What It’s Like to Live Without a Refrigerator and How to Adapt

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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

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

 

What It\'s Like to Live Without a Refrigerator and How to Adapt
J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

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

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21 Responses

    1. Dear Leonard,
      Yes, I´m aware as it is a disease we were very cautious of, being in Venezuela. That´s why I prefer to proceed with some products already processed with nitrites and other salts.
      Thanks for the warning!

  1. I had a 22 cf propane refrigerator. 80% of it was always empty. I then brought a small 2.5 cf refrigerator/dorm room size. Now I have an old ice box (oak) that we converted into a 12 volt refrigerator. A lot of things people put in the refrigerator often does not need to be refrigerated. I don’t refrigerate my eggs. It is actually better not to refrigerate eggs because the cholesterol is developed in the egg when it is cold. However, I get my eggs from the barn and not a store. I realize that the eggs don’t last as long as when refrigerated. There are ways of storing eggs over winter in silica water, freezing them or dehydrating them. In Europe they flash pasteurize the eggs and milk so they don’t put them in a refrigerator. The referred to them as shelf stable. My goal was not to be overly depended on the refrigerator. My freezer is my next project. I plan to do more canning of meat, so it is already cooked.

    Butter can be made into ghee,which again reduces the need for a refrigerator. Even switching to powder milk could be an option.

    1. Jose,
      I forgot about this one method that was I looked into a while back that may work where you are at. It takes a little initial investment.

      A Zeer Pot works through evaporative cooling. To make one, you will need two unglazed Terra Cotta pots that will nest together and leave a space between the pots, wet sand to fill that space, and a wet cloth. Place the smaller pot inside the larger pot, fill the space between the pots with the sand, and cover your pot-in-pot with the wet cloth. As the water evaporates, it pulls the warm air outward, causing the inside of the pot to be cooler than the outside air. Place whatever you want to keep cool in the inner pot. Dampen the sand and cloth as needed.

        1. Yeup. That was going to be my answer. LOL. We don´t have low humidity. On the contrary, on my hutch is usually over 85% the whole year.

  2. I’ve always loved dried meat and always will. Sometimes when I need a break I go for the canned venison. If you have a good method for drying the beef and you have a lot of it try grinding some up for chili and tacos. Top it off with smoked cheese or waxed cheese. I think it tastes better when it’s smoked. I buy meat once a week from the butcher and if it isn’t smoked it immediately goes into stew or chili. I have no need for refrigeration and I don’t eat meat that has been frozen. Freezing ruins the texture.

  3. This is about the ancient use of wood ash to preserve food — that even WHO (World Health Organization) still recommends today:

    https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-early-humans-in-today-s-israel-used-ash-as-their-freezer-1.9219590

    Plus this article on 30 uses for wood ash that you never knew about — that I found buried inside archive.org:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20140302103705/https://humblelore.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/30-uses-for-wood-ashes-you-never-thought-of/

    It includes this tidbit as item #29:
    29. No fridge? No worries! You can preserve your fruits and vegetables for many days, even years, by digging a hole in the ground and filling it with ash. Add your veg and fruit, ensuring enough space between them, so that they do not touch each other, or the muddy ground. Seal the hole with a piece of wood, and you let it be.

    A question not addressed above is whether the type of tree makes a significant difference in the quality of wood ash that’s produced — or not — just as some kinds of trees are far better to make useful tinder for fire starting than others. That would take some more digging.

    –Lewis

    1. Dear Lewis,

      I had a couple of articles about preserving with hash, but these are quite good too. They made their way to my files.

  4. We lived for months,without any power g hen got solar power. Then something in that set up went out and we’re without power again.
    S dorm size refrigerator dits out by my front steps. A full size refrigerator sits in gh red kitchen. If j get power again the little one will be plenty.
    We don’t refrigerate our eggs, in winter i keep food outside in a big old trunk. Im hoping to get a root cellar dug to store food in. if will be cool enough to keep meat and milk a few days. Working on a smoker to make meats last longer.
    If we ever have power again wonderful. If not then so be it. Soups can be kept on a slow fire and used for a few days that way. Then start a new pot. I butcher young chickens and rabnits so there isn’t much that goes to waste. Powdered milk cooled at night tastes passable with breakfast. Or just reconstitute as needed. Find ways to use perishables up quickly. In hot weather dry food to preserve it or can excesses.
    Laundry is simple. 3, 5 gallon buckets and a new heavy duty toilet plunger. Soap water water is the rotation. Sometimes white vinegar in that final rinse helps soften the laundry. Drying outside with a breeze softens towels. Pants hung to dry folded on folds don’t need much if any ironing. Dry shirts on a hanger and they come out wearable also.
    Lots of ways to live without power or refrigeration. An lld cabovef camper is our warm weather guest house. It has a 3 way refrigerator in it. I haven’t checked it out. I guess if it works on 12v I could use the solar battery charger. I just haven’t felt the need. If hubby wants ice cream we either stop for a cone in town or buy some, eat what we want then give it to the neighbor kids. They won’t let it spoil.

    1. Dear clergylady,

      That´s a simpler lifestyle that we need to embrace. We could live with so many less trouble. Anyway is not something many young people is willing to do.
      My brother thinks I´m crazy because told him I´m going to arrive and start digging a 80 cubic meters deep for water storage in our hutch. He says “better pay a machinist to do that”. But we´re so far away town that just transporting the machine would be as expensive as the work itself. So, those are going to be quite a few interesting pictures of the before start digging, and the after pond-digging. If I make it through. LOL:

  5. When I was in my 20s we lived in a small rural area where the power was off for a couple of times a week. We had a fridge but we didn’t keep much in it. And no freezer . I didn’t think much about it, was just the way it was. I did a shop once a week when we went to town about an hour away. So meat was cooked on the first few days of the shop and towards the end of the week it was meatless meals. Eggs were always fresh from the neighbours so no worries there. You just do what you need to do to get through. Good luck with your travels and thanks for sharing !

    1. Dear Izzy,

      Thanks for sharing that with us, too. It seems we intuitively just get used to do what it takes. For some people eating just vegetables or no meat for a few days would seem crazy. I´m way over that, because I know how lucky I am for having something to eat, even if it is beans and vegetables.
      I will try to write while travelling, too. It´s important to document all that.
      Stay tuned buddy!

  6. Could I just preserve everything in Mason jars with vinegar or vodka and call it good?

    Also, I bought (25 yrs ago) a Rubbermaid shed 4’w x 7’h x 2’d. Its right by my backdoor (North exposure) Use it from Fall-Spring for eggs, produce.

    What else might be ok in there?
    Thank you! You’re all so smart!

    1. Dude, that vodka canning would certainly make an interesting stew.

      As far as my research went (and still is) every different human settlement all over the world had different means to preserve different kind of meat. I believe vinegar was used in the far West in the 18th Century. Maybe you could cure some ham or jerky and hang it in that shed?

  7. I’ve been without a fridge a few times in the past. Remember, if you have your own chickens, the eggs will stay shelf stable for at least a couple weeks provided you don’t wash off the protective membrane or let them get to incubation temperature. It’s how a hen can lay a large clutch of eggs then start sitting on them all at once – the old ones have to stay good long enough to still be viable before she sets.

    Using the weather is definitely a good thing, whether for refrigerating, freezing, or drying. Also there are many things that might not really need to be refrigerated. Some plants can be put in water, like fresh herbs for example, so they actually stay alive for a while. Tomatoes are better when not refrigerated. The moment my fridge died this last time, we cooked everything because cooked food lasts longer than raw.

    1. Dear Redbranch,
      Some Venezuelans are so incapable to survive that, even with the difficulties to find food, people I know has left their food to spoil “because dang government shot the lights down”.
      They didn´t even COOK the stuff to make it last. That´s the target public I´m no interested in reaching on. I´ve published already some calls for my biogas project, but the response has been awful. I´m going to prepare it though, maybe people will see results and offer better response to not online-training.

  8. Jose, some of this will overlap with what you already know, but there may be some surprises as well:

    Living without a Refrigerator – It Can Be Done!,
    By Richard Andrews, 24 Oct 2020

    https://www.dailypreppernews.com/living-without-a-refrigerator-it-can-be-done/

    I think you’ll especially get a chuckle from seeing the “periodic table of condiments” in that article … even though you might need to click on it a time or two to enlarge it enough to read some of the tiny print.

    I don’t know if you’ve thought about this: there are millions of Americans facing likely evictions from their rental housing as federal moratoriums on evictions are expiring in a couple of months — following the many months of Covid-19 triggered lockdowns which have destroyed their jobs or businesses. People who have lost their incomes that have been paying on their home mortgages may be facing possible foreclosures. Your ongoing descriptions of what it takes to survive under conditions of privation are invaluable advance notices to such people that could spare some of them incalculable amounts of grief as many of them may be forced into “going nomadic.”

    –Lewis

    1. Dear Lewis, That´s awful. Evictions after you were forced to go bankruptcy? That sounds like an evil plot to me. Almost like forcing 5 million people to migrate destroying the economy and the production means. The scenario you mention is very likelly, sadly.

      All we worked so hard in our lives is suddenly taken from us.

      Someone has to be made responsible for that.

  9. I’ve run across a canning group (Rebel Canners) and I’ve learned that you can can just about anything with a pressure canner. I’ve done milk, cream, mushrooms, dry canned potatoes, carrots and chicken. Canned all sorts of fruits, you can can butter or make ghee and can it, can bacon, bacon fat, lard. If it’s canned in the store you can probably can it. You might want to look into that. You can also reuse your canning lids if you open them very carefully or learn to use reusable lids. And you can take it with you when you leave. I’ve read on their site you can reuse glass jars that you’ve purchased food in. They especially note classico spaghetti sauce jars, a jar with a lid that has a liner.

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