Living Without a Fridge
'Living Without' series - Part 1
Friday, September 9, 2016
When I tell people we live off-grid, the questions they ask usually start with 'how do you live without (...)'. The first one being 'How do you live without a fridge?'
We didn't wake up one day, deciding that a fridge was not going to be part of our house. As most of the decisions with our journey to live off-grid, it started out as debating with my husband what we could afford (in time and money) when we built our house. Prioritizing what we thought was important. We made lists and plans, and realized very fast that we couldn't know what we truly needed because we always had it.
The only certainty was that we needed shelter, so we started with building our house. Once that was established, the plan was to move in as fast as possible, and then once in the house, necessities would emerge naturally. After moving in, something we didn't really expect happened. We just really enjoyed the reward of our hard work. I took great pride in a simple pile of washed dishes, having hauled the water from the well, and warmed the water on the stove. I took great pride in simple meals I would prepare for my family because I knew how much work went into cutting and splitting the wood used in the cookstove.
Our sweat, frustration, failures, and tears, but also successes, new skills, time shared with friends and family, were in that meal, in that pile of clean dishes. We were surrounded by the fruits of our labor, sheltered and warmed by it.
So how do we live without a fridge? We have a cooler, that we fill with ice every couple of days. We buy the ice from the local shop down the road in the summer and go to the stream to break and gather some ice in the winter.
Our stream near the house, in the winter, where we collect ice
Collecting ice for the fridge
We empty the water from the melted ice every day, and things stay at a very (surprisingly) even temperature. Of course, we spoiled a lot of food, in the beginning, having no idea how much could fit safely in the cooler, and how much ice to have to keep everything cool. We learned that if we don't wash our eggs, we can keep those eggs out of a fridge. We learned that cheese is fine left outside for a few days in the cool days of fall and spring. And we learned that a stream is great to keep beer cool 6 months out of a year.
And then, the most important aspect of not having a fridge is that we adapted our diet to the seasons. We have some staples that we always have in every season that needs refrigeration, milk, yogurt and cheese mainly. We avoid eating meat and fish in the summer months and use cheese and eggs for our main source of protein. When we have fish or meat, it is the day we went to the store. We tend to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, rice, pasta, quinoa, and bread. In the summer months, we have a garden. I harvest greens a few minutes before we eat them, and whatever is left at the end of the meal is given to the chickens. We spread out our harvests to minimize the need to store them.
Our canning for this year, an ongoing project. From left to right: tomato sauce, applesauce, raw honey, pickles, jam, and maple syrup.
After a year, it is safe to say that the fridge was not a necessity for us, and will not appear in our house anytime soon. It became an option when our solar capacity reached a certain point. We decided the humming sound wasn't worth it, especially after researching other options (root cellar, storing ice, etc.)
But as we have learned with a lot of our projects, we can still attain the same results thinking beyond the mainstream methods. We just needed to live without a fridge, to come up with a better solution to our true needs. We could live without a fridge, but not without refrigeration.
I also write about other subjects, and have been writing about the NewVistas project unfolding in my town. You can read all my stories at dailyUV.com/VeryVermont. And you can sign up for email updates HERE.