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.
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.
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.
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.
- Green Peppers
- Ice berg lettuce
- Romaine Hearts
- 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.
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?