I would really like to know how to live without a fridge. I know there are people out there who’ve done it, simply switched it off and then figured out the rest. They report things like shopping more frequently, eating less meat and dairy, using up jars of things quickly after opening them, and doing a kind of “pot sterilisation” of soups and stews so that leftovers can be eaten the next day. I can see us doing the latter two, but raw milk and stocks form the backbone of my nutrition policy, and I don’t want to cut down on either of them. We have milk delivered once a week and shop fortnightly at the farmer’s market. I’m trying to learn how to shop less frequently, not more often.
When I built my house I put a tiny little bar fridge in my kitchen and lived with that for four years. When Paula moved in she brought with her a big fridge, which we parked in the laundry and have since called the Back Fridge. She also brought with her a chest freezer, installed next to the Back Fridge. Now what I would like to do is turn off the Back Fridge. We can keep the little fridge in the house for milk, cheese and leftovers, and the chest freezer for longer term storage of fish, meat, butter, milk etc. I reckon we could do it and live very comfortably. It’s a matter of working out how to store the things that are currently in the Back Fridge or making up new systems so we don’t need it.
A fair bit of the Back Fridge is devoted to storing my fermented drinks – kvass, kefir soda, buttermilk etc. My solution to this is to simply make smaller quantities of the drinks on a more frequent basis. This is what I do on tour, and as a result I can do all my drinks fridge-free. But it’s more work and right now I’ve got so much happening it’s a bit daunting to take on another daily job.
Most of the Back Fridge is dedicated to storage of vegetables. I’ve been experimenting with sandboxes for storage of vegies, and so far I’m feeling positive. I have some polystyrene boxes with lids under the dining table, which I’ve filled with clean sand. When we get home from the farmer’s market I plant beetroot, carrots and fresh onions in the sand and they have come out delightfully fresh and crisp two weeks later. Better than they keep in the fridge. i tried a little plastic bag of beans buried in the sand but they went mouldy. Maybe I need to put beans directly in the sand – must experiment next time.
I’ve read that you can keep leafy greens such as asparagus, broccoli, lettuce and silverbeet in a glass jar of water on the bench, as long as you change the water daily. I think you can do this for a few days, but after that they don’t look too good. Paula banished my glass-jar greens to the fridge after a few days and I think she was right. I’m hoping that in time my garden will provide enough of our greens that we don’t need to buy many, or that we buy them fortnightly, use them up within a few days, and then eat for ten days from root vegies and garden produce. Must experiment to see if I can store asparagus, cabbage and broccoli in sand.
We use the Back Fridge to cool a huge pot of stock overnight, so that we can skim the fat off the top in the morning before we freeze it. I think we can do this by timing our stock-making so that we do it when we need to defrost milk. We put it in an esky with a couple of bottles of frozen milk, and hopefully that will do the trick. Must experiment.
I did a swap with Paula so that she would dig me a root cellar, so that we can put things like extra jars of kimchi or jam down there and they will keep cooler than they would on the bench or in a sandbox. Unfortunately when she started digging in the designated spot she hit a pipe. Bummer. I haven’t worked out whether we reroute the pipe, cut through it (it houses our landline which we have disconnected), or relocate the cellar.
Living without a fridge would probably require a bit more work, in the sense that I have to do daily drink-management, and probably we’d spend a fair bit more time carefully packing and going through the little fridge to keep it efficient, and I don’t feel quite up to taking it on as a big focus yet. But I feel myself taking little steps in the right direction and learning some of the storage skills I need. Maybe I’ll inch myself towards the day when I can flick the switch.