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The No-Refrigerator Challenge

My relationship with food has been . . . well let’s just say tumultuous. I struggled with an eating disorder for years and it’s not something I like to talk about. For me it’s an embarrassing part of my life to discuss, particularly when I think about all the food I wasted. But it’s part of my story. And as Dr. Brene Brown says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”

And I know I’m not alone here.

Americans have a very odd relationship with food. Actually, the relationship goes beyond “odd,” to psychotic. Locally produced food can be very expensive, most of the food we find in grocery stores is heavily processed, and millions of women and men struggle with eating disorders.

On top of that, the average American throws away about 197 pounds of food every year. And according to Jonathan Bloom “when you count what’s put down the disposal, 25 percent of what enters your home isn’t eaten.”

We need a new story when it comes to food. And for me that’s where the no-refrigerator challenge comes into play.

As you know, we are building a little house this summer and I’m incredibly excited about the project. However, living in such a small space is going to be a huge lifestyle shift. Especially, when it comes to food because we’ve decided not to have a refrigerator in the little house. Why? Well . . .

  • Right now we don’t have a lot of food that needs refrigeration.
  • We’ll be using solar panels for electricity and the refrigerator will be a huge energy suck.
  • We want to cut down on food waste.

Now this little experiment isn’t going to work for everyone and my guess is most of you will think this is a little crazy. However, I’d encourage you to take a look at what’s in your refrigerator and examine what you eat on a regular basis.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Conduct a food inventory.

Pull the food out of your refrigerator and take an inventory. This exercise will tell you a lot about the types of food you eat. Take note of what you find. For example, do you have 20 bottles of condiments and salad dressing? Are there left-over’s that haven’t been eaten?

As you go through your refrigerator, think about how many fresh foods you eat. Is most of your food fresh or processed?

Without a refrigerator, we’ll be shopping more. But that’s okay because we’ll be eating more fruits and vegetables. We’ll be using an icepack in an insulated chest to keep our butter, half and half, and cheese cool. For things like carrots and lettuce we’ll be filling up a small bowl of water and placing the vegetables inside. This is something we do now and it’s a great way to keep produce fresh and crisp.

For more on this topic check out Beth’s post: How To Store Produce Without Plastic.

2. Plan your meals.

The challenge is going to force us to start planning our meals again. We planned our meals regularly when we lived in Sacramento, but once we moved to Portland we got out of the habit. So I’ll be visiting the Stone Soup blog to find fun recipes.

3. Start composting.

In 2008, we began an indoor vermiculture composting project. It’s easy to get started and a great way to cut down on food waste. For more read this post: Indoor Composting Project.

Last word . . .

For me, the No-Refrigerator Challenge goes beyond preparing to live in a little house and wasted food. It’s about deeply examining my own issues with food. In essence, it’s about getting real with privilege.

“Sometimes, the most direct route to appreciation is through the darkness – even if it’s merely imagined. Facts, faced: even in our struggles, most of us are privileged.” ~Danielle LaPorte

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • flowunity January 26, 2011, 8:42 am

    i did suspend my refrigerator almost half a year ago, before i did just use in summer – but i think it’s far more easy for singles than for families…

  • Rebecca January 26, 2011, 8:45 am

    One of the things that makes me really happy is see just how empty our refrigerator gets at the end of the week. Instead of thinking that we have nothing to eat, I think about how we have eaten almost all of what we bought (some meats with lots of veggies)!

  • Barbara January 26, 2011, 8:54 am

    That hits home….I have so many condiments and oils in there that I have trouble fitting in the veggies. I always wondered if I really had to refrigerate everything or if some things would be OK on the counter. Ketchup? Mustard? What about pickles?

    How are you going to get your ice packs for the butter cold? By the way, you can store butter on the counter in water in a butter bell πŸ™‚

  • Barbara January 26, 2011, 8:56 am

    Oh and ghee (clarified butter) lasts an unreasonable amount of time unrefrigerated in a jar πŸ™‚

  • Kathy P. January 26, 2011, 9:10 am

    It’s funny you should be writing about this today as just this morning I noticed how little I have in my fridge. (My chest freezer is full, however – pastured meats, local fruits and garden produce all frozen last summer). I live in central NY where it’s 29 degrees right now, and was -20 two mornings ago. Some sort of insulated “cold box” would probably make much more sense for me in the winter. I could then plug the fridge back in during warm weather when it’s needed and I have to “hold” garden produce that’s waiting to be processed. Hmmmmm…(thinking cap on!)

  • Hillary January 26, 2011, 9:14 am

    My partner and I have spent a good amount of time without a refrigerator. I learned some things really quickly like:
    1) how many things don’t need to be refrigerated
    2) if you’re eating healthy you’ll be eating fresh stuff anyway
    3) room temperature water is better for you than cold water
    4) giving up dairy makes things easier (and healthier, IMO)
    5) the value of a good cooler and how to use it efficiently
    6) condiments are definitely a space hog. I enjoyed learning how to make my own fresh dressings, etc.
    We eventually did invest in an efficient small fridge for our small house, but if you and Logan can go without — more power to you!

    • Logan January 26, 2011, 5:04 pm

      Great to know Hillary! Thanks!

      I just found your post on comparing off-grid tiny frig models. http://thistinyhouse.com/2009/comparing-solar-powered-mini-fridges/

      I have a feeling we will have withdrawals and say “remember when we were cool?” πŸ™‚

      • Hillary January 27, 2011, 9:03 pm

        If you have withdrawls, you can always “borrow” someone’s fridge or freezer. We did that a couple of times when we were preparing for longer camping trips. That’s nice if you have a friend or a neighbor you can rely on for such situations.

  • Jessica January 26, 2011, 9:15 am

    This will be great practice for when you move into your tiny house.

    I just thought about it for a minute and we really only use our fridge for a handful of items that actually *need* to be in a fridge. I keep many things in there due to a lack of pantry and counter space, like bread and veggies.


  • Amberly January 26, 2011, 9:21 am

    I don’t imagine my family could do without a refrigerator, because we tend to plan and cook ahead, but I’ve thought often of getting a substantially smaller one (like the sort used in mobile homes). That way, it would be easier to keep full and would run more efficiently.

    • Timaree (freebird) January 26, 2011, 8:08 pm

      Amberly, I live in a mobile home and have a 22 cubic ft. refrigerator. Are you perhaps talking about an RV?

      And Tammy, if you decide you need a small refrigerator later there are propane models that won’t suck up all your electricity. My son has one in the van he’s living in and says it works great.

      • Amberly March 15, 2011, 8:16 am

        Hi there,

        Just saw your reply. They could be used in an RV, but I think they’re designed more for a small mobile home or a cottage. I’ve seen a few different models that range from 9-14 cubic ft. Some are Energy Star rated, some are not, and it looks like they run $300-400.

        I also have a 22 cubic ft. refrigerator. I find that it’s difficult to keep full, even with all the freezing and cooking I do.


  • Lynn Fang January 26, 2011, 9:26 am

    Cool! Have you looked into passive cooling? Somewhat like No Impact Man’s clay pot refrigerator, but I’m guessing there are other designs…

    Do you leave the lettuce in the water? I would think it gets wilty. I’ve always been averse to too much planning around my meals and kitchen, but I feel the issue of food waste deserves much more respect, so am probably going to start planning out my meals on a weekly basis.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:26 pm

      @Lynn – not yet, but it’s something we’ve been thinking of trying. πŸ™‚ And yes we leave the lettuce in water. Surprisingly it doesn’t get soggy.

      Yay for meal planning!

  • Holly January 26, 2011, 9:37 am

    I have a “normal” (20 ft) refrigerator that is almost empty except for dairy products, eggs, & condiments. But, since I live in a rural area 6 miles from the nearest store, I do keep quite a lot in the freezer. I’ve thought about downsizing to a dorm-sized fridge and a small chest freezer. Does anyone know if this would use less electricity than an regular 8yo fridge?

  • Sarah January 26, 2011, 9:39 am


    I’m buying for the day, instead of using the fridge to store. Farmer’s market within walking distance and local stores for meat are handy.

    I’m slowly bleeding the contents of my freezer, and my pantries have gone next to nil.

    Reason: I got tired of throwing expired food away, and not being able to see what was in it.

    Leftovers are next meal (yes I eat meat and veggies for breakfast), or go to the neighbors.

  • The Tiny Homestead January 26, 2011, 9:39 am

    this post wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, when I saw the title I thought, “I have a whole stewed chicken sitting on my back porch right now.” I love my wintertime “outdoor refrigerator”. Most of the time it works great, but once the dog did eat a whole pan of meatloaf.

  • Annette January 26, 2011, 9:50 am

    an excellent challenge. I need to review the contents of our fridge, not so much for left overs ’cause those are eaten fairly quickly, but for condiments that just kind of sit. And sit. And sit. Something that sits that long, and does not spoil, cannot be good for you!

  • Lotte January 26, 2011, 9:52 am

    I don’t think I’d want to live without at refrigerator on land – but we don’t have one in the boat, and as we’re planning to go sailing for a rather long time (3-4 years), I’m facing some of the same issues as you are, I suppose.
    I found that Clare Allcards book “The Intricate Art of Living Afloat” gave me heaps of good advice on the subject of storage without a fridge – you might want to check that out πŸ™‚

  • Chris O'Byrne January 26, 2011, 9:52 am

    This is an issue Mara and I faced last fall while living in our van on the road. All of our food was stored in one small bin, no refrigeration. Some of the food items we still wanted to include were cheese, milk (for cereal), yogurt, and meat. We decided to get a container of parmesan for our cheese fix and tuna for our meat. We tried powdered milk for cereal and while that was okay, we found that we usually just made oatmeal and that was even better. Yogurt was the only one for which we never found a satisfactory replacement. We would buy it occasionally and try use it up as quickly as possible, but we prefer plain yogurt and that doesn’t come in small containers. We eventually just did without and it was no big deal. Many foods, like eggs or jelly, do not need to stay in the refrigerator. Just now I looked in our freezer and refrigeratorβ€”the freezer is empty and the refrigerator is almost empty. It becomes a habit and it’s relatively easy to live without either.

    • stlcatlady (aka Dawn) January 27, 2011, 7:07 am

      Really? Do eggs not need to be refrigerated? If that’s the case….hmmm…mostly what we have in our fridge, I’m sad to say, is leftovers that need to be thrown out (think “science project” stage), condiments, and eggs. The condiments can go….if the eggs can sit out on the counter too, we could be there!

      • Dave January 27, 2011, 8:08 am


        What spoils eggs is air getting through the porous shell. When the eggs are laid by the chickens, they have a thin layer of “stuff” coating them that helps to fill the small holes in the shell, and therefore, they can sit at room temperature for quite a while and not spoil. However, when you get them from the supermarket, they probably have been washed, and that thin layer removed, so they will spoil much more quickly. If you can get eggs directly from a farm or someone you know who raises chickens, and ask them if they wash their eggs before selling them, that can work really well. Also, if your grocery store has some good free-range, grain-fed eggs, check them, as we’ve found some at ours with feathers stuck to them and even little bits of chicken poop – which, while it may seem gross at first, is actually a really good thing. Keep them that way, and just wash them immediately before using (or not, you’re cooking them anyway, right?).

  • Dave January 26, 2011, 9:56 am

    Since living in Lithuania, we have started grocery shopping nearly every day, for just that day (and maybe the next). Living in a fairly dense area makes this easy, since the grocery store is close. Our refrigerator does stay fairly full, but it is largely leftovers, at any given time, which we take to work and eat rather than buying food at work.

    Since we are really wanting to get more into preserving food, we’d be happy to share what we’ve learned and what we do learn in the future about fermenting, canning, culturing and otherwise preserving foods which normally don’t last long outside of the refrigerator, and if you want to jump in on any of it with us, you’re welcome to.

    Butter will actually last quite a while un-refrigerated, we keep it in our cupboard in a glass container. Unwashed eggs will last a long time unrefrigerated as well. Yogurt and sour cream will last longer un-refrigerated or minimally refrigerated, and vegetable scraps can also be used to make soup stock, which can then be the base of another meal (soup, or a rice dish, or many other things), and vegetable stock doesn’t spoil easily, since it has no meat in it.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this goes – it’s an exciting challenge! I hope that you do come to a more amicable relation with food through it.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:30 pm

      @Dave – I’ll take you up on that my friend! Let’s have dinner soon. πŸ™‚

  • Kasey January 26, 2011, 10:02 am

    Although I would never be able to convince my husband, I love the no-refrigerator idea. Our fridge is always mostly empty, as is our freezer (until the hubby stocks it with foods I can’t & won’t eat). I think for us with a toddler, a dorm-size refrigerator would be perfect with a small/mini deep freeze. He dreams about those extra large stainless fridge/freezer combos with the French doors. I hope it works for you…I’m sure you’ll do great.

  • Foy January 26, 2011, 10:41 am

    I lived without electricity for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. I found it was surprisingly really easy not to have a refrigerator. We only went down to get groceries about once every two weeks. You learn what works and how to extend the life of produce; for instance cabbage will keep almost two weeks while broccoli only a couple of days. So we just learned to eat broccoli first.

    We relied heavily on dried beans, winter squash and rice. All the fruits and veggies we kept in mesh bags suspended from the shelves to keep air circulating around them so they wouldn’t mold in the super humid environment of the tropics we lived in.

    We did pretty much give up meat and dairy (other than wggs which will keep unrefrigerated up to two weeks) while we were in our community. We did have dried milk on hand, but I don’t think that really counts. Oh and we switched from wine to beer. Warm beer is not appealing.

    As for leftovers, we just reheated them on the stove to kill anything. I once had a pot of split peas last more than a week that way. I really wanted to get to nine days so I could do the whole “peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold” thing.

    The healthiest I have ever eaten was in Panama. As Americans we refrigerate a lot of things because they take a long time to get to us or they are heavily processed. I think you’ll find fresh, local food is very easy to keep without a refrigerator.

    Good Luck! It’ll be fun to hear what your challenges are State side.

    • [email protected] January 26, 2011, 2:20 pm

      Eggs cook better when room temp as well – one of the biggest myths ever refrigerating them!

    • Kate January 27, 2011, 8:38 pm

      @Foy – I couldn’t agree more with you. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco for two years without a fridge and now my work takes me to remote areas of Tanzania, again no fridge. You learn to be creative in your food selection and cooking, and a vegan (or nearly vegan) diet does wonders for your health!

    • Lisa Under the Redwoods February 11, 2011, 8:31 am

      When I was in Peace Corps in Honduras I found that many hard cheese will last 3 or 4 days outside of the fridge. The only thing I really missed about not have a fridge was being able to have cold water on a hot day.

  • Harry, ExposedPlanet.com January 26, 2011, 11:11 am

    Hi Tammy, great idea, we had just been thinking about this ourselves.
    One question: will you still get a small freezer (in order to save bulk foods) and if not: how are you going to make the ice-packs?

    Of course you can ask neighbours etc, but as you might already be showering in their house and using their water, it would be another step away from self-sufficient living?

    By the way, do you have plans/lay-outs of the walls and backside/bottom as well? Would be interesting to see.
    Cheers, Harry

  • Adriana January 26, 2011, 11:16 am

    Have you read “in defense of food”? It touches some of the points on your post. I loved it! http://www.amazon.com/Defense-Food-Eaters-Manifesto/dp/1594201455

    • Harry, ExposedPlanet.com January 27, 2011, 5:53 am

      Brilliant book, highly recommended. Will change the way you think about your most important daily activity!

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:24 pm

      Yes, I read that a few years ago and loved it! I was actaully thinking of re-reading the book because it was so good. πŸ™‚

  • Sarita Li January 26, 2011, 11:18 am

    Wishing you the best on this– I think it’ll work out great!

    We switched to a tiny refrigerator (a local motel was getting new ones; we got one of their old ones) about 6 months ago, and it worked out great. There was hardly ever anything in it. We probably could have gone with an ice chest. Without all that boxed food around (since we didn’t have room for it), we were going to the Farmer’s Market twice a week and eating so much local, seasonal produce. Just one of the awesome things about living on the Central Coast of California. We also bought a lot of bulk foods, which of course require some forethought and actual cooking. We found that we didn’t need our microwave either, since the only thing we used it for was leftovers, and those are just as easy to reheat in the oven or on the stove.

    Once I got pregnant and started feeling really drained all the time (and was told I had to almost DOUBLE my calorie intake, wow), we moved into a house that happened to have a full size fridge, and I’m grateful for the built-in freezer, which our tiny fridge didn’t have. It lets me prep meals ahead of time when I have a spurt of energy, and will also be helpful for bottled breast milk when the time comes. Still, our big fridge is full on only one shelf, now full of yogurt and milk. πŸ™‚ I think it’s kind of a waste of energy, but it’s what we’ve got for now.

    Wishing you guys the best with all your tiny living adventures!

  • [email protected] January 26, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Tammy all the very best with the experiment. I am the original meal planner, and am meticulous with meals, storing food and keeping food in the fridge to the bear minimum but without sacrificing on the simple family meals I cook. On my blog I hold No Waste Tastes Great every Friday, whereby any groceries that could potentially go to waste are used up into a ‘culinary masterpiece :-).
    There is a very specific routine I follow, with one of the key facets being that I only plan for 6 days worth of meals. This seems to work, for even the most careful planner, can still over purchase – particularly in light of the way certain things are sold. I’ll be following closely your progress, as I could easily manage without a Freezer, but still use a ‘small fridge’ – very small by US standards I would imagine – Jo (simplybeingmum – family life simply done) – ps I will be posting ‘The beginner’s guide to simple meal planning very soon)

  • Adele January 26, 2011, 12:14 pm

    I think it is a good idea, but I also know we could never do it. We plan on eating grassfeed beef and have been told to marinate it for 1-2 weeks in the fridge before cooking to make it the most tender. Also plan on having a goat for milk and butter and other dairy products and therefore need a place to keep it. Living 23 miles from the nearest store also means less trips to the grocery store like weekly if that. We do plan to live as self sufficient as possible and I would love to find a replacement for the fridge but really can think of any at all. We also are planning on solar/wind power for electricity. There are refrigerators out there that are just DC not AC, pricier for sure but no need for a invertor and can be hooked up directly to the panels. Invertors allow for the DC coming from the batteries to be converted to AC to be used with normal things like in a house now, but doing so you lose about 10% of the power so having your large appliances DC rather than AC saves you that power. Yes it does involve more or different wiring but it also will allow the most efficient use of the power from the batteries.

  • Darci January 26, 2011, 12:29 pm

    Wow! What a challenge! I’m a condiment queen and love to cook/freeze in big batches so that I don’t have to cook as often, so this wouldn’t work for me, but I’m totally excited to see how you do, Tammy! Keep us updated.

    How are you planning to “re-freeze” your ice pack when it melts, btw?

  • Dawn January 26, 2011, 12:29 pm

    Hi Tammy,
    Another thing to consider is how many things we might keep in a refrigerator that don’t actually need to be refrigerated – if we use them within a short time anyway. The fresh fruits and veggies you mentioned are one thing. What may be a surprise to most people is that fresh eggs can also be kept outside of the refrigerator for weeks (especially if they are from organically fed, free-range chickens). We discovered this in India, where fresh eggs are sold on the street (unrefrigerated) or sit on store shelves for weeks, unrefrigerated (in a tropical climate). We didn’t get sick from eating them. When I came home, I started keeping the eggs I get directly from the farmer on the counter, and they’re fine. I don’t do that with store-bought eggs, however, since I don’t know how long ago they were laid.
    When we were in India without a refrigerator, we didn’t refrigerate cheese, either – just bought enough to last a few days and that’s it. After all, cheese is a “preservation” method for milk. It’s the same if you make your own yogurt and use it up in 24 hours. We ferment our own yogurt for 24 hours anyway to get rid of all the lactose. So there’s really no problem. Butter can be kept fresh in a “butter bell” (http://www.butterbell.com/) without refrigeration. In India, my daughter would simply buy the meat she needed for a day right from a butcher selling on the street, take it home and cook it with lots of Indian spices, and it was good for about 24 hours without refrigeration (the really, really do work – but you have to use a lot of them). If you eat meat, there are always the old-fashioned drying and salting methods that most of us have forgotten. Half-n-half – I don’t know what to do with that. I wonder what great-grandma did….

  • shanna January 26, 2011, 12:30 pm

    hey tammy,

    good on ya for trying this out–life’s an experiment, right? if it doesn’t work, you’ll come up with something else. regarding butter, consider making ghee–if you keep it in an airtight container and don’t contaminate it with food bits or moisture, it can keep for extended periods unrefrigerated.

    enjoy the adventure!

  • Laura January 26, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Tammy, if you have not read No Impact Man yet, he covers the topic of not using the fridge for the whole year. This family went without electricity in a New York apartment with a small child for a whole year!
    I think I could do it if I planned well.

  • Bonnie January 26, 2011, 12:44 pm

    You could build a no-energy (may need a small about of 12V to run a fan) outdoor ‘fridge for winter use. How are you going to freeze the ice pack for cooling your diary? Do you plan to have a small freezer?
    Check this out (about 1/2 way down the page) for how to store your dairy using the coolness of the ground. No ice needed. http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/device/devices3b.html

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:23 pm

      @Bonnie – Well Logan was thinking about taking it to work because they have a freezer/refrigerator in the break room. I guess that would be cheating. LOL!

      We’re also thinking about getting a small cooler and throwing ice in it. The challenge officially begins on Monday, so we’re taking the weekend to figure out some of these details. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the link! πŸ™‚

  • Bonnie January 26, 2011, 12:47 pm

    Found the info on the home-made outdoor fridge. I’m sure it could be scaled down.

  • Diane January 26, 2011, 12:50 pm

    Good luck on that one! Sounds hard. But, I have become so aware these days of not wasting food and eating through what we buy. I have the same view as Rebecca does and even took a picture of my refrigerator the other day because I was so happy with how empty it was. I actually haven’t shopped for over 2 weeks and we’ve eaten well. (My brother did drop by a few bananas and avacados that he wouldn’t be getting to.) My husband thinks I’ve gone a bit overboard, but I’ve seen the light!

    My parents have their fridge always filled to the brim and the 2 of them couldn’t possibly eat it all. If they don’t throw away 1/2 of what’s there . . . they should because it’s been sitting too long.

    Thanks for the eyeopening post!

  • Tonja January 26, 2011, 12:56 pm

    I am so excited to see this post! We bought a small refrigerator a couple months ago and it was built in 1947. The old refrigerators were built to last and they are significantly more energy-efficient than newer refrigerators. The refrigerator is 5 cubic feet and the freezer is 1 cubic foot!

    I have the original brochure that came with the refrigerator. On the front cover, a family of four looks at the open refrigerator full of food. Why did we come to think that we need super-sized refrigerators?

    We are very happy with this new part of our lifestyle. Now we buy more fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which do not need to be refrigerated. We use the refrigerator to store leftovers, and we *have to* actually eat the leftovers within a couple days to make room for leftovers from the next meal. And since the freezer is so small, we do not fill it up with ice cream that’s bad for us.

    It was great to take an inventory of what we had in the big refrigerator and choose only the best foods to transfer to the little fridge. The small refrigerator helps us eat healthier, and any help is welcomed because that’s a challenge.

  • Paige January 26, 2011, 12:57 pm

    Wow – I thought I was the only wasteful food shopper on the planet. I am embarrassed to say I throw out food fairly regularly and it makes me crazy that I buy fresh food and then don’t get around to preparing it in time. Leftovers sometimes don’t get eaten. And, I never hear it said but you did say it – local food is so expensive. I went to the local farmers market in my (midwestern) city this summer and a pint of blueberries was $8. How is that even possible and how can local food cost double or more than food that’s shipped in to the local chain grocery store? In theory local food should be cheaper because there is no need to ship it. I don’t understand. Planning meals (and living without a fridge) = intentional living. That’s hard to do, but more than likely rewarding. I’d like to hear how you get by without a fridge. Not sure I could do it and I need my freezer for reasonably priced frozen fruit so that I have fruit when I want it (and it won’t go bad), especially for green smoothies. I eat them every day!

    • ET January 27, 2011, 1:32 pm

      Talk to the folks selling blueberries/other expensive items at farmers market.
      Some reasons they might be more expensive:
      wages paid to pickers higher
      less efficient operation
      lower production than agribusiness farm

    • Jessica Rudder January 27, 2011, 2:24 pm

      One of the reasons local food tends to be more expensive than ‘shipped in’ food is that local food tends to come from small farms (though, I’m sure that’s not always the case) whereas the shipped in food comes from massive ‘factory’ farms.

      Assuming both farms were growing fruit and veggies of the same quality (which may or may not be the case) the factory farm has the price advantage because any equipment they buy is amortized over tens of thousands of acres of a crop rather than a few hundred acres of a crop. The large farm benefits from economies of scale so they don’t need to recoup quite so much money from each individual bushel of produce.

  • meg January 26, 2011, 1:01 pm

    hi tammy,
    don’t you and logan need a freezer? do you eat no meat at all?
    how about when you have guests over for dinner? when my husband
    and i bought our retirement house and before we moved in permanently
    i wanted to use a small dorm size refrigerator for the weekends that we
    were there. he wanted to buy another big refrigerator. such waste!
    living in maine, we could keep food outside in the freezing cold.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:21 pm

      @Meg – We don’t eat much meat and don’t store anything in our freezer. I don’t think cooking for guests will be a problem. I’ll just take a little time to do extra shopping.

      P.S. Maine is beautiful! I have family living there. πŸ™‚

  • todd January 26, 2011, 1:36 pm

    we have a counter-height dorm-size fridge, with cutting board on top. it’s plenty for our family of 3, but we supplement with chest freezer in the basement. if i were in your shoes, designing a tiny house, i’d look into an icebox built into “kitchen” wall, protruding outside, with insulation arranged so that the food is kept at our 9-mo’s cool/cold outside temps, supplemented as needed by ice block (frozen 2l PET bottles are handy over and over), evaporative cooler arrangement, or (gasp) PV-powered compressor, only as needed in the few sunny months. running an inside refrigerator in january is a waste, indeed, at least if you are heating your space.

    as it is, we don’t refrigerate lots and lots of food that other US households would. spoilage is very rarely a problem. but then, we lean on the very efficient deep freezer to put away, say, large batches of soup, stews etc that would spoil before we could eat.

    • Logan January 26, 2011, 5:09 pm

      Great idea Todd! We once toured an apartment with an old icebox built into the cabinets. It even had a little door on the outside for the “ice delivery” access. πŸ™‚ We’ll have to give this some thought.

  • Erika H. January 26, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Great tips! We’ve been considering leaving a fridge out of our tiny house, too…

  • Sue January 26, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    Great post. Yes, the amount of food we throw out of our homes (and restaurants!) in Canada and the U.S. is shocking to say the least. I suspect if we paid the full amount of what it costs to produce our food (when it isn’t a heavily subsidized crop), we’d be inclined to rethink our cavalier attitudes to wasting so much food. I don’t know if you’ve read Raj Patel’s book “Stuffed and Starved”, but it’s a very informative and thought provoking read on the subject of our food production and distribution systems.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:19 pm

      @Sue – I haven’t read that book yet. I’ll add it to my reading list. I think I’d like it. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip!

  • Marnie January 26, 2011, 1:53 pm

    I seem to be happier as the fridge gets emptier because it looks less cluttered. Is that twisted or what?

    • [email protected] January 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

      I do too – so if you are twisted so am I…I have been known to walk past it, open it for no reason and stare at the empty shelves self satisfied!

      • Marnie January 26, 2011, 3:06 pm

        Good to know I’m not alone. I just checked out your blog and had to subscribe!

  • Sherri January 26, 2011, 1:59 pm

    Very inspiring! I’m glad to hear you’ll be having some type of cooler for dairy products and such. I’ve spent a lot of time in Costa Rica and will be moving there later this year, and from my time there, I’ve learned that so many things do not need to be refrigerated! Americans are truly obsessed with refrigeration. I’m extremely excited for the lifestyle shift, and I commend you for making yours in a country where it’s very difficult to.

  • sgl January 26, 2011, 2:30 pm

    for those not already familiar with him or his blog, Greenpa is a great source of information about living a low-impact life. he’s been without a fridge for 30 years, so he just might know a thing or two about it. here’s a few of his posts about it, including some other articles and other blogger’s comments about it:

    No Refrigerator- for 30 years…

    Refrigerators Hit The Big Time!


    • Logan January 26, 2011, 5:11 pm

      Thanks for the head’s up sgl! I havent’ read Green Pa or Sharon Astyk for awhile. I’ll have to tootle on over there and see what they have to say. πŸ™‚

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:18 pm

      SGL – Sweet!!!! Thanks for the links. I have a feeling they will be extremely helpful. πŸ™‚

  • Chandelle January 26, 2011, 2:31 pm

    This is an interesting idea, one that appeals to me as my family will be downsizing soon, and likely having to stuff our food into a mini-fridge while we’re building our little house. But it’s funny — as easy as it is to think of living in a small space, it’s very difficult to consider having a small refrigerator, much less none! I think this is mostly due to our habits. We eat primarily fresh food, cook everything from scratch, and also preserve quite a bit through lacto-fermentation, the results of which typically need to be chilled. We also live rurally and can’t necessarily be marketing every day. So I wonder if this could work for us.

    In the summer, with a huge garden we could probably do without IF we eat or preserve as fast as our garden produces! In the winter, we could probably arrange something to take advantage of the naturally cold outdoors…

    Okay, now I’m just thinking aloud — lots to think about now! Thanks!

  • Charles January 26, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Tammy – I am so excited that you guys are building a tiny home and am looking forward to hearing all about it. You are so right about the fridge. If people could just slow life down enough to be able to take a good look at what they are doing everyday they would be so surprised (myself included). You have made some very good points. I can just hear the gasp from people already if I told them I was forgoing the fridge. We must stop following the main stream and start asking questions. I am so glad you are leading the pack!

  • Casey January 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

    This is fantastic! I would love to go fridge free, but with a toddler it’s pretty impossible (she drinks a lot of milk). But it’s mostly empty all the time. I love that. You’ve inspired me to give it a quick clean tonight. Good luck on your fridge-less journey!

  • Trish January 26, 2011, 3:47 pm

    I think this is a really great idea. And 100 yrs ago it was the norm, so it definitely can be done. My mom grew up in Georgetown and can still remember the ice wagon pulled by a horse coming down the street (this would have been in the 1020s). I look forward to hearing about how you accomplish this.

    • Trish January 26, 2011, 3:48 pm

      oops, in the 1920s. Not medieval Georgetown

  • Gena S January 26, 2011, 3:47 pm

    What a great article! I had just recently listened to a radio interview that spoke to the whole food waste issue, and was just telling friends last night about how much food in the US alone gets thrown out! We still use a fridge and have shifted to storing our milk in a glass carafe with tightly sealed lid; we have found that has made our milk, are you sitting down? Last up to 3 weeks past the deadline on carton. We sterilize the carafe, swish milk around the inside completely to make sure no other moisture is left (dumping that out) and then pour in the milk. We’ve thought about going to mini fridge when we build our tiny bamboo house, as we don’t have any cold temp months for cold storage. We might just start with a cooler first though…thanks for the tips, info and for ‘owning’ your unique story, it touches lives πŸ™‚

    • Abra May 2, 2011, 11:07 am

      I’m in awe about the milk. I didn’t know that was possible! I’ll have to try and look up more information on this – thank you!

  • carlin January 26, 2011, 4:01 pm

    when I lived in Germany a few years back installing a kitchen was part of the process for renters. I didn’t buy a fridge for months, and though the grocery stores were just across the street and easy to get to, having a fridge saved me a lot of cash and forced me to think before I bought. when i did get a fridge it was the typical German under-the-countertop sizes … small and no freezer space – slightly larger than dorm room size. I have a full size now and live back in the usa, but i don’t buy much when i shop and tend to eat what i buy. good luck on your journey! it’s worth it. πŸ™‚

  • Jerry January 26, 2011, 4:04 pm

    May I suggest something like this http://dornob.com/global-cooling-solar-powered-ultra-portable-mini-fridge/

    It uses evaporation to keep things cool, so it’s cooling capacity increases when its hot, and when it’s cold you won’t need to cool butter, cheese, etc. as much anyway.

    No electricity needed, you just refresh it’s water supply everyday.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:17 pm

      @Jerry – Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing the resource.

  • Annie January 26, 2011, 4:11 pm

    I’ve considered this, or at least switching to a deep freeze and a cooler (as most of our food is frozen). They do use a huge amount of energy and take up an excessive amount of space.

    Good luck!

  • mark e January 26, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Interestingly, I was just thinking this morning about what it would mean to get rid of one’s refrigerator, what methods would keep food fresh, etc. Basically, I’m interested in learning what would be required to keep things cool without electricity. Root cellar? Passive cooling using water and porous ceramic? Ice in a cooler? Something else entirely? These are things I wonder about.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:16 pm

      @Mark – I think you could do all of the above. Right now we’re leaning toward the ice in a cooler option. My friend Dee lives in a little house and doesn’t have a refrigerator. She shops more, but loves eating fresh food all the time.

  • Chelsea January 26, 2011, 4:35 pm

    Glad to hear plans are coming along for the little home and I think it is great for everyone to question there food relationships and find the best fit for them. In my current house we don’t have a fridge in the winter because we have a space that gets cold. The main thing I miss is milk. I have to drink it pretty fast so it doesn’t go bad but I make yogurt and that helps get more time out of it. In our “fridge” really an ice chest with no ice is milk that I bought today, cheese, jelly, and there are eggs and butter on the counter. I really like a butter bell for keeping butter fresh and have found that a large insulated jug/water bottle helps for milk and such. Summer is a different story though and I really appreciate a fridge then.

    Good luck!

  • Brooke January 26, 2011, 5:36 pm

    I think this is a great idea, and it sounds like a wonderful personal challenge. In my own house I have noticed the fridge becoming more empty as we have become good at planning out our meals weekly, so as to reduce food waste and be efficient in maximizing our time. It is also the winter in MN, and we don’t have produce flowing from our garden! I don’t believe we could do without a fridge at this point, having a child, and a rather large garden, but I think we could almost make do with a smaller fridge.

    This has been an inspiring thought! Thanks for the inspiration and links ~


  • Brigitte January 26, 2011, 6:40 pm

    This is an interesting idea. As it is, nearly all of our fruit and veggies are kept out, in sight, so we eat them. I find that I cannot eat a tomato or strawberry that has been stored in the fridge.

    I also wanted to add, if you use salted butter, you don’t need to refrigerate it or cool it at all. It naturally stays fresh (we leave our butter on the counter for a month or so until we finish it off).

    On another note, walking through a Wal-Mart while I was in college and seeing the Kraft singles kept in an end-cap was a sobering experience. Now I realize that most cheese doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but I was so disgusted at the time. No fake food!

  • Neetika Jain January 26, 2011, 10:01 pm

    woah….another heavy stuff you’ve got yourself rid off. i live ina joint family…but i would so love to try this out. it absolutely feels freeing to not have a fridge. its a big weight lifted off your shoulders. great!!!!!!!! i feel very happy for you

  • jill January 26, 2011, 11:09 pm

    Hi : ) I see you used to live in Sacramento (where I live now!) and that you moved to Portland ~ I was just talking about wanting to visit Portland (for the first time). Seems like it will be an interesting place to be!

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:15 pm

      @Jill – it’s an amazing town! Give me a ring if you ever decide to visit. πŸ™‚

  • Angela January 27, 2011, 2:14 am

    AAAAAGGGGGHHHH! I just spent 3 years living without a refridgerator in the UK (so it’s pretty cold most of the time), and it was AWFUL. The reason for this was poverty (or as I like to think of it, enforced minimalism!). Not so bad in the winter, when it was cold anyway (I didn’t have central heating either, so it was just as cold in my house at it would have been in the fridge), but as soon as it was remotely warm, everything goes off or wilts or sweats SO fast.

    I don’t really eat a ‘dried pasta and potatoes’ diet, so most things I eat – fresh fruit and veg, cheese, milk, tofu etc – do require refridgeration. Chilling things mean that they last a few days longer. Not chilling things means that they go off – amazingly fast.

    I had to go shopping daily. I guess some people love wandering round supermarkets, but I always find that the more visits I make to the supermarket, the more I spend. So my food bill went up. Plus, all that wasted time… that could have been better spent doing other interesting things!

    When I went shopping, I couldn’t buy bigger sizes of anything – the teeniest (expensive) bottles of milk, small bits of cheese etc. I had to think, what will I realistically eat in 24 hours. This also pushes costs up. It increases waste too, as some things you can’t buy in small enough packages, and also a slight change of plan (say, a friend suggesting going out for food) means that whatever you have bought will go off. No thinking, ah well, I will just eat that tomorrow! So low waste = less spontaneity.

    Also, if you eat things like salad, chilling them keeps them crisp, so they are more appetising. There are lots of things that aren’t so appetising at room temperature (milk or soya milk is a good example). This probably wouldn’t be a problem for someone who eats lots of cooked food, but I got tired of limp, warm salad very fast.

    Sometimes things would go off faster than you think, so you come to prepare a meal, only to find a key ingredient has, despite your best efforts, gone off faster than you expected.

    • [email protected] January 27, 2011, 1:07 pm

      Angela – I live in the UK and spot on – it’s pretty cold (or raining) most of the time even in the summer. Currently have chilblains! Perhaps that’s why us Brit’s can manage with a tiny fridge, the majority of stuff can be left in the cupboard! hadn’t thought of that….Jo

  • Naomi January 27, 2011, 4:00 am

    This was a really thought provoking article. We have a fairly small fridge and I was amazed at how big American fridges are when I visited my friend a few years ago. It’s sad to see the trend for enormous fridges is making it’s way over to the UK too now. They seem to take up most of the kitchen!

  • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:57 am

    Peeps thank you for all the comments and helpful suggestions. I had no idea this post would be so popular. πŸ™‚

    I’m volunteering this morning, but wanted to let you know I will respond to your questions later today! Thanks.

  • RLW January 27, 2011, 10:32 am

    We have been living and cruising on our 34 foot sailboat full time since the early 90’s and most of it was without the use of a fridge… A fridge is surprisingly easy to do without once you realize that most foods don’t really need it and in fact last longer if not refrigerated.

    For a resource you might want to check any number of sailing and cruising books or websites as cruising sailors have been living off the grid in tiny spaces full time for years and doing it in mostly unproblematic ways.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:14 pm

      @RLW – Great idea! I’ll be sure to do that. πŸ™‚

  • Diane January 27, 2011, 11:37 am

    Angela, I can relate to your frustration of keeping things fresh, even under the best of circumstances in not having a refrigerator. Living in Arizona we have to keep bread in the refrigerator in order to not get moldy in the summer. That’s in an air-conditioned house. Strawberries could very well go bad after just a few hours and limp salad. Well, I would be the only one eating it, just to not waste the budget.

    Angela, I think your three years of experience speaks loud and clear as to the downfall of not having this particular modern appliance.

    My goal in embracing minimalist principles is to simplify my life and have more freedom. I believe not having a refrigerator is more work.

    Why not have a very small one instead?

    • Foy January 27, 2011, 1:43 pm

      I think in Arizona to live with out a refigerator you would have to change the way you eat. Strawberries only when fresh off the vine, no spring green salads, make your bread fresh when you want it. And then choose fresh foods that have lasting power like sweet potatoes, onions, squash, dried beans, cabbage, etc.

      It is possible to live without a refrigerator anywhere, you just have to be prepared to change how you eat to accomidate it.

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:13 pm

      @Diane – We’ll see how the challenge goes. If we completely fail at this, more than likely I’ll buy a tiny refrigerator for our little house. Although I really liked Todd’s idea of installing some type of ice box . . . that might work well. πŸ™‚

  • Linda January 27, 2011, 12:18 pm

    I can’t live without my fridge because we get loads of veggies from the local co-op. I need to keep them in the crisper so that they last through the week. In addition that I buy local milk by the gallon and it’s not pasteurized. It’s what they call raw milk. I am not brave enough to let that be stored on only ice in a cooler, because the milk is already subjected to potential pathogens. I obsess over food. It’s my life. If I ever moved into a tiny home that’s the only caveat that I would have: I need a fridge!!!

  • Suzanne Bigelow January 27, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Bravo to you for taking disordered eating out of the closet. American Women (and increasingly Men) have been weirded out about food from years of fashion marketing and fad dieting… (Check John Duillard’s 3 Season Diet for a great history… http://www.lifespa.com/product.aspx?prod_id=134)
    Thank you for sharing so honestly. Vulnerability breeding connection — in action! πŸ˜‰

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:11 pm

      Thanks Suzanne! I’ll check out the link. πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to see you next week!

  • Karen January 27, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Was just pondering the refrigeration thing since dh & watched “No Impact Man” the other night on Netflix. There’s 9 of us and we shop a couple of times a week. I would venture to think we could actually do without the fridge because of the way we eat, but would take a while to wrap the mind around it. I like the idea of saving the electricity, that’s for sure.

    Thanks to all those that have posted comments, too. Quite informative.

    And I was surprised when we were in Belize to find piles of cartons of eggs out in the middle of the store unrefrigerated. Obviously much of the world isn’t cooling their eggs, and they aren’t dying from them.
    We just think its so ‘normal’ to refrigerate everything.

  • The Rowdy Chowgirl January 27, 2011, 1:52 pm

    This is really interesting. It reminds me of the book No Impact Man–toward the end of his one year experiment, he stopped using electricity, including the fridge. It will be fascinating to see how this encourages your creativity in terms of buying, storing, and cooking food.

  • Kat @ Me Simplified January 27, 2011, 3:14 pm

    I worm compost also! I keep a bin in my basement. They just love my soggy spinach, banana peels and espresso grounds. I get to use my shredded paper / junk mail as bedding material.

    I’ve often thought my refrigerator was a big waste. When I upgraded from ancient appliances when I bought my condo, I wanted to put in a smaller apartment sized refrigerator as there wasn’t much room. I was talked out of it by my brother because I needed to consider “resale value”. I hate that I gave in and made that decision. A smaller frig would use less energy then my regular sized one. And goodness, it’s not like I need the space.

    Right now there is hardly anything in my refrigerator (and its usually the case): cream, spinach, mushrooms, a tomato, salad dressing, bread, butter, eggs, a few condiments that I never use and hamburgers defrosting for tonight’s dinner and my giant Britta pitcher. I do keep meat and vegetables frozen in the freezer.

    I’m trying to get to the point where I eat what I purchase that week and am emptying my freezer and pantry to that end. I’m interested in hearing how you do with your challenge.

  • KateR January 27, 2011, 5:55 pm

    For all the people with larger, almost-empty fridges, isn’t it true that the fridge will be much more efficient if it’s full? So maybe people could replace fill up that empty space with containers of water or something that will chill and help the fridge interior stay cold without the motor running as often. What do you think?

    • Tammy January 27, 2011, 7:11 pm

      @Kate – that is true and it’s what we’re doing right now. We have two huge containers of water in the refrigerator. It’s helped a little bit, but it still runs a lot. πŸ™‚

      • Tanja from Minimalist Packrat January 31, 2011, 8:49 am

        I do the same thing with the water jugs. It’s supposed to cut back on the electricity needed to run it.

  • doniree January 28, 2011, 1:31 am

    I love this! My boyfriend and I were just discussing ways to make some healthy changes, and I’ve been on a kick to eliminate processed foods in the past few months. I’ve succeeded in some places and still rely on condiments in others, but this is such an encouragement to keep moving forward in small, deliberate steps.

  • Jessica January 28, 2011, 5:11 am

    This sounds like a good challenge for me and my family. Although I’m going to have to change it a bit… My family of four needs a refrigerator but we want to go down to a small apartment sized frig as opposed to the full size we have now.

    I plan on filling half the refrigerator and freezer with milk jugs of water to prevent us from using that space.

  • Debra January 28, 2011, 9:12 am

    We have lived out a fridge before, in South America. It was traumatic for the first few weeks, until we got the hang of it. We did occasionally ‘borrow’ fridge space from a gracious neighbor, but for the most part you do figure out food amounts, and plan on no leftovers. It is funny – my husband refers to our fridge now as ‘the food rotter’, or ‘the compost maker’.

    I have put your link on my blog under ‘Brave People Tiny Homes Simplification Sustainability’. We live in a 320 sq ft home with our 13 year old child. We were afraid of wierding him out by being too Bohemian, so we DO have a fridge, a washer, and a small window unit air conditioner when the Southern air gets too muggy. We love our tiny home, and the lifestyle it affords. We also run our business (yay!, we work from home!) from a 200 sq ft ‘mobile cottage’. You can see both here: http://minkeebabygifts.blogspot.com/p/our-cottages.html

    This is an amazing post – who knew a no fridge post could attract such attention!

  • Jenni January 28, 2011, 1:41 pm

    What about keeping meat fresh? Or are you vegetarian? I am new to your blog tho. : )

    My fridge shelves are bare most days and always empty come Friday except for milk.

  • Sandra - Always Well Within January 28, 2011, 1:46 pm

    A very interesting challenge! Good luck with this. Well, you’ve got the ice pack and chest so you are not totally refrigeration free, but super close. I don’t use a lot of space in a fridge, but I do use some. I’m also not keen on raw foods, which may be great for some people but very damaging to the digestive system in others. I just need to keep my veggies fresh for the most part.

  • Meg January 29, 2011, 8:07 am

    Yes, yes! Kill the garbage disposal already! (Or just peacefully remove the switch.) One of the coolest things I learned is that so many kinds of cooked food can go into the compost in moderation with no ill effect, and even better can be buried underground in any amount (a simple hole or trench compost away from any water source). That is if you’re outside city limits and aren’t worried about rats and such.

    As people who live very far from the store and shop only a few times per month due to a minimal driving commitment, it would be quite a dive to get rid of the fridge right now, but thanks for leading me to ponder it. I’ve always wanted to build a root cellar!

  • Suze January 29, 2011, 3:56 pm

    You completely need to see the movie “No Impact Man” (not to be a promote a big corporation, but it is available to stream via Netflix) if you haven’t yet, to prepare for the whole “no fridge” thing. s long as you go into the whole thing with your eyes wide-open……then I say go for it.

    Also, while it might work fine in PDX (despite the 90+ temps you get at least a couple of days every sumer), here in the south where I live – impossible!

  • Natasha January 29, 2011, 8:49 pm

    Living without a fridge would be very difficult in a hot climate. We’ve already had a few weeks of weather in the mid-80sF and it’s only January. On the other hand, we really don’t have a lot in our fridge right now except for leftovers, milk and eggs. (The left-overs become lunches the next day) We hope to do more gardening this year (now that we actually HAVE a yard) which will significantly cut down on food costs.

    We’re also shifting away from canned goods to more dried and frozen things. It takes a bit more thinking, but I have the luxury of working from home right now so it all gets done. If both of us had to work crazy, demanding jobs, it would be much harder to simplify.

  • Nate Dodson January 30, 2011, 11:56 am

    I would think trying to locate the tiny house somewhat close to a grocery would be crucial. Maybe close to the awesome People’s co-op over at 21st and Tibbetts. That’s our old stomping ground…gosh I miss Portland!

  • Tanja from Minimalist Packrat January 31, 2011, 8:46 am

    I lived without a fridge for 6 months when I moved into an apartment without one and didn’t have the money to buy one. I was just out of high school at the time and not much of a cook so I didn’t really notice a problem with it.

    Later, maybe 6 years after that, I lived in a studio for a year with my honey. It had a very small under the counter fridge. It was good. We had room for some healthy veggies and that was it! Interestingly my weight was ideal at that time. Now living with the big ol’ fridge there’s more room for frozen junk food and the temptation is always there. Alas my weight has grown proportionally with the size of the fridge.

    When we built our little cabin (12 x 24 with a low upstairs loft) I set up way too much space for the kitchen. I’ve always resented how much space the fridge and stove take up. I’ve looked longingly at the little compact European style refrigerators.

    We’re not living there now but I’ve contemplated a redesign in my head (if we get enough money for it) with a very small European fridge, a mini sink and 2 feet of counter space. I can see it in my vision.

    I’m excited to hear how no fridge living goes for you Tammy.


  • John C. January 31, 2011, 11:26 am

    I lived on a small sailboat for 10 years without a refrigerator. I built an extremely well insulated ice box…. 6 inches of urethane foam and a radiant barrier. Mostly it was used as storage for items that would spill or otherwise create a mess when the boat was healed. There were occasions when block ice was available free/cheap. Or if I was having guests when cold beverages and cold storage for leftovers was convenient. A 25 lb. block of ice would last three weeks, even in the Florida – Bahamian heat.

    I’d build another ice chest like that one for the odd times you wanted cold storage. It could live on the porch as a bench or chair. This kind of ice chest is eight or ten times more efficient than any “Igloo” cooler I’ve seen.

    Good luck with the project.

  • Happy clam February 1, 2011, 6:46 am

    Hello Tammy,

    I was without refrigerator for the past three years. I just decided not to replace it when it broke down.
    While there were some good aspects to it, I had trouble especially in the summer- as I was living alone at the time, it was hard to get food in the right quantities that I could use it before it wasted away. Basically I had to adjust my diet – less dairy, more vegetables and fruit and dry goods like rice and pasta.
    Now that I have a fridge again it makes meal planning a lot easier.

    How about you buy a small, energy efficient one?

  • Heather February 7, 2011, 7:40 am

    When we bought our first refrigerator 12 years ago, we bought the LARGEST model that would fit in the space. It is now making strange noises, and when it bits the dust, we’ve decided to buy the SMALLEST model (short of a dorm size frige). Too much food gets “lost” in the larger unit. I know it’s not the same as going refrigerator-less, but it’s our best step in the right direction at this time.

  • annonymous February 11, 2011, 12:09 pm

    If you eat a whole food plant based diet you will treat animals ethically, make a HUGE impact on the planet, feel better and have a longer healthspan and maybe even lifespan, and not need ice! Go crazy – ditch the dairy! There are so many good reasons to do so.

    If you make your 4 food groups fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans/legumes and cut of dairy and processed oil and processed foods I can almost guarantee you will lose about 1 lb a week! Oh and you can eat AS MUCH AS YOU WANT as long as it meets the above requirements. See the Engine 2 Diet book and learn how to go PantStrong!

  • Maggie - Maggie's Nest February 13, 2011, 12:02 am

    That is an amazing challenge – best of luck! A few years ago I made a “camp fridge” so I could keep some dairy items cold over an extended camping trip. It worked really well! I based it on something I saw in a book called “MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook: For the Farmgirl in All of Us” by MaryJane Butters. An inspiring read. I look forward to reading more about how you guys make it work!

  • ys March 1, 2011, 11:32 am

    I don’t think going without a fridge is such a wild idea-i have 2 boys in the house, but by the time we eat a nutritious (oatmeal or fiber bar type breakfast) lunch out (sack or school) and simple, yet healthy dinner (we tend to shop daily; why not-it’s handy and fresh!-there is little need for a huge fridge. Plus, we can peppers and tomatoes and other- it is not so farfetched!

  • Debby Shockley March 15, 2011, 3:26 pm

    So my question to all this….. how are you going to keep your beer cold?

    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 3:35 pm

      Our tiny cooler. πŸ™‚ A better alternative is heading to the pub for happy hour. Can’t wait to see you in CA!

  • Magylyn March 15, 2011, 7:43 pm

    It shouldn’t be a problem. What did our ancestors do before refrigeration?
    They survived just fine and you will also!

  • John March 24, 2011, 9:22 am

    What do you think about having multiple refrigerators designated by food type situated around a kitchen. For example; a small refrigerator dedicated for meat, one for vegetables, one for fruits and so forth. The system would be intelligent to know when to cool or provide no cooling at all. And for those who live in the cooler climates, cooling would be pulled from the outside to the refrigerator which needs cooling, therefore, the energy requirement would be virtually zero, all you would need is a pump to circulate the cooling which could be solar powered.

    • Tammy March 24, 2011, 9:52 am

      John – It’s a cool idea. But I don’t know that would work for our set-up. Most of the food in our house doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I mainly worry about the half and half and cheese. πŸ™‚

      • Dave March 24, 2011, 9:55 am

        If you eat mostly hard cheeses, they will sit out at room temperature for probably a week or two and be just fine πŸ™‚

        It’s the creamy brie-like ones you have to worry about spoiling, but then, those never last more than a day or two in our house anyway, before they are gone, gone, gone πŸ™‚

        • Tammy March 24, 2011, 9:55 am

          @Dave – Thanks for the info. πŸ™‚ You rock!

  • Margaret DuBois May 7, 2011, 2:06 pm

    Great aunts of mine living in Biloxi, Mississippi had ice boxes.
    With the block of ice in the top section the image is etched in my mind.
    When everyone switched to refrigeration my family still called it the ice box.

    Does any one know what our farming ancestor did before ice boxes or refrigeration?

    • Holly May 9, 2011, 8:34 am

      I don’t know what everyone did, but people lucky enough to have a spring nearby could build a small rock structure over it to make a “spring house” to keep dairy fresh for at least a few hours. Or, put it in a bucket and lower it down the well until the bucket was just above the water level.

      • Margaret DuBois May 13, 2011, 4:56 pm

        I spoke to Ms. Guersi Hebert of Youngsville, LA last Wednesday, May 11. At age 78 she fondly remembers getting electricity at age 15.
        Before electricity and refrigeration the farmers would gather in large groups and slaughter one calf.
        Meat was divided and taken home to be consumed. Extra meat would go into a bucket and lowered in the well. The bucket hung just above the water thus keeping it cool for a few days.

        • Margaret DuBois May 13, 2011, 5:02 pm

          I was just thinking.
          Perhaps a pot luck once a month (or more often) with friends or family would break the monetany.

  • Kristina July 12, 2011, 10:03 am

    Less than a month ago, the electricity went out for a week. As I type, the electricity has been gone for 2 days and is not expected again for at least 4 more. I am beginning to learn more about the people around me…what their inconveniences are: they are upset they cannot go shopping, upset about not being able to watch TV, upset that traffic seems impossible…it makes me realize how thankful I am for making the lifestyle switch that I did year ago. I do not own a TV, rarely drive or shop. I am obviously not perfect at minimalism, but it is gratifying to know that things that could have upset me in the past from a power outage no longer can. Instead I spent my time reading and taking walks outside. It is amazing how when you refuse to let the stuff you own rule your actions, you also refuse to let them rule your emotions. Unfortunately I rent an apartment, and thus, have a fridge. As my roommate was literally freaking out about her food, I realized that I only had a pint of blueberries and some cheese in there. I wish I could get rid of the fridge, but I am content to not really use it. For now, I am enjoying the feeling of freedom…from stress, anxiety, and frustration from a power outage and merely enjoying the sunshine and time to read. The benefits of simplifying your life are too numerous to count…

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