What It’s Like to Live Without a Refrigerator and How to Adapt
by J.G. Martinez
Have you ever wondered what you would do if you had food items that needed to be kept refrigerated, but did not have a refrigerator or even a cooler? Maybe some of you have experienced your fridge not working.
One of the most inconvenient things I’ve had to adapt to is not having the means to keep my food cold. In Venezuela, I had a couple of fridges and a chest freezer.
Why don’t you have a refrigerator?
The standard of living here is just different. With the cost of energy here, having a laundry machine is not worth it. This country has the potential for hydroelectric, but that would require energy transporting. And energy transporting is expensive because of the rough terrain.
The same goes for a refrigerator. Many rentals here now do not have refrigerators or laundry machines, or any appliances. Renting a place with furniture? I wish. The half-million Venezuelans who came by the payloads two years ago have already taken up residency in the better vacancies available.
Many of you probably do not have to worry about a lack of refrigeration in your current situation. Perhaps some of you have even acquired extra refrigerators and other supplies in the event that you should need them. Where I am, and in my current situation, that is not possible.
How do you manage without a refrigerator?
The grocery store is within walking distance, and I can walk to the Mom and Pop shop around the corner. Living without a fridge means I have to do that nearly every day if I buy foods that need refrigeration. I don’t want to have to do that, but I will do what is necessary to feed my boy and myself.
Back in the day, salt and sun-drying were the main preservation methods. Fish and beef meals were prepared using the salt and sun method. I have tasted brown beans with salt pork, and it’s something from another world, from days already long gone. I have not had anything like it since.
One way of getting by without a fridge is to use MARE’s (homemade, primitive style Meals ALMOST Ready to Eat). MARE’s are prepared by adding boiling water and cooking for a while. I’m trying some different recipes of my own.
Kiddo is a picky eater, so if he eats it, surely others will be able to eat it too. I’m not picky. My brother says I would eat a boiled stone with enough seasoning on it, and ask for seconds. Charming, isn’t it?
Why don’t you buy a refrigerator?
We have been living without a fridge or a freezer for 2.5 years. Many people are probably asking, “How in the world can you do that?” We have had to adapt, we had no other choice but to adapt.
I have no plans on staying here, I am going back, and I hope to make it soon. Installing an appliance now would be a waste of money, and if I were to do that, my rent would go up! If I were to purchase a fridge, I would have to sell it, or leave it here, taking a loss. I do not want to do that. We have the minimum comforts we need until we return home.
There have been times I craved a cold beer during the summer. So, I walked to the corner shop. A bit of an indulgence, but well worth it.
Not having a refrigerator has given me time to conceptualize and design something that would be better suited to a nomadic lifestyle. That’s a good thing. You know me, I love to experiment.
Have you found a way to keep things cool?
Kiddo and I found a cool place in the hallway, in front of our room. Everything kept there, in containers, stays moderately fresh during the winters. 14-19 Celsius. I’d say that’s reasonably chilly. We call that small little place the “fridge.”
We have made some orange juice or lemonade and placed it in the “fridge,” and it was quite good at that temperature. Same with eggs, fruits, and vegetables, they keep fresh there. It was cold enough there for butter and cheese to last a few days. Being the cheese and butter lovers that we are for our arepas, it never lasts long anyway.
My point is, you can survive without a fridge. And if you have access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and dairy, then there will be no problem at all. For those of you with very cold winters, you can freeze everything and keep them underground with sawdust in a cellar, as the old-timers did.
Living in a large city does have its advantages. If you really can’t live without a cold beverage, and you have the income to do so, you can always buy a cooler and some ice.
Have you tried other ways of preserving food?
I have done some research on organic cultivation, hydroponics, and aquaponic systems. Three days ago, I found hydroponic lettuce in the supermarket and bought it. Today I took the time to make a salad: nothing fancy, just a cucumber, two tomatoes, and the lettuce, a little seasoning, and olive oil. The lettuce was kept in the cool place, and it was just fine.
Eggs have been preserved, so a dozen eggs last three weeks. Although now, with summer hitting us, we will only buy a few eggs at a time, instead of a dozen, and will try to consume them right away.
I found a means to dehydrate and prepare powder eggs. I will have to do some experimenting. Kiddo needs proteins, and these eggs, properly prepared with (dried of course) herbs, will make an omelet he can’t refuse. ( I hope.)
Has it been expensive and time-consuming to experiment?
After my last experiment with drying meat, I decided to try a different way.
Here are the items needed:
- Green mosquito screen: 1-meter long x 1.2 meters wide: 5 Peruvian soles
- The skimmer: 4 Peruvian soles
- Glass: 10 Peruvian soles
- Some aluminum foil and rice: Already had
Total: 19-20 Peruvian soles. That comes to about $7.00 USD. (If I wanted some meat and a carrot add about 10 more Peruvian Soles.)
Kiddo is in charge of keeping track of how much sun time the staples are receiving. He has enthusiastically volunteered himself to the experiment after eating ALL of the first dried meat batch!)
It does not matter that the next few days may be cloudy. Even if it’s cloudy, the UV rays will be enough to generate the needed interaction with the meat proteins and take the water out. The wind will also play a supporting role in this.
How much food do you think you can prepare using this method?
With this small setup, we can dry enough stuff for one ration in a couple of days. That ration will be stored, and then another batch will be made. After a couple of months, we should have enough rations to feed ourselves for three weeks in the COVID camp, provided we can come back this year.
I will be experimenting with different meats, fish, and maybe pork. Peruvians have warned me about buying pork in the market. I will buy Jamon del Pais, also called Country Ham, to sun dry. It comes ready to preserve with a special mixture of nitrites.
One recipe I have decided to name “combat stew,” just so kiddo can have a blast when he comes back and tells it to Uncle, Granny, and Grampa. More experiments to come.
And remember, you read it here first: The Organic Prepper, that has kindly allowed me to write and share with you, my readers. Thank you all for supporting us on our journey. You are appreciated.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151
About the Author
About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151