In most people’s minds they don’t. Fridge’s are seen as an essential part of the home, and even in the depths of winter people will pay to heat their homes then cool the air in a fridge. Domestic refrigerators have been available for less than a century yet now most people see them as vital components of their homes. Cold appliances are responsible for 20% of electricity usage in British homes. Our family successfully lives fridge free and I want to share how we have achieved this. It delights me to have enviable electricity bills currently £1 a month and to be part of combatting the myth that we need a fridge.
We discovered the joys of fridge-free living when we moved into a narrowboat about 10 years ago and realised that if we were going to use solar and wind for electricity (not the noisy engine or gas) then we could not afford the luxury of a fridge. When we later moved back into bricks and mortar, we felt a societal expectation to get one now that we had mains electricity. Eventually, we were given an old one as a gift, but even now we rarely turn it on.
So how do we keep our food fresh? Products like cheese, ham and salami last for a good few days in a coolish place. On the boat, we learned the hard way to use clean utensils in products such as jam, mayonnaise, pickles, and margarine to keep them from growing mould. Things like pesto, marmalade, ketchup and jam that instruct you to keep refrigerated will keep for months if they are not contaminated by other foodstuffs. We enjoy explaining to visitors when they sit down to eat and asking them to only use a jammy knife in the jam, not to put any crumbs in the margarine, etc. At mealtimes we put out lots of extra knives and spoons if it is a meal with bread and spreads. This would be good practice for anyone who is thinking they might want to turn their fridge off, even just when going away for a while. We tend to buy uncooked meat as we need it and cook it within a day. We eat leftovers within 2 days or compost them. I became intolerant of cow’s milk shortly before giving up the fridge, which is fortunate because it’s one of the few products that does go off quickly. Instead we drink rice or hemp milk, which keep well outside a fridge in all but the very hottest few days of the year.
Two unglazed teracotta pots with a difference in diameter of about 8cm;
(The smaller pot can be glazed on the inside to keep food drier);
A bag of sand;
Funnel or plastic bag with a corner cut off;
Plant pot saucer or plate bigger than the larger pot;
Plan pot saucer or plate that fits inside the smaller pot;
A lid such as a plate, wet towel, piece of polystyrene, plant pot holder or in our case an upturned woven basket.
Place the pots in a well-ventilated area where they will remain (the finished product will be heavy);
Fill the larger pot with sand so that the tops of the two pots are at the same level;
Place the smaller pot centrally inside and pour sand in the gap using a funnel or plastic bag with a hole in it;
Place smaller upturned saucer in the base;
Put your lid on;
Fill the large plant pot saucer with water;
Wait for it to cool and arrange your food inside.
• Make it easy for your refrigerator to stay cool by putting it in a cool place, and letting hot food cool down to room temperature before you put it in;
• Clean your coils, clear clutter off the top, and defrost on a regular basis to improve efficiency;
• Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed. Each minute a fridge door is open it can take three energy-hungry minutes for it to cool down again;
• Pack the freezer. It takes less energy for a full freezer to stay cool than it does an empty one. Use plastic bottles filled with water or newspaper if you don’t have enough food to fill it;
• If your appliances are getting old but still work well, try a Savaplug (www.savawatt.com). This gadget reduces the flow of electricity to your fridge to match the actual amount it needs, making it more efficient.