We Make Do Without A Refrigerator

Learn how this homesteading couple managed to survive without the modern comforts afforded by a fridge, and maybe consider doing the same.

| July/August 1976

  • fridge
    The refrigerator is a thing of the past for one homesteading couple.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/FOTOVIKA

  • fridge

If the Joenses can do it in south-central Texas... you should be able to do it no matter where you live!

About a year ago, we cranked our courage up and took a big step in the direction of self-sufficiency: we began to live without any refrigeration.

Since our somewhat remote home has no electricity, we'd been relying on two butane-powered fridges to keep our perishables cold. We'd also been watching in quiet desperation as butane prices soared out of sight. (It got to be downright maddening after a while.) Finally, when our gas bill went from astronomical to absurd, we just said, "That's it. No more refrigeration for us."

For the next week—as a steadily growing lump formed in our collective throat—we waited for the butane to run out. I guess, to be honest about it, we sorta hoped that final bottle of fuel would last forever . . . because when it was finally empty and the coolers' flames went out, we immediately panicked. Or to put it another way, our position was the classic one in which necessity suddenly becomes the mother of invention.



Then again, we didn't actually invent anything in the weeks that followed. We did, however, discover a few of the wholesome changes in one's lifestyle that can occur in the course of learning to live without refrigeration. And we found that the changeover to a freezerless existence was not as hard to make as we had imagined.

As we prepared for the switch, we asked some older friends how they'd gotten by without refrigerators years ago, BE (before electricity). Their answers usually involved putting milk and butter in a cistern, or storing perishables in a screened-in enclosure covered with a damp cloth (evaporation from the cloth would keep the box's contents somewhat cool).

epc
8/4/2019 11:16:44 PM

Just to expand upon the dangers of having to keep food at high enough temperatures to kill bacteria, this is especially important with starches (pasta, potatoes, and rice). The bacteria which is found on dry rice is inert when the rice is dried, but as soon as water is added, the bacteria will start growing. Boiling it until its cooked will kill some, but not all of the bacteria, which can of themselves be dangerous, but that's not the only problem. That's why you should cool and refrigerate rice as quickly as possible after its cooked. Any time the rice is between a certain favorable temperature range, not only will the remaining bacteria grow, but they also produce toxins that are not killed by heat. The toxins are just as problematic as the bacteria, if not more so. So my recommendation would be either leave the potatoes out of your stew if you're making more than you can eat in one sitting, or make them separately, just as much as you can eat per meal, and add them in when you're ready to eat. (I got this information I think its either the Australian or the New Zealand equivalent of the USDA, which was very useful, as I'd never read this information before.)


epc
8/4/2019 11:15:29 PM

Just to expand upon the dangers of having to keep food at high enough temperatures to kill bacteria, this is especially important with starches (pasta, potatoes, and rice). The bacteria which is found on dry rice is inert when the rice is dried, but as soon as water is added, the bacteria will start growing. Boiling it until its cooked will kill some, but not all of the bacteria, which can of themselves be dangerous, but that's not the only problem. That's why you should cool and refrigerate rice as quickly as possible after its cooked. Any time the rice is between a certain favorable temperature range, not only will the remaining bacteria grow, but they also produce toxins that are not killed by heat. The toxins are just as problematic as the bacteria, if not more so. So my recommendation would be either leave the potatoes out of your stew if you're making more than you can eat in one sitting, or make them separately, just as much as you can eat per meal, and add them in when you're ready to eat. (I got this information I think its either the Australian or the New Zealand equivalent of the USDA, which was very useful, as I'd never read this information before.)


looms
12/1/2017 8:44:50 AM

I've never had refrigeration and am 55 years old. I am an ovovegitarian however so it's been easy. I also live alone so I only cook what I'll be eating that day.






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