Homesteading

Can You Live Without a Fridge?

veggies

Can you live without a fridge? I posed this question to my teenage daughter and her immediate response was, “why would someone want to live with no fridge?” I imagine many people might respond the same way. But there are people doing it. Some by choice, some not.

Many people in impoverished countries live without a fridge every day. And yes, there are some people choose to live without traditional refrigeration simply because they can.

So it can be done.

But if you aren’t part of an impoverished country and you haven’t consciously made a choice to live without modern conveniences, why should you care if you can live without a fridge or not?

With the current state of the world, there is the looming potential for some type of grid collapse or economic shutdown. Even those who aren’t yet ready to call themselves “preppers” are expressing concern over the increased number of short term power outages.

The fragility of our power grid, the one we have all become so dependent on, is becoming increasingly apparent to those who are paying attention.

Americans have become so used to using refrigeration and freezing for long term food storage, many are oblivious to how to store food any other way.

The dependency on refrigeration for food storage is so ingrained that most of us don’t even think about it until the power goes out. This hard core dependency on refrigeration means many Americans will be the hardest hit when the grid goes down.

Unless we plan to do something about it. And prepare now. Before there’s an event that forces us to live without a fridge.

Knowing how to live without a fridge, doesn’t mean that you can never again own a fridge or a freezer. It doesn’t mean you live without conveniences. It simply means that when an event, like a power outage, knocks out refrigeration indefinitely, it won’t be a life-threatening situation for you and your family.

The next time the power goes out, you’ll be ready.

Because you’ll know just what to do now to reduce or even eliminate your dependency on refrigeration. You’ll know enough to be confident that you can live without a fridge when the need arises.

If you’re totally new to the idea of living without refrigeration and you don’t know much about long-term food storage, there are several categories you’ll want to learn about. We’ll cover them briefly in this article.

  • Foods That Don’t Require Refrigeration
  • Fresh Fruits & Vegetables (Never Refrigerated)
  • Alternative Cooling Methods

Foods That Don’t Require Refrigeration

One of the easiest ways you can live without a fridge is to stockpile foods that don’t require refrigeration. Some of those foods include things like:

Dried Goods

Some of these are staples you can use to make other meals and some are good to have on hand because you can eat them as is or just by adding boiling water.

FlourSugar
SaltPowdered Milk
Instant NoodlesOatmeal
GritsRice
CrackersPemmican or Beef Jerky
Dried or powdered spices and herbsPop Tarts
Beans or LentilsRaisins
CerealPastas
Pre-packaged fruit cupsEnergy Bars
Cocoa PowderSingle serving applesauce
Nuts

Canned Foods

A good way to start your stockpile is with canned goods from your local grocery store. As you increase your skills with long term food storage, you can can your own food using a water bath or pressure canner.

Make sure you follow recommended safety practices for home canning and you can build a food supply that will be ongoing.

ChickenTuna
SpamVienna Sausages
Sardines or AnchoviesTomato Sauce
Baked BeansEvaporated Milk
Fruits & VegetablesSauces

Additional Options

HoneyMaple Syrup
MolassesButter (doesn’t actually require refrigeration, just keep it cool enough to not melt)
Root vegetables (like potatoes or carrots)Bouillon cubes (beef or chicken)
Vegetable, Canola, or Olive oilsMREs

Fresh (Never Refrigerated) Vegetables and Fruits

Believe it or not, there are many different fruits and vegetables that have a decent shelf life without refrigeration, but only if they have never been refrigerated. This eliminates grocery store produce because it’s been refrigerated before it gets to you.

But if you have a garden, you can eat seasonal fruits and vegetables without having to refrigerate them. If you don’t have a garden, you can buy fresh (never refrigerated) fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market or nearby farmer that will hold up just fine until you eat them.

Our ancestors were skilled at keeping the family fed using seasonal fruits and vegetables. Below are some shelf life estimates for some of these:

Up to 1 week

  • Papaya, melons, and berries
  • Broccoli, lettuce, and cauliflower (submerge stem in water to extend shelf life)
  • Eggplant

10 Days to 2 Weeks

  • Bananas (hanging helps) anywhere from 6 to 10 days
  • Pears, mango, pineapples, avocado 10 to 14 days
  • Grapes two weeks or longer if stems are covered in wet sand
  • Green peppers, carrots (remove skin and leafy top and soak if they get limp) and zucchini

One Month or Longer

  • Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons one month or longer
  • Tomatoes (buy green wrap in paper towel individually)
  • Beets and turnips
  • Winter squash, cabbage (wrap in newspaper), garlic
  • Potatoes (remove eyes frequently)
  • Onions (store away from potatoes)

Long Term Food Preservation Methods

If you find that your garden is producing more each year than your family can consume in a season, you will need to become more confident in your ability to preserve food right. One of the simpler long term food preservation methods to learn is dehydration.

You can dehydrate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even make powdered milk, all of which will store just fine until you need it. Other food preservation methods that will come in handy during a grid down situation include:

  • Smoking
  • Pickling
  • Fermentation

Raise Livestock & Poultry

Another set of skills you can learn so you can be confident that you can live without a fridge if the need arises is to raise livestock or poultry for food. If you’ve never done this before, chickens are a great place to start. Raising chickens or other types of poultry in your backyard is feasible and they can supplement your diet with eggs and meat.

Freshly laid, unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated if they are stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and are used within a couple weeks.

To extend the shelf life of freshly laid, unwashed eggs, you can coat them in mineral oil and store away from sunlight and extreme temperatures for up to nine months if necessary.

Chickens are also a popular source of meat to provide protein for your diet. If the need to live without a fridge arises, you simply harvest the chickens as you need them for food or home can the meat for long term storage.

Other livestock to consider as a meat source are:

For meat, you can home can or you may want to learn how to smoke or salt meats to preserve for long term storage.

Alternative Cooling Methods

There are several alternative methods you can use to keep things cool for longer term storage. We’ve included videos below to show you more details about each of these cooling methods you can use to live without a fridge.

Traditional spring house is something that was frequently used by our ancestors to keep things cool. Spring houses were built of stone, many times actual stone or rocks from the creek or stream where the house was built:

Traditional Pioneer Root Cellar is also an alternative cooling method that has been around for hundreds of years. Root cellars are buried under the ground with dirt or gravel floors. Three of the key criteria for root cellars are moisture, complete darkness, and adequate air circulation.

DIY Mini Root Cellar can be built by taking advantage of passive cooling. Keep in mind that this type of cooling has its limitations. If temperatures outside are too warm or too cold, and you don’t have a way to offset the extreme fluctuations, the mini root cellar won’t work.

As seen in the video, there are ways to modify the mini root cellar using a battery or solar powered fan for the exhaust and adjustable flaps on the vents so they can be opened and closed.

DIY Off Grid Spring Fed Cool Box is created using an old 1930’s style refrigerator as the insulated box with coiled tubing inside to circulate the water through the fridge. The water keeps the fridge cool, 40-60 degrees depending on the outside temperature. It also keeps things from freezing when outside temperatures get too cold as well.

Well Water Cooled Mini Fridge is a technique that works in a similar way as hot water heated flooring in homes. You can use an old mini fridge, and some flexible tubing and circulate cold water from a well or spring through the coils and cool the fridge and its contents. This would work great for produce and other items that benefit from cool storage.

Zeer Pot Refrigeration is a refrigeration method that has been around for a very long time. If you live in the right climate (desert conditions-hot & humid) it’s a simple method that involves using wet sand inside a clay pot to keep a 2nd small pot and its contents cool using natural evaporation.

In the video we provided, this method was further enhanced with the use of a small fan connected to a solar power system and a 2-liter bottle modified to work as a continuous waterer to keep the sand damp.

Are you confident that you and your family could live without refrigeration if the need came up suddenly? Are you already living without a fridge by choice? What’s your favorite long term storage method? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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7 thoughts on “Can You Live Without a Fridge?

  1. Megan,
    When you state:

    Zeer Pot Refrigeration is a refrigeration method that has been around for a very long time. If you live in the right climate (desert conditions-hot & humid) it’s a simple method that involves using wet sand inside a clay pot to keep a 2nd small pot and its contents cool using natural evaporation.

    Desert conditions are normally hot & dry, with humidity often sitting around 10%. I did some work in AZ and the people were always handing me bottles of water, as I sat at a computer in an air conditioned office. It’s so dry there that you can lose a liter of water every few hours, just by breathing.
    Zeer pots work extremely well, kept in the shade in these conditions; but, I have successfully used them here in Ohio, even on our most hot and humid days.

  2. Short answer, yes, you can.

    You can also do without running water, indoor plumbing, a microwave, an electric or gas oven, and central air conditioning. And we may all have to.

    For me and mine, the question then becomes how? There are a lot of things we take for granted (electricity and tap water, for example), and most of us do not control that supply. Options let you sleep better at night.

    1. JP,

      There are a lot of things we take for granted (electricity and tap water, for example), and most of us do not control that supply. Options let you sleep better at night.

      Actually I do control my water as long as I have electricity, and I also have a way to make electricity when required.
      That does indeed allow one to sleep more calmly at night, especially during inclement weather.

    2. Exactly, Options!
      won’t be a root cellar here. too much moisture and on a slab. many other of these things are out as well. but what we can do we will.No place to make “a keel” here.
      One alternative to storing root crops inside is sheltering a raised bed. planting in there covering with grass/hay and plastic cover. after cutting tops.back…
      another way is bring them in , lay out to dry leave dirt still on, lay in layers in a box and shield from all light.
      working on water catchment project and growing options for winter and early spring now.-gathering supplies. slow and steady.
      Adding to supplies we have for shelter in place…includes things for basics of life…in any extreme loss or weather event….

  3. Can you live without a fridge? I posed this question to my teenage daughter and her immediate response was, “why would someone want to live with no fridge?”

    You could no doubt substitute the words ”electricity” or ”telephone” or ”central heat and air conditioning” for ” fridge” and a host of others and get the same answer.

    Many people in impoverished countries live without a fridge every day. And yes, there are some people choose to live without traditional refrigeration simply because they can.

    We have a large local Amish population who would fit that demographic.

    With the current state of the world, there is the looming potential for some type of grid collapse or economic shutdown. Even those who aren’t yet ready to call themselves “preppers” are expressing concern over the increased number of short term power outages.

    I’m not sure that the economics would shut down the grid, since it is considered critical infrastructure and a lot of resources would no doubt be thrown at it in a monetary crisis

    The fragility of our power grid, the one we have all become so dependent on, is becoming increasingly apparent to those who are paying attention.

    Living in a rural community we have occasional power interruptions and have a whole house generator for that reason; however, I more often see major power disruptions in cities, where the infrastructure is more heavily stressed and people are much less likely to have alternatives.

    Americans have become so used to using refrigeration and freezing for long term food storage, many are oblivious to how to store food any other way.

    We are one of those except for the ” oblivious” part and have adequate power generation to keep refrigeration (two refrigerators and a chest freezer) as well as the pumps for the well and sump running. In the past nearly 40 years, we have had to replace a freezer and a refrigerator, so even with power available, one needs to have alternatives in the case of equipment failure.

    The next time the power goes out, you’ll be ready.
    You need to have a practiced plan for this eventuality.

    A good way to start your stockpile is with canned goods from your local grocery store. As you increase your skills with long term food storage, you can can your own food using a water bath or pressure canner.

    Can copying Is the best way for someone new to start.
    When you need a can of food, purchase two, or more if on sale. We always write the purchase date on the lid with a Sharpie marker so we can rotate and use the oldest first.

    Your list of canned good should include some soups.
    We keep a selection of Progresso soups on hand, with a pull tab that doesn’t even require a can opener, although a hand operated can opener is essential.
    You can eat cold out of the can, or heat in a microwave oven or over any heat source.
    We also keep honey & maples syrup in large quantities; but, also a lot of pure cane sugar that can be used both for sweetening & preservation.

    Believe it or not, there are many different fruits and vegetables that have a decent shelf life without refrigeration, but only if they have never been refrigerated. This eliminates grocery store produce because it’s been refrigerated before it gets to you.

    We have placed grocery store produce such as potatoes in our root cellar and they fair quite well. Other vegetables stored in cool water to keep out the oxygen also work moderately well.

    Long Term Food Preservation Methods

    I find purchased powdered milk is inexpensive and keeps longer in #10 cans, making it much more practical than trying to dry your own.

    You can also add freeze drying to the list.

    Raise Livestock & Poultry
    There’s a warning to be made here. Once you’ve had free range home raise eggs, you’ll never be able to eat store bought eggs again. LOL

    Other livestock to consider as a meat source are:

    Rabbits
    Cows
    Pigs
    Goats

    AND fish.

    Traditional spring house
    I’ve seen and used these; but, they do require a spring that is not always available.
    Traditional Pioneer Root Cellar
    We have a traditional unfinished basement, fit only for the well pump, water softener, and water heater; but, with some imagination, it also works quite well as a root cellar.

    Well Water Cooled Mini Fridge is a technique that works in a similar way as hot water heated flooring in homes. You can use an old mini fridge, and some flexible tubing and circulate cold water from a well or spring through the coils and cool the fridge and its contents. This would work great for produce and other items that benefit from cool storage.

    The spring works here; but, generally the well needs electricity to run the pump; however, if the need for alternative refrigeration is overflows or a failure of the fridge, then this would still work.
    When camping I carry a mesh bag were we can place cans of drink or other food needing to be kept cool and drop it in a deep lake or stream, where the water stays about 50°.

    Are you confident that you and your family could live without refrigeration if the need came up suddenly? Are you already living without a fridge by choice?

    Yes, since we have already had to do it on a limited basis. We had a chock full 20 ft3 freezer die in midsummer, so we fired up the grill and prepared ready to eat food for the fridge.
    We also keep containers of water / ice to fill holes in the freezer. This ensures we’re not just cooling air and allows us a cold medium to transfer to the fridge should it die.

    What’s your favorite long term storage method? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

    We have no favorites, just the best for the moment.
    Canned goods, frozen foods, dehydrated and freeze dried all work and the diversity gives us options.

  4. Farm fresh eggs can be secured for several months at a time in lime water. One family in South Texas – has kept some for up to 2 years. with good results- no spoilage/they do loose quality.
    Most people recommend for 6-9 months. procedure is to choose clean eggs from the nest, leave bloom intact and drop into container of lime water. mix ratio is one ounce of pickling lime to one quart of water. To secure a five gallon bucket, one needs about 8.5 qts of water and resulting will depend on size of the eggs, but anywhere from 195-230 eggs should fit covered into a 5 gallon bucket.
    We like fresh and frozen foods above all else, would only eat certain canned veggies if nothing else was [email protected] all…sweet peas, canned carrots often take on the flavor of the can…next best is our home canned things generally. Corn either( home/neighbor grown) and gathered /frozen or dehydrated. I do dehydrate a lot of things okra and zucchini are our favorites..We have removed many corn products from our diet.. including regular corn chips due to increased nerve pain…being directly proportional to increase in corn containing foods.I have picked up some popcorn to use for cornmeal.Have located a grinder locally at a reasonable price.Is on my “want list”.
    Long ago our family survived without electricity, and we CAN again…but We DON”T want to.
    Freeze dryer just not an option for us.Too pricey and maintenance is too expensive.also require specialized space and plug, My understanding is they are also noisy.Units may have improved with time.? maybe someone who has one can weigh in for those considering buying one.

  5. Life without the frig? Oh that thing ,, we put a frig in the cabin 15 years ago it worked at the time ,would guess it still dose , but it has not been opend in I don’t know how long ,years ,sets me to wonder what’s in it ? What we do use is a 5c.f. freezer ,again what’s in it ?the only thing I have any idea about is the top layer,guess I could look for a adventure
    We only cook/prep one meal at a time ,leftovers are a rare thing ,how do we do it ? Its just so natural for us ,going to have do some thinking ,maybe I should take that frig out and use the space for canned goods ,OBTW a side of beef will hang all winter salted and kept cool and uncut ,cut only what you need when you need it ,salt the fresh cut ,
    Two problems are flys and the blood not draining ,time of year takes care of the flys ,blood juice will drain for some time that’s taken care of by hanging

    Tea time

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