I consider it the one electric thing I need to keep running even long term and we live urban)

    I don’t know how much variation a fridge will work with. 38F is about minimum as a lot of fresh things don’t work well with freezing. But the high end might be as high as 50F for most things… and as I said, a bottle frozen in the freezer could work just fine. Except you seem to be doing just fine without a freezer ;-)

    The general rule (just in case you don’t already know) is to keep it as full as you can. Mass stores heat or (in this case) cold. Finding something that changes state at your working temperature is best.

  10. Elnav, I’ve heard about boaters making their own fridge/freezers, I like the idea and it’s something that is on my long term list of things I want to do.

    Igy, thanks for the input, I appreciate it very much. I have read about putting the probe in a glass of water to keep it from cycling so often, the biggest problem with that is it would make it cycle longer when it does finally cycle, and I think the air temp wouldn’t be as consistent, I don’t mind it cycling more often but for shorter periods of time. I just want something that doesn’t hog up so much of my precious battery power.

    Molly, this is something I also plan on doing, making a zeer pot from 2 terracotta pots, I can get those locally with no problems. Your site is great, I just “followed” it :)


  11. Wretha I would suggest propane will prove the cheapest to power your propane fridge. Clean the burner head and make sure the flame is adjusted for hottest flame
    I stripped out burner assembly from junked fridge and found it burned at 5000 BTU. I needed it to heat small green house. Most commercial stove burners were too big.
    Propane fridges really are not that complicated just don’t attempt to open the ammonia resevoir.

    1. Elnav, we are going to use propane for the propane fridge, the “competition” is going to be between the propane fridge and the chest freezer fridge conversion (powered by the batteries), if it turns out that the freezer fridge runs without draining our batteries, then that’s what we will use, or if we are low on power because of cloudy days, or using power tools, then we have the option of using the propane fridge.


  12. I did this about 6 weeks ago. The chest freezer($175 Home Depot) with the external thermostat ($56 Amazon). In South West Florida, summertime, I would estimate that this unit cycles at least 8 times a day, but not more than a couple minutes each cycle. The food is plenty cold as is the ice tea. I would suggest considering a tip I picked up in my research (which I have not done yet), and that is to put the copper sensor in a small bottle of water in the freezer. The claim was that the actual temperature of the contents was more accurate as oppose to the air temperature with in the freezer. I can’t say either way, but I suspect this is a valid point.

  13. Hi Wretha, thanks for the credit line. ( smile) Something I did not get into because it is a separate topic is how boaters custom design fridges and freezers in what is essentially an off-grid environment.
    First of all they build them out of plywood and add six inches of insulation all around. Some use eutectic holding plates instead of the more common freon based refrigerator gases. Friends of mine built one from an automotive compressor and a saline solution plus holding plates. We built a freezer in a lab for cold weather testing that could go to – 60F and it didn’t use electricity because our lab did not have 3 phase power which was needed for such cold compressors. You just need to think outside the ( freezer) box.

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