Living without a refrigerator

Since yesterday I have been doing some digging both in my brain and online to learn which foods can safely be purchased and not refrigerated.  I have learned a great deal and am currently questioning why refrigerators have become a necessary appliance in our homes.  I want to thank everyone for the wonderful ideas for what to do with my non-working fridge, you are all brilliant.

There are some foods I have always known didn’t need refrigeration. Some I eat, some I choose not to.  I have also found that people who live on board a boat have experimented the most with living without refrigeration and have gathered quite a list.  Time to share what I have learned.

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First from my own memories

  • Butter:  I don’t know about margarine, it wasn’t something we ate, but butter was never refrigerated in our home so it’s one of those things I have refrigerated only on those really hot days.
  • Mustard:  I always questioned this, but we never got sick so I can tell you this doesn’t need to be refrigerated either.  As an adult I have never gotten used to the feel of such a cold condiment on a sandwich.  Yes, I know it says to refrigerate on the package, but you can ignore that.
  • Maple Syrup:  Another item we never refrigerated, but I’m talking about real maple syrup. I can’t promise you that Aunt Jemima brand will last it’s something you would have to experiment with, but who wants to buy that after having the real thing anyway?
  • Ketchup: Nope we never kept this in the fridge either.
  • Honey:  Ditto.  In time your honey may crystallize but that’s not a problem just set the container in a bowl or cup of hot water and it will soften for use.
  • Relish and Pickles:  My sister had a thing for pickles.  She used to sneak in our pantry and open a jar, eat a few, then hide that jar on the back of a shelf. We learned about her pantry raids when needing a new jar of pickles we found all the jars filled with nothing but the liquid.  Pickles were never refrigerated at home, with the exception of one type of pickle that were home canned. I never asked why, but will tell you I have learned today that it’s not uncommon to keep pickles in the pantry after opening.
  • Molasses: Past generations loved baking with molasses, it sat in the pantry year round and never went bad.
  • Other things we never refrigerated: Potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes,  yams, squashes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant,  and most fruits. The only fruits we stored in the fridge were berries if we weren’t able to eat them within 24-48 hours.
  • Pepperoni: While I have never enjoyed the taste of this, it’s one you can buy and keep safely almost indefinitely.

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A few surprises I learned today

This list comes from Wind Traveler, from living on a boat for extended periods of time.

  • Eggs: Yes, even if bought commercially you can safely store eggs up to 10 days if you turn them daily so the yolk doesn’t settle and stick to the shell. Who knew?
  • Oil-based salad dressings: Dressings such as Thousand Island (my favorite guilty pleasure) don’t required refrigeration. Just check that your dressing is oil based, that’s the key.
  • Jam: There must be a big difference between jam and jelly.  Reading this I remembered jam was never kept in the fridge but jelly was.  You might want to do more research if you eat jelly, I prefer jams so this won’t be an issue for me.
  • Juice:  Once opened you will need to consume it within 2 days.  I don’t buy juice often but this is good to know.
  • Mayonnaise: Is it because it’s oil based?  You can keep your mayo out as long as you use clean utensils and don’t contaminate it with other foods.
  • Kraft Cheese slices:  Like most foods this is labeled as needing to be refrigerated, but experimenting they learned this is one that doesn’t.

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The following list of foods comes from a free PDF you can download from here.  The  main point to keep in mind on the produce is that it should never have been refrigerated prior to your purchasing it.  That would eliminate most of the commercial produce I could buy right now, but something to keep in mind once the farmers markets re-open.

  • Carrots
  • Green Peppers
  • Ice berg lettuce
  • Romaine Hearts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli
  • Other vegetables use up in less than a week if not refrigerated
  • Most fruits:  The one exception being berries which spoil after a day or two left out.
  • Cheese if kept wrapped in wax
  • Yogurt:  if purchased commercially yogurt will last up to 3 weeks without refrigeration.

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Here’s what I learned today to summarize for those of you who skimmed these lists:

The only food that requires refrigeration are milk and meat

  • Wait!! There is an exception:  If you want to store meat without refrigeration you can ask your butcher to vacuum pack it and deep freeze it. It will last now up to a week if kept in an insulated bag with a block of ice with it.

So what do you eat that needs a refrigerator?  For me that would be left-overs.  Once I purchase a freezer I will simply store my leftovers in the freezer in portion sizes to remove later.

I’m left wondering why no one ever questions the necessity of a refrigerator with this size list of foods that can be stored safely without one.  Do you  have foods you can add to this list for me?

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99 thoughts on “Living without a refrigerator

    1. You’re welcome. I don’t keep many condiments, I just don’t eat them often enough to justify buying them. Mustard and ketchup are two that are usually here though. We had one shelf next to the stove where we stored our frequently stored condiments when I was growing up so we didn’t have to walk to the pantry as often.

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  1. Interesting how this “wondering why no one ever questions the necessity of a refrigerator” matches so well with with your post a few days ago about doing things simply by habit (renters insurance). Thanks for opening my eyes. After reading your list of foods, I’m happy to be a healthy vegan. 🙂

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    1. You know Tessa, I didn’t put together the link between my post about doing things out of habit and the fridge, I guess I just jumped head first into research and didn’t stop to give it much thought. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I have been vegan many times, and would like to again. Every blue moon I will eat a little cheese and I still eat eggs and honey is a standard during flu season but I’m happy where I am as well.

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  2. We use our fridge mostly for storage. So some things go in there that I’d rather keep out, but with only 18 inches of counter space, that fridge has to Be put to use! We do like our milk cold, but it’s fresh, so it doesn’t ever go bad even if left out, it just gets cultured. We do a lot of fermented foods, which appreciate room temp. If you read old cookbooks, even Julia Child, meats are left at room temp to age. Of course, you need to have clean meat to start with. Anything preserved, smoked/pickled/fermented, etc, can stay out. That’s why its preserved in the first place. I think we as a culture started putting those things in the fridge because we got lazy about cross-contamination in the home, and bad hygiene in the food chain. People around here live on boats, and you’d be amazed how little a fridge you can get by on! And a good cooler for those special family dinners ( used for storage in the meantime)

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    1. I feel like I’ve come full circle to a year and a half ago when I first moved in here and tried to live without a stove or fridge for the first time in my life, only this time I feel more prepared for the adventure. The stove has been no problem a couple things made life easy (rice cooker and slow cooker). Now that I know that the majority of what I eat doesn’t need refrigeration I am thrilled to stop and think about using the space under the counter in a better way. I plan to build/or find shelves that will fit under there and store my food on it instead of the counter top. It will be neater and handy at the same time.

      One plus is that I can say right at this moment (at least until I have the freezer) I am using less electricity than I ever thought was possible. It feels good and makes me realize we could all live a little more sustainably in terms of the planet and it’s resources.

      While I grew up along the Lake Erie, I never thought to talk to people who live on boats to see how they deal with refrigeration. I believe now fridges simply became a convenience to store foods longer not an actual necessity for life.

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  3. I seem to recall somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain something about keeping eggs in cool water so they’d last longer than just on the counter… but I also recall something that if you wash eggs it removes some sort of natural coating which keeps them from going bad. This would seem to imply that the water thing is a bad idea.

    OK, that was less than helpful! But “Beyond Back Creek” is right – so many of the foods we eat are already “preserved.” That was the whole point of making them in the first place! Vinegar, sugar, salt, pickling, fermenting and culturing all somehow retard the growth of bacteria or something like that. I think with many foods it’s a matter of how long they will keep without refrigeration… like they don’t instantly go bad if not kept refrigerated.

    The only suggestion I have for you is with berries. When I lived in Norway we’d often go out picking berries. We’d come home with a HUGE basket full of them. The standard thing to do was to wash them thoroughly and then sprinkle sugar on top. You’d keep adding sugar, let it sit, then stir and repeat until you had a nice jelly/jam like concoction. It would just sit covered on the countertop for several days – I don’t recall any refrigeration being involved. Of course, I also don’t recall them lasting very long in a house with three teenagers either! 🙂

    Anyhow, I’ll be interested to see how this little experiment progresses. I’ve got a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) fear of food poisoning, so I don’t think this is one I’ll be undertaking any time soon!

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    1. Thanks Cat, so wash or not to wash, that’s the question? Of everything I found, nothing talked about washing the eggs so I’m going to go with not washing the eggs. For right now the eggs are in the trunk of a car, and the temps are close to freezing so we’ll see how they fair. I’ve never frozen eggs before so this could be interesting if they freeze.

      We used to pick berries then cover them with sugar and set a plate over the top of the bowl and let it sit till dinner. We ate them over angel food cake, it was delicious. We never had any left so not sure if they would have been refrigerated or not. Today I’m trying to limit how much sugar I eat, so I tend to avoid making this, bummer getting older and having a conscience about my health.

      You know I have more fears of food poisoning from food eaten out than food from my own home, it’s one of the reasons I don’t care to eat out.

      Oh, and I wasn’t advocating anyone else join me in this, you are free to keep using a fridge:-)

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      1. I’m with you on the sugar thing… and to tell the truth there’s not much problem with storing berries here since I tend to inhale them. Seriously, I planted raspberries a few years back and I’m not sure any have ever made it into the house. They just go straight from bush to mouth!

        But… in terms of the eggs, here’s one thing I DO know for sure about eggs and water. You can tell if an egg is still good by dropping it gently into a bowl of water. The freshest eggs will sink straight to the bottom, but as the egg ages it gets a layer of air between the egg and the shell. If it goes half way down and stops it needs to be used pronto! If it floats, it’s bad and you should throw it out. I think this is also why older eggs make better hard boiled eggs – the layer of air makes them easier to peel.

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        1. Great tip on the eggs, I will keep that in mind and try it when I’m not sure about it. Eggs are one thing I can live without, but no and then I enjoy and egg, my favorite way is to fry them with potatoes and sometimes add onions or other veggies to it as well, while I eat very differently from how I was raised, that’s one meal that I hate to give up.

          I know what you mean about raspberries, we have done the same with those and strawberries. I am planning on putting in 100 more strawberry plants this year to see if I can actually save some, but there is nothing like a freshly plucked sun warmed piece of fruit to make my day.

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      2. I’m not so sure washing eggs does anything. If you buy a commercial carton of eggs, they have already been washed and washed. People would be shocked at the amount of water used on food and produce to stave off future lawsuits.

        You do have to realize that eggs come from a chickens cloaca which is also their waste hole and being former reptiles, lizards and dinosaurs, chickens are full of salmonella, as opposed to E.coli on the mammal side. Washing at some point was mandatory.

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        1. Yacko, I’m not at all surprised by the amount of water used on produce before we see it at the stores. It maybe the water used in rinsing that is causing all the contamination we are hearing about though. Yes, I did know where the egg came from, but thanks for mentioning it as some readers may not have known.

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      3. Take a good sized bowl and put in about a quart of water and 1/4 cup of vinegar. Take your berries and ensure they all get covered in this combination then put in a colander to dry. I am not sure why, but this helps berries to last an extra couple of days. I’ve never noticed the taste of vinegar to linger, but if you find they do, then a quick rinse before eating should resolve that. As for eggs, if they come from the store they’ve probably been washed plenty. If you buy fresh then check to see if they look clean. If they do you should be fine, but if not, then a good wash with a small amount of soap in some water is probably a good idea to reduce the chance of e-coli, although most farmers do a pretty thorough job before selling their eggs.BTW, the water/vinegar mix mentioned above works well for rinsing store bought fruit too of any waxes, potential sprays, or just all the hands that have already handled them before you.

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        1. I’ve used the water/vinegar mixture to wash my produce in the past and still do some but with the GMOs floating around the stores I have bought less and less produce from shops. What I get at the farmers’ market is organic same as from my garden.

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    2. I spent a large portion of my childhood living on a farm. Many things were not refrigerated and we never had any issues and nobody ever became ill. For example when we milked the cows the milk was then brought into the house, a cloth made damp by cold water was laid over top as we waited for the cream to rise. Then after the separation the milk and cream were put in the fridge, but even in summer this may not be until near bedtime, at least as long as 18 hours after milking.Butter was never in the fridge, nor were the eggs, although they were washed well before being put in the basket on the counter for hygiene reasons… not everyone knows that chickens have only one opening for eliminating all bodily waste as well as the eggs, so they do need to be washed well before being used. For some reason I have found that my eggs do last longer in an open weave basket or even better, a wire one like my grandma had… as for storing eggs in water I am certain this would not work as eggs are porous. That is why coating them thoroughly with mineral oil (I prefer to dunk mine then scoop them out with wire tongs so the entire egg is well coated and remains so) then put into a cool, dark place but I’ve never tried storing them longer than 6 months. I always check any eggs stored more than a month with a quick dunk into some cool water to see if they are still good. Sink = Good, Float = Bad, Floating a bit, anywhere below the 1/2 way mark = Eat Now! I use a tall glass or mason jar to check mine in. For long term storage, consider a root cellar. My grandparents had one, but I never learned much about them until we bought a home built in 1898. There had been additions and some basic renovations but the original root cellar was still there, complete with separate entrance from the house, although attached. Once I became familiar with using it between reading up & trial and error, especially with controlling the humidity, I have always been amazed since at how much I can store in it as well as how long some items last in it. We have an apple tree and we are able to have the things like our apples last as long as into January… as for produce, I buy my root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips, even cabbages) by the sack when they are in season and are able to store produce thru much of the winter, Even eggs if I get a good deal and coat them, or tetra packed juices which I prefer cool keep well. We do still have a fridge as we do eat meat, but we are down to just a small mini fridge as it is only for meat and dairy primarily. I am just surprised nobody has mentioned the idea of a root cellar yet as they were a big part of food storage before fridges so I thought I would mention my experience with one, especially for anyone who has a home and can add a small room on it. I think mine is about 6 ft wide by 10 ft long, but we use only about half the space, and a dirt floor, which is very important, Personally, I could live without a fridge if I had to, but I really can’t even begin to imagine life without my root cellar!

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      1. Root cellars not a happening thing here on the Texas gulf coast. I assume it’s an “up north thing”
        love ya from Texas
        ~C

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      2. Krisaundra, all fantastic information and very helpful for my living without a fridge. It’s been a year and half now and I have never missed it. I have never coated my eggs maybe I should.

        I would love a root cellar but while I live in an apartment it won’t happen.

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  4. In Australia eggs are on the supermarket shelves rather than in the refrigerated section. My sister in law who lives in Connecticut is always horrified to see this. When I get home I do put the eggs in the fridge if I’m not using them that day but I’m sure they’d be fine for quite a while out of the fridge. I’ve never experienced an off one!

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    1. Now that’s interesting. I wonder after reading the lists of foods safe to be left unrefrigerated how much money stores could be saving if they reduced the amount of refrigeration. Our local store is so cold to shop in from all the refrigeration. I mean even the produce section is freezing which means I try to hurry though it. Of course being winter it’s not as bad as I am already wearing the proper clothing.

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      1. Refrigeration of eggs is required by law in RI at any place eggs are sold. Although disease is a factor, the quality of the egg deteriorates faster at room temp. The white becomes runnier and runnier. Ever crack an egg in a skillet and have it run from edge to edge? That’s an old egg. If you cracked a fresh egg it would sit in a tight circle all by itself.

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    2. And it is really easy and important to make sure the eggs have not gone bad (few will for weeks or months), all you do is put them in a glass or bowl with cool water before use. If the sink to the bottom they are fresh, if they start to float but stay submerged use them right away (only reason for checking them anyway) and toss them if they float, they have gone bad (may or may not show signs).

      “store bought” eggs will last a few weeks easily unless in intense heat OR sunlight keep them in the dark (they may already be a year old (I was a trucker that delivered them), and eggs fresh from the hen kept in a cool place without ever being washed may last over a year without refridgeration.

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      1. Michael, I had no idea the store bought eggs could be up to a year old by the time they arrive at the store. Now I understand why I prefer local eggs I can get from the farmer. Thanks for the tip on knowing when an egg has gone bad I will give it a try.

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  5. Well this was pretty enlightening. I knew about a few items (like butter and honey and such), but some were new to me. I am still not willing to go without a fridge. Too many insecurities about food spoilage and since I own my townhome, if I were ever going to sell this place, it would need to have a fridge. But it is a very interesting idea and experiment.

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    1. Some were new to me too. I did know you could store some produce such as greens on the counter if left in water, but many I thought had to be refrigerated. Like I told Cat, I’m not asking anyone else to do this, but am sharing the information for anyone who wants to know, I understand peoples fears about food safety and in your case resell value of a home as well.

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  6. Thank you so much for stopping by Dreamwalker’s and when I was a child, we never had a fridge, we used to keep foods in a pantry and the meat went in the meat-safe a small green tin safe with door and tiny air holes in it… We had a marble slab only a small one, this also helped keep things cooler in the summer….
    When I first got married also.. I didnt have a fridge for 3 yrs as funds were short.. and you used your nose and eyes to see when things needed throwing away.. Unlike today with the sale-by and use-by dates as thousands of tons of good food and thrown away from supermarkets alone, let alone what we throw away in the bin just because it says a date…
    I think your list is fantastic and can’t think of any to add off the top of my head… 🙂
    Thank you for sharing such useful information.. Without electricity we would all be without a fridge… and although I do Freeze lots of my home grown veggies we could with practice survive without many of the modern day devices we have become so used to having in our homes..

    Have a wonderful Weekend and I will be back.. 🙂
    Sue~ Dreamwalker

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    1. Thanks Sue, I’m not sure I would experiment with raw meat even if I ate it, the fear of illness is too great. I think too many of the meats available from stores are already tainted either from the way in which the animal was raised or how it was butchered. The raising of meat for consumption is no longer done in a humane way, unless you can raise it yourself or buy from someone local who raises it for you.

      I so agree with you on the sell-by and use-by dates. Plenty of food is still good after those dates. I read some where that canned food is safe for a few years after the use-by dates on it. I may have to look that up now that I mentioned it.

      I have never been comfortable canning many things, and tried food dehydrating for storing my food but it would take way too long to do large amounts of food, so I will be freezing my garden bounty this summer, but you are right we could do without so many of what we think we need.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Mayo was very surprising. Everyone freaks out about keeping mayo-based foods cold, so I never imagined it would be safe to leave out!

    My partner thinks I’m nuts for preferring “room temperature ketchup” instead of the cold stuff, but I am glad to see it’s okay to eat without refrigeration. I don’t understand why we put cold sauces on hot things, or even room temperature things.

    Also, being mostly vegan I am super excited that I could get away without a fridge if I really needed to.

    What about leftovers though? Is it safe to keep those out in the room temperature environment?

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    1. I know, mayo was a huge surprise to me as well. Although the main point was not to contaminate it with other foods so maybe that’s where the issue comes in.

      Doesn’t food taste better when you add room temp condiments to it? I thought it was just that I had gotten used to eating it that way as a child that I preferred it, but maybe not if you prefer it too.

      As for leftovers, I have no idea, that’s something I still need to look into. I do know from men around here who want to be macho that they will eat left over pizza days after making/purchasing it that has never been refrigerated. As long as it doesn’t smell bad or have mold on it they eat it and I’ve never seen one of them get sick from doing so.

      Isn’t it nice to know we have a choice in using refrigeration or not?

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  8. We have friends who lived aboard for 5 years, and they kept their meat in a pressure cooker. They said it was fine, if they brought it up to pressure, to reheat, before eating it. We haven’t tried this yet, but it could come in handy next summer.

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  9. Thanks Lois, I LOVED this post coz Hubby and I were talking last night about reducing appliances. I would add to the comments that if you don’t want to make bread every day, and the weather is hot, sourdough starter should be refrigerated. I also struggle more than most people with certain foods. We nearly lost a child due to bacteria so needless to say this is a difficult area for me. However I would love to learn how to live safely without refrigeration!

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    1. Linda, I am so sorry, what a scary thing to almost lose a child. I can definitely understand your fears, I’m not sure how I would handle it if my boys were little. I do know that I’m not ready to try leaving commercial yogurt out for up to 3 weeks and feeding it to my grand children. I have though that I will freeze the yogurt and just thaw it when they want it, or let them eat it like ice cream. Which appliances are you considering getting rid of?

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  10. I think anything that has been refrigerated already in the supermarket or shop, should be refrigerated once unpacked at home. I’m looking forward to the first batches of produce from my new allotment, which will require no refrigeration. In the UK, it’s still possible to buy unrefrigerated eggs in shops.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I had thought about that, most of the information on produce specified that it shouldn’t be refrigerated before you leave it out. I have had decent luck with fruit so far, but then I have always preferred my fruit at room temp so would leave some out all the time, vegetables are pretty touchy. I agree, I am looking forward to the warmer weather and getting my garden producing. I miss the feel and taste of sun warmed food right out of the garden.

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  11. This is good to read. I’m just starting out car-dwelling, and learned within the first day that ice is a PITA. After that, I didn’t bother. I’ve used soy milk for two days after opening. I don’t use dairy or meat, or eggs, so maybe I don’t need to feel so bad about forgoing refrigeration.

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      1. I have been wondering about nut butters as well. I try to get mine from a Mennonite bulk foods store, when I am in the area. They grind their own into plastic tubs and leave them on the counter to sell. I wonder if the only reason we need to refrigerate is to keep it from separating after stirring it. From what I have been able to learn since it has oil in it it should be shelf stable, that is unless it is contaminated with other foods, say for instance jam from a knife.

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        1. Re: Nut butter…..I make my own Almond, peanut, pecan and hazelnut in half pint quantities and no refrigeration I find that storing the jar topside down takes care of the separation issue. Of course that half pint lasts me only about 3-4 days.

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          1. I have no doubt, Fumble Food, that your nut butters might last longer if you needed to store them for more than a few days, I haven’t tried it yet but will let everyone know what I learn when I do.

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        2. I’d say it is shelf stable. Though once open, one has to realize that oil oxidizes and slowly becomes rancid. I’d say 4-6 months tops.

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      2. Excellent post and comments thread. Our refrigerator got unpredictable about a year ago and just stopped working entirely around 6 months ago, and we never got a new one. Initially, we winged it by getting only what we needed for a day at a time, which amounted to many wasted trips, of course, and some inefficiency. But, we slowly got used to zoning in on what stores well and what doesnt. As for almond butter and other nut butters: Definitely fine to store for at least a month. But, as another commenter mentioned, the oils will go bad over time, so maybe make a mental limit of 2 months on nut butter shelf/cupboard/pantry storage. At this moment, we independently ended up with many things on this list: honey, canned food items (a few), nut butters, vegan butter (same note for nut butters: separation is only issue in short term. Oil spoilage an issue after a few months), bread, most fruits and vegetables. However, my flatmate does have an AC in her room and puts fruit juice in the direct line of the cool air, which keeps it 20 degrees cooler than the air and keeps it for a week or so in the dead of summer. Otherwise, we are almost at the same mental state as many here: Lack of refrigeration is a fine and acceptable lifestyle option. It really isn’t that bad. Will definitely be back to see how this develops and unfolds via additional comments and suggestions.

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        1. Judy, thank you so much for sharing what you have learned. I don’t generally have nut butters here more than a couple of weeks, I keep it for the grand children, but I would prefer a handful of seeds myself (less calories that way) but I do love a peanut butter sandwich now and then. I don’t drink much juice but sitting it in front of an AC unit is a good idea. I am amazed at how many have embraced the no fridge option as I still get quite a few strange looks. When you look at what goes into the manufacturing of a fridge the more of us who learn to do with out the better.

          My pantry is similar, no commercially canned foods, but I do keep a stock of dried beans. Hope to talk to you again soon.

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    1. Good Luck Duck, I didn’t realize you were car-dwelling. I am so behind in checking out my readers blogs, but look forward to learning more from you. Hopefully this evening I will have time to stop by your blog and check it out. I find it interesting that you found ice to be a pain as I was recently thinking of picking up a used cooler for those times I need to keep something cold. I have a container of almond milk in my pantry that I was going to open then freeze the leftover portion to keep it from going bad, I will see if I can keep it out but will wait until the heat wave passes. I do eat an occasional egg but they are fine left unrefrigerated. Don’t feel bad about going without a fridge, my experiment has shown me that very little really needs it. To think of all the money I wasted on fridges over the years by assuming it was necessary.

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    2. If you have the electricity but just don’t want refrigeration, you could make a quart or so soymilk daily from soybeans. Buy a commercial soymilk maker. Use the milk the day you make it. Seeds and nuts are some of the most shelf stable items you can buy. I like the Soyabella device and I add 3-4 drops of artificial almond oil and a small amount of sugar to cut the beany taste. If that puts you off, you could add a few almonds with the beans you put in the soymilk machine.

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      1. That’s a good idea, Yacko, I have switched to almond milk recently as I found soy milk just didn’t seem to agree with me. I do keep among my staples a few varieties of raw nuts and seeds to add to my food and yes, they do last quite a while.

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  12. I gave up refrigeration nearly nine months ago. We don’t use ice, ever. We visit the store ever 1-2 weeks. Sometimes more often if we are near a town. We eat meat within 3 days of buying it but usually just on the day we get it. We eat ice cream and yogurt the day we buy it, same with beer. Cheese, butter, eggs. fruits and veggies get used as we go. The rest of our diet is beans, nuts, honey, grains and dried fruits. We do use some canned foods but only rarely. They cause more trash than I want to deal with.

    We used a refrigerator for the first five years of our travels. Minus having milk and yogurt when ever I want, I really prefer not having a fridge. Life is much simpler now.

    BTW, maple syrup doesn’t spoil per say but it does get moldy. It’s happened to me, and they talk about it on one of my favorite nerdy blogs: http://blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2007/03/20/the-fungus-in-my-maple-syrup/

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences without a fridge, Jenn. I can’t see myself every buying another fridge I rather like not having one. You eat very much like I do, although I no longer eat yogurt and limit cheese to just a couple times a year. Growing up my family stocked up on butter when it was on sale and stored it in the freezer, but the package that was opened was always left out, except for when it melted from the heat but only then to keep it from making a mess all over the counter. I live where I can get fresh maple syrup from local farmers and left mine in the cupboard to find mold on it once too.

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    2. Fake or real maple syrup? The ersatz syrups become bitter as they age at room temp. Maybe 10months to a year at ambient and two years in refrigeration. Something about that fake maple flavoring that changes.

      As to milk, look at Nido. Whole milk in powder form, tastes good and is available a lot of places particularly latino bodegas. The cheapest price, assuming you have no qualms with the place, is Walmart $13.88. I get 18-20 quarts out of it. That’s Nido not the other similar looking powdered milk also made by Nestle, something called “Klim”?? and something with an infant on the label.

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      1. Yacko, I only eat the real maple syrup living where I can get it easily, and made locally. The store bought stuff is nothing but flavored refined sugar and chemicals as far as I’m concerned.

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  13. Here’s one to look up for the eggs. Sometime ago i was watching Doomsday Preppers and on one episode this gal stocks up a bunch of stuff and one was eggs. She coats them with mineral oil and claims they will last a long time with out refrigerating them. I can’t remember if she said 90 day or 9 months. So if you watch for that show or find online to watch them be something to look up

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    1. Ok i hate when i start thinking about something and can’t sleep till i get the answer. I searched and found the link to a short vid for that episode. She states they will keep for 9 to 12 months in a cool dry place. Here is the vid link.

      http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/videos/food-preservation/

      Also search the net for jar mix recipes. They are like home made hamburger helper mixes. Dehydrated stuff in jars that can store long term just add water and cook when needed. Here is a link to one i found.

      http://cheftessbakeresse.blogspot.com/p/52-method-recipe.html

      Hope this is of some help 🙂

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      1. New Moon Dragon, thank you for the links I will check them out. Right now I can’t keep eggs as the heat and humidity is the highest it’s been all summer. Yet with this heat the last thing I want to eat right now is some thing hot! I will definitely check out the mineral oil for the eggs as that sounds interesting and having ready made mixes might get me to eat more substantial meals so I appreciate you looking up this information for me.

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  14. I got rid of my fridge about 2 years ago. When people ask “why?” I tell them I don’t need it because I don’t eat meat, I eat fresh fish on the day I buy it, I never buy milk, and mature cheddar cheese keeps for at least 4 days.

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    1. Roddy, four years is a long time. Have you ever found a time when you wished you had one? I have been thinking of picking up a cooler that I could use when family comes for the holidays to store things like milk for the little ones, but they are usually here for Christmas when I could store things outside or even in my front window. It was surprising to me when my fridge quit working how little I did need it. Like you, I don’t drink milk or eat meat which means not much really needs refrigeration, with the exception of leftovers. Not having a fridge has been freeing and I know I am saving a lot on energy usage finally.

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  15. I have lived in my van for about 5 mos now with no refrigeration. if i need a cold drink, i go to 7-11. i already knew from growing up in a rural area that eggs, condiments, butter did not need refrigeration and we often used dry milk. you can now buy milk in single servings that is shelf stable. its $6 at the regular grocery or $2 for six at grocery outlet. i like it for my coffee, although i often use just dry creamer too. i do not store much in my van other than condiments and breakfast/granola bars because i don’t want to attract any vermin or bugs. usually i just buy what i intend to eat immediately. i can say that there is a LOT less waste all around….in food and energy to store it (where it is often forgotten and goes bad because i don’t feel like eating it later).

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    1. I think what you are doing is wonderful, I wish I could be that free. I too knew butter and many condiments could be stored without refrigeration, but eggs I didn’t. I do live where we get horrible winters and it makes it hard for me to get out so I need to keep food in the apartment. I do buy shelf stable almond or rice milk but don’t have way to buy it in single servings locally. I should look into this. For now in the winter I could keep it in the window and yes, i just purchased a freezer to store food for winter so I could freeze the remainder and thaw when needed. The freezer was a good choice for me, but I will never again own a fridge.

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  16. My grandmother had a cheese dish – glass covered plate – and she, (my father carried on the tradition in our household), would buy colby cheese and store it at room temperature. Into the second week it would become oily and the oils would eventually evaporate leaving behind dry sections. Sometimes mold would form, but we would simply cut out the mold and eat away. Room temperature cheese is the best. I prefer cheese that has some oils that come to the surface. I have not yet died from eating any dry sections, but typically we never let it get that old. I eat much – much less cheese than my ancestors, but it still brings back good memories.

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    1. Dan, I didn’t know you could keep cheese at room temperature. Can you do that with all cheeses? Even keeping ours in a refrigerator it would sometimes get mold on it before it was eaten, we too simply cut the mold off and ate it. The same went for bread, but now we are told that any mold on a slice of bread the entire loaf should be tossed out. I never got sick eating the bread or the cheese, I wonder why so much attention is given to tossing out food. Could it simply be a marketing ploy to get us to buy more?

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      1. The oils from our skin will speed up the mold process so always ensure that as you are slicing your cheese you don’t actually touch the cheese and that will help it last longer. I often use the edge of the wrapper or a corner of a clean tea towel or something if I need to hold the cheese still as I cut it and have noticed that the open end that always seemed to begin to mold before the rest no longer does now that my hand doesn’t touch it! Also, I have kept eggs on the counter as long as a couple weeks with no issue. If in doubt put them in water. If the egg floats it has gotten air thru the pores of the shell and is no longer good but if it sinks, all is well!

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        1. I never knew that, thank you! I don’t eat cheese often but when I buy it it’s made by a local farm so keeping it fresh longer would be nice.

          I always wash my eggs, and yes since I started this experiment I’ve kept eggs on my counter for up to 3 weeks with no problem. I heard you could tell if an egg was okay to eat by putting it in water but didn’t know if floating was good or bad, I appreciate your help.

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  17. So cool! I know some people that lived without a fridge as missionaries overseas. They would pressure cook food, then leave it in the cooker (without opening the lid) until they wanted to eat. After eating some, they would bring it to pressure again, and leave it for the next day. Supposedly when things are pressured in the cooker, it’s like they’re canned. But you might already know all that.

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  18. Have you tried pickling eggs? Somebody mentioned sourdough bread, already, I think. Amish Friendship Bread starter is making it’s rounds here again, but I cannot eat sourdough — hurts the gut. One thing we waste most here is condiments. My husband is condiment king. We keep a frig because I’ve had food poisoning and don’t want that experience again ever! I’ve threatened to take all the condiments that’s taking up space in our fridge to make soup with, because he and now our son will take a bite or two out of it and then leave it in the fridge until it becomes a science experiment. Yuck!

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    1. I have never been one who cared for condiments which made the issue of needing a fridge moot. I don’t blame you for keeping your fridge, I only shared my experiences to show that it is possible to live without a fridge if you aren’t big into meat and dairy, or in your family’s case condiments. 🙂

      No, I haven’t tried pickling eggs, it’s a food I never took at liking to.

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  19. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience. It has been a huge relief to find your article.
    I will be moving to The Netherlands next August and will be living in a s-u-p-e-r tiny studio. I just found out that in some buildings (I believe mine is one of those) residents are not allowed to have refrigerators. We do not have shared facilities or common kitchen, only a kitchenette in our self-contained rooms.
    I was terrified to learn that! However, after some research and of course, reading your wonderful list, I’m feeling way better. Not only will I be eating healthier by buying fresh products and cooking only what I’ll be eating that day, but also will I be reducing my carbon footprint by not spending the electricity that is needed to keep a fridge running.
    Thank you so much for the info. I’ll let you know how it goes once I get there 🙂

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    1. Grace,

      I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to live without a refrigerator. When my fridge died I realized it was an opportunity to learn to live without it like my grandparents did.

      Will you have a stove? I don’t have a stove either and found I can cook anything that would be cooked on a stove top with a rice cooker. I also have a slow cooker in which I can also bake things such as breads and desserts.

      I would love to hear about your experiences in the Netherlands. I have yet to travel overseas and have a huge curiosity about that area.

      Please keep in touch 🙂

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    2. As a citizen of Nederlands who is currently living here in Canada I thought I would share a few quick thoughts… One being that while here in North America people usually grocery shop weekly, there most people shop almost daily on their way to or from school, work, etc, with only doing a major shop for the bigger heavier items (since few people drive daily either but rather walk or bicycle) every couple weeks or so. It takes a bit of adjustment for some but as you said, it will also mean potentially healthier eating.If you do not already have a good supply of cloth tote bags, be sure to stock up as there are no bags at all at the grocery stores (unless there has been a major shift since my last trip home) as people load up their tote bags or bike paniers. If you do not yet own any, it may be a good idea to see if you can get a decent set of panier carriers for the rear fender of a bike as it would be quite surprising if you don’t end up buying a bike! Lastly, a trick I use when I am anywhere that has no fridge and little space, like my friend’s tiny cottage, is the homemade “fridge” of nesting two terra cotta plant pots together (the smaller being at least one inch smaller than the other) with something underneath for any water that comes thru. I then cover the bottom of the larger pot with clean sand, put the smaller one in (usually with saran wrap or similar over the top so nothing goes inside the smaller pot) then pour sand between the two, packing it tightly as you go. Once tightly packed with sand then fill it water, doing so repeatedly until the sand can hold no more water. I forgot to mention that the very first time I put this together I soak the terra cottta pots in water for a few hours so they soak up as much water as possible… Once the pots and sand are all soaked thoroughly (thus the need for something under the large pot if water seeps out) put the pots in a part of your kitchen, or close by, where it stays shady as is potentially the coolest and you now have your ready made fridge, Fill with your produce, etc, and cover with a clean, damp tea towel. I am always amazed at how well this so called fridge, very common in places like Africa, works at keeping my potential perishables from perishing! For more information, and to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything, google “clay pot fridge” and you will get all the info you need on not only how to make one but why they work as well as they do. I hope these couple of tips can help you in your adjustment to a new country and culture. If all else fails, just ask somebody… the people are extremely friendly and helpful.All the best on your move!

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      1. Thank you, Krisaundra, I first saw this on the documentary No Impact Man but they gave up saying it didn’t work for them. I may give it a go on your recommendation. If a clay pot system works in Africa it should easily work here.

        The differences in our home cultures is so interesting.. In the US people have gotten accustomed to shopping almost daily but not out of need. People do major shopping once a week or even once every couple of weeks, then stop off and pick up convenience foods and odds and ends nearly every day. It’s usually because they don’t want to cook when they get home so they stop at the store for something easy to prepare.

        P.S. I love the spelling of your name.

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        1. I’ve done some research into the clay pots and from what I gather, they only work really well in places with low humidity. It is the process of evaporation of all that water that keeps it cool, so if you live in a humid place where not much evaporation is happening, it won’t cool anything.

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          1. Julie, that’s interesting. I have not tried the clay pots as I’ve found I don’t need refrigeration as a long as I have the freezer for leftovers. But thanks for the tip, I do live in an area with high humidity.

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  20. I am wanting to use my antique ice box – as an ice box. Anyone using an old fashioned ice box? I will be buying 10 lb block ice. thanks!

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    1. Cynthia, how cool you have an antique ice box,, they are hard to find today. I don’t personally know anyone using one but maybe someone here does and will share stories with you.

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      1. Thank you for your response. My icebox is oak and brass. It is in very good condition with all of the shelves and ice platform intact. My father left it to me. I have this burning desire to sell the refrigerator and use the icebox. I guess I need someone’s “permission” to do so and some positive support for this decision. It is nice to know others do without a fridge.
        Regards,
        Cynthia

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        1. Your ice box sounds lovely how lucky you are. If you don’t need the fridge and don’t want it then give yourself permission to sell it and let someone else get use from it.

          As far as living without a fridge it seems to be most popular with those living in the Tiny homes. Square footage of less than 100 the owners make serious decisions about what they really need.

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          1. I began following this blog yesterday, but it has really stuck with me as there are some very good & helpful tips throughout this conversation. Anyway, today I cam across a book that is currently free on Amazon (may not be by the time this is read though 😦 that tells of how to take a fridge and recycle it into a root cellar, which are one of the very first types of fridge people used and also something I rely on heavily in my late 1890’s home that has only wood heat and a fabulous root cellar! Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested in trying this idea for a cheap, working root cellar:

            Regular price is $2, but if it is at all similiar to the one my friends built but using an old deep freeze instead of a fridge, the $2 would be well spent as theirs works basically as well as mine, keeping their stored produce well into January!

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          2. Krisaundra, thank you!! I just downloaded the book in the hopes I will be able to find a way to build one in the near future.

            I’m so glad you are enjoying my blog. Feel free to ask any questions or share more information I love learning from others.

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  21. What a great post!!! I know it is over a year old but the info is so wonderful (as are the follow up comments!!). Yesterday morning we woke up to a pretty much dead fridge … Thanksgiving morning. Our budget … hahaha … super tight after just finishing home renovations and enrolling our kids in a tuition based school. The thought of buying a new fridge on credit had me awake all night. I think we may rethink how we are going to do this. I stopped eating meat in January (and my family has pretty much been dragged along) so meat not so much of a concern but we do have our deep freeze. I get our produce once a week from a local CSA and I have always told my husband that the eggs are just fine on the counter (I’ll show him the comments here). We try not to waste however I must admit that each compost week we toss too much based on best before dates, etc and simply eating out because we are so tired at the end of the day to cook. I cringe at the amt of money wasted from our budget that could be going elsewhere. I am curious about your comments about cooking in your rice cooker … I did not know that anything but rice could be cooked in a cooker (although I assumed quinoa could probably be done but haven’t tried it). This whole vegetarian life is new to us so any tips are wonderful!!

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    1. Teresa, what a way to wake up on Thanksgiving! I found I never missed a fridge as long as I had my chest freezer. As you mentioned the comments by so many helped me to be comfortable in my decision not to replace my fridge.

      More recently I read the book Life Without Refrigeration, I found it on Amazon, which has lots of tips on how to build a root cellar, store cheese without refrigeration and much more.

      One thing I learned is that produce can stay fresh longer outside a fridge than I previously thought. For example, water is the key. Lemons will dry out in a couple of days unless stored in a bowl of water. Same with broccoli, I simply stick the cut end into a glass of water and it stays firm and delicious. At the same time, if you leave the bottom of the broccoli in water for more than a week it will start to root. No downside there, just trim the top to eat and once the bottom has rooted plant and grow a new plant from your food scraps.

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