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Can You Live without a Refrigerator?


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Having a refrigerator in the house is one of those conveniences that we take for granted. Most homes and apartments come with a fridge, and if it didn’t, most everyone would get one right away.

Why even consider living without a fridge?

  • Long term power outage
  • Personal emergency: your fridge breaks and you can’t afford another one right then
  • Living in a downsized space such as boat or RV. Many boat and RVs have very small refrigerators
  • Extended camping trips

I experienced first hand not having a fridge available when our fridge broke. The old fridge was about 30 years old; my parents gave it to us when they upgraded, and it finally gave out. The repair estimate came out about equal to just buying a new fridge. At the time, we did not have the finances to buy a fridge outright as we did not want to buy one on credit, so we waited until the next paycheck.

That meant not having a fridge for a few weeks. After the initial panic – who even lives without a fridge in this day and age – we decided to be creative.

  • We transferred the most perishable items from the broken fridge to a cooler.
  • We started researching what items absolutely need to be kept cool and which ones can last without refrigeration.

After three weeks the new fridge was delivered, but the experience taught me a few things.

Here are a few tips I learned:

Fruits

The shelf life of fruit depends on when the fruit was actually picked, and how ripe it was when you bought it. Many fruits last a long time without refrigeration: apples and citrus fruits will last around four to five weeks on the counter.

If you buy pineapples and mangoes, let them ripen on the counter for about three to four days, then eat within 24 hours. I don’t refrigerate bananas but let them ripen on the counter and eat them before they get too spotty.

Strawberries and other berries are short-lived without the fridge – eat them as soon as you buy them; if you must keep them, eat them the next day.

Vegetables and herbs

Some vegetables such as celery, broccoli and cauliflower will stay fresh when stored upright in some water.

Herbs also store well while sitting upright in water.

Root crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic will last one to two months without refrigeration. But once you cut into the onion, you need to use it right away.

Squash such as zucchini will last a week.

Tomatoes (technically a fruit but considered a vegetable for cooking purposes) will last two weeks if they are still green, or about a week at the most if they are already ripe.

The best way to ensure that fruit and vegetables stay fresh the longest without refrigeration is to buy them from the grower or at a farmer’s market, since you know they just got harvested and were never refrigerated in the truck or grocery store.

Milk

Use powdered milk and just prepare a serving or two for consumption. Another choice is to use shelf stable milk.

Juice

Apple juice will last a couple of days, but most other juices get rancid quickly if not kept cold. Another choice is to use Tang Orange Drink, or powdered lemonade, and just make enough for use.

Eggs

As we have covered in the blog, eggs actually last a long time on the counter, and if you coat them with mineral oil, they will last for months.

Yogurt

Yogurt will last on the counter overnight, but no one really wants to eat warm yogurt so we kept yogurt in the cooler.

Cheese and butter

Cheese and butter, because of the salt content, will actually last a week to two weeks outside the fridge.

Meats

Use canned or dehydrated meat. Unfortunately, fresh meat won’t last without refrigeration, so we kept the meats in the cooler.

Medications

Some medications such as certain children’s liquid antibiotics require storage in a cool area – these would have to be kept in a plastic bag (to avoid spills) in the cooler.

Condiments

Most of the condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce (Tabasco) that are in squeeze bottles last for a long time without the fridge. James and jellies also kept very well. During our time without a fridge, we just kept them in the pantry and they were fine.

The parts that weren’t so easy

The one thing about not having a fridge is you can’t have leftovers, so you can only cook limited quantities that the family will finish right away. Another thing that was not easy is not having cold drinks readily available, but that is something that one can get used to.

Truthfully, I really like having a refrigerator and would not willingly give mine up. But the experience of going without one taught me it is doable and in an emergency, I’ll know what foods to save and what to use up right away.

 

Bernie Carr's blog, Apartment Prepper, is about family preparedness while living in a city apartment.

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- See more at: http://www.thedailysheeple.com/can-you-live-without-a-refrigerator_052014#sthash.MdvFCsDt.dpuf

 

 

Edited by Midnightmom
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We've had a few eras of time without all the modern 'necessities'. It's doable but the hardest part is resetting your normal routines.

 

 


Condiments

Most of the condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce (Tabasco) that are in squeeze bottles last for a long time without the fridge. James and jellies also kept very well. During our time without a fridge, we just kept them in the pantry and they were fine.

 

 

 

I'm going to disagree with mayo.......the infamous killer lurking in the picnic potato salad? :blink: Save mayo in foil packets from fast food places to use in these times.

 

 

MtRider :feedme:

Edited by Mt_Rider
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No actually mayo is fine unless it's mixed with something. I worked at a small store that served lunches and you could safely set out a container of mayo without keeping it chilled but you had to chill anything that had mayo added.

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Just make absolutely sure that only clean utensils are dipped in the mayo. You should anyhow, even if it is kept refrigerated. Don't let the kids or menfolk lick the knife then put it into the jar!

 

We lived several yrs without a fridge. It is doable if you don't live in a very hot climate. In Colorado things kept edible MUCH longer than they do here in south Texas. Here, you get mold on things overnight.

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We've had a few eras of time without all the modern 'necessities'. It's doable but the hardest part is resetting your normal routines.

 

 

Condiments

Most of the condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce (Tabasco) that are in squeeze bottles last for a long time without the fridge. James and jellies also kept very well. During our time without a fridge, we just kept them in the pantry and they were fine.

 

 

 

I'm going to disagree with mayo.......the infamous killer lurking in the picnic potato salad? :blink: Save mayo in foil packets from fast food places to use in these times.

 

 

MtRider :feedme:

 

We've purchased a case of may packets from Sams Club...need to pick up more when financially feasible. We don't like mustard so don't plan to set back much of it. Ketchup? I'll just mix up "something" from my tomato paste IF we want a bottle. Very seldom use Ketchup anyway.

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One of our "mind sets" is to keep our propane powered frig from the old Tioga Class C (along with all the other appliances, sink & counter, water heater etc.) to put in the cabin (when we find our land) and build a "casing" around it a good distance from the cabin (because of the flame). Then under that, dig a hole for a 5-day cooler. Turn the propane frig down to it's coldest setting to freeze everything. When you want to defrost something, put it into the 5-day cooler to lend it's coldness. Making sure the "casing" is animal resistant. Yes, we'd have to take a walk to the "cooler" but we would have a frig as long as we had propane. We're also looking around for ways to power one with solar and/or wind.

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  • 2 years later...

I have found wonderful information on living sans refrigeration on the sailing forums.  Many sailors cruise around the world without electricity, refrigeration or freezers!  Here is a synopsis of the best article I have found so far giving concrete guidelines for unrefrigerated living...

 

 
article "No Refrigeration? No Problem!  by Barbara Theisen

Barbara Theisen's family lived on board a sailboat for nearly 10 years without refrigeration. 
Some tips for living without refrigeration:
 
Meat:
1) cut back on meat by substituting beans or lentils for meat.
2) rely on freshly caught fish or seafood, but unless you have ice, do not catch more than you will eat in the next meal or two.
3) Provision with canned meats, either home canned or purchased.
4) Eggs can be stored without refrigeration IF you start with fresh eggs that have never been refrigerated.  In the US find a farm that sells fresh eggs.  Do not clean the shels as there is already a protective seal on the eggs you don't want to wash off.  The easiest way to keep eggs for a month or two without refrigeration is to simply turn the egg cartons over twice a week. Powdered eggs are also available and are a great substitution for any baking that calls for eggs in the recipe.
5) Nuts are another great source of protein and they store well on a boat. Add nuts to stir fries or salads or use peanut butter or almond butter to make sandwiches. Nuts make a great snack as well.
6) When you have access to a market where meat is available and you're in need of a carnivorous fix, plan on a meat based meal on shopping day.
7)  If you enjoy sampling the local cuisine while cruising, go out to eat occasionally and order a meat dish.
 
Milk
1)  Powdered milk is least expensive solution, storing well and widely available.  If you are just getting used to using it, gtry adding a bit of sugar,
a drop of vanilla, or use a chocolate milk or cocoa mix.  Here's a tip to cool down any beverage (milk, beer, etc.). Take a wet towel and wrap it around the can or bottle for a few minutes. Evaporation will help to cool the bottle a few degrees. Even if you don't like to drink the powdered milk, keep a good supply on hand for baking. Remember to mix only what you will need.
2) Long-life milk is milk that has been sterilized using Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization and sealed inside a box, so it does not spoil even at room temperature. It needs no refrigeration until opened. Even at room temperature you probably won't mind the taste of this on cereal. If we plan on having cereal and milk for breakfast and open a long life milk but have no ice in the ice box, I just plan on using some in my baking that morning - I usually bake in the AM when its cooler anyway.
3) Canned milk such as evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk is widely available.
 
Cream and Sour cream
1)  canned cream is available in other countries, but is hard to find in the US.  To sour it, add some vinegar to a can of cream and let sit an hour or two.
 
Cheese
1)  the harder the cheese, the longer its storage life.
2) buy cheese sealed in a heavy wax coating, if possible. As an alternative you can dip a piece of cheesecloth in vinegar, wrap the cheese in this and store in the coolest part of your boat.
3) Velveeta brand cheese and other American cheese products need no refrigeration.
 
Butter
1) Canned butter needs no refrigeration.  Buy canned butter from New Zealand or Ireland. 
2)  You can also save money by preserving your own butter. Sterilize jars with screw on lids. Cool on a clean surface. Next, boil one-quart water and four tablespoons of salt. Let cool. Place 2 sticks of butter (1/2 cup) in the sterilized jar. Fill jars with cooled water/salt mixture and screw on the tops of the jar. Your butter will keep for months.
3)  You can also can it using the melt and shake techniques discussed elsewhere.
4) Whipped margarine in plastic tubs will stay fresh for several months if left unopened. Butter flavored Crisco works great for many baking recipes and needs no refrigeration.
 
Yogurt
It's easy to make homemade yogurt using a thermos. 
 
Fruits and Vegetables
1)  Fresh:  many store well without refrigeration for weeks or even months.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, winter squash, turnips, apples, oranges, limes and lemons are good bets.
2) Use canned.  canned tomato products, canned corn and canned mushrooms to be excellent choices. I'm not a big fan of canned peas, although I love them fresh and frozen. We also enjoy canned fruits such as peaches, pears, pineapples and applesauce.
3)  Dehydration is an excellent way to preserve many foods.  You can buy many of these dried fruits and vegetables at a large grocery store or from a natural foods store or use either an electric dehydrator or a solar dryer to dry your own. However, solar dryers may not work well in humid climates.
 
Other Items
Many food items that you may have refrigerated back home don't actually need to be refrigerated. Soy sauce, hot sauce, peanut butter, mustards, pancake syrup, molasses, pickles, etc. need no refrigeration. Many cruisers keep opened mayonnaise without refrigeration. The trick is to never, ever introduce any other food into the mayonnaise jar. I recommend buying small jars of mayonnaise and tossing it if you are at all suspicious about its quality.
Find recipes to make your own fresh salad dressings and make just what you need at the time.
 
Edited by kappydell
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  • 2 weeks later...

the butter thing interests me, too...think I might give it a try....

 

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Not being argumentative! just asking, but why not just go the extra step and can the butter if you want to preserve it? I know neither way is recommended but adding water to something and not 'processing' it seems less safe than actually canning it.

 

Also, if you sterilize your jars and "cool on a clean surface" the jars are no longer sterile. There are new-ish guidelines for sterilizing canning jars that you are actually canning with. If you are pressure canning you don't need to sterilize your jars. If you are water bath canning and you are canning over so many minutes ( I THINK 15 minutes) you don't have to sterilize your jars. I couldn't find the minutes for water bath canning right now but will update it if/when I find it again. I run mine through the dishwasher right before I fill them. No dishwasher? Then hot soapy water and rinse well.

 

PS.

I'm not necessarily recommending canning butter. I've never done it. But if you are going to put butter in a jar and add water to it......

 

PPS.

Salt in canning is not a preservative. It's a flavor enhancer.

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:scratchhead:  Hmmm...  I don't know how to can butter  [tho strict rules say not to....]  So I don't know how that technique differs from this technique with water.

 

The main thing with any fats/oils is turning rancid.  So....would the water prevent the air from turning the oil/fat rancid?  [like turning the butter container over into a small pot of water on the table....old fashioned device].  Or do you add water also in the [not reccommended ] canning method too?

 

Anyway, I agree that if it's processed [waterbath/pressure can ?], the jar would be sanitized.  Letting cool.....not so much mebbe. 

 

MtRider ....missing too much data, I think.  Anyone actually try this or something similar?  [should we move to guerrilla gardening page??]  :shrug:

Edited by Mt_Rider
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Move it to guerilla gardening if you want to. There are quite a few Youtube videos on canning butter. I know your internet time is limited so I'll check some of them out and report back either tonight or tomorrow.

 

ANY NEWBIE READING THIS, CANNING BUTTER IS NOT RECOMMENDED!

Had to say that.

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Good job, Jeepers.  :sSig_thankyou:

 

This butter topic will get into more detail down in the forum called Guerrilla Gardening.  Ask Annarchy or Cat if you don't yet have access 'down under'. 

 

MtRider  .....other topics regarding the tips from the original post will continue here.  :wave:

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  • 1 year later...

I've canned butter AND cheese.  ickled eggs.  Bacon, both crispy-roll style and normal cooked limp style (still tastes good with beans).  Yes, I know you are not supposed to lots of this stuff.  I can post that stuff down in the Guerilla section if you want...along with the 1972 directions for calculating how long to process half-gallon cans if anybody still goes that big....but as always, for items posted in the Guerilla section....us at your own risk!   

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I'd like to try canning some crispy bacon bits for winter salads and such things. Whenever I get moved I need to fry up a bunch of bacon for the grease. I'm out. I'm thinking dry canning in half pints.

 

I haven't Googled/YouTubed it yet though. I have big canning plans for next summer. 

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I jarred up several half pints of cooked sausage and hamburger.  Just open a jar, dump it in the skillet or pan of food and it's done!  I've jarred up several half pints of raw bacon, and I just dump it into a skillet and fry it up as bacon bits.  I didn't go to the trouble of frying them, wrapping them in parchment paper and then jarring them up.  There's a few old time youtubers that did the parchment thing though.

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I canned some pints of sausage for sausage gravy. I got the really mild Jimmy Dean and canned that. I add seasoning, mostly sage or poultry seasoning, when I cook it up. Sage can go bitter after canning so that's why I get the mild and season later. 

 

I think the next time I can it I'll do half pints too. Maybe find some unseasoned ground pork and can that. I suppose they make sausage seasoning? That way I could can the 'sausage' and season it while cooking it. I need to do some more Googling first. 

 

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On 10/24/2018 at 11:15 AM, Jeepers said:

I canned some pints of sausage for sausage gravy. I got the really mild Jimmy Dean and canned that. I add seasoning, mostly sage or poultry seasoning, when I cook it up. Sage can go bitter after canning so that's why I get the mild and season later. 

 

I think the next time I can it I'll do half pints too. Maybe find some unseasoned ground pork and can that. I suppose they make sausage seasoning? That way I could can the 'sausage' and season it while cooking it. I need to do some more Googling first. 

 

 

"Somewhere" on youtube there's a video by BexarPrepper, Linda's Pantry and another lady who make "meatless" sausage (which tastes great by the way, I've made it several times) and the seasonings they use would be great for plain ground pork or ground turkey.

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