Living without a fridge
June 6, 2013 4:10 PM   Subscribe

My fridge is a 115L bar fridge with a small freezer, and it's never particularly full. I've been thinking about getting rid of it altogether. I would like to hear from anybody who successfully gets by without a fridge: any tips and tricks? what did you not realize before you made the transition? anything else I should consider?

I live and work in the CBD of a major city, five minutes' walk to a large farmer's market, grocery stores and restaurants.

On weekdays I eat lunch at restaurants close to work. Weekends and evenings I cook at home and eat the leftovers over the next day or so.

I'm vegan, so I never have animal products that need refrigerating (e.g. meat, eggs, dairy) on hand.

Pretty much all that's in my fridge is a carton of rice milk (used for porridge, hot chocolate and cups of tea), some condiments, and whatever leftovers I've cooked up that I'll be eating within a day or two.

There's nothing in my freezer except an ice pack.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I did so in Baltimore, in the winter, by simply putting well-wrapped stuff out on my back porch. Summer? I don't know 'bout that. You might want to hit Walmart and get a little fridge.
posted by brownrd at 4:12 PM on June 6, 2013

I am eating a lot of meats and my wife absolutely must have milk for tea.
We haven't had a fridge for about two months, because we're in a between homes type temporary home (only for another week or so hopefully, hooray!)

It hasn't been a problem. It sounds like we're in much the same situation, location wise. Right in the city. I just buy whatever I want on the way home from work.
Unrefrigerated foods last a day or so easily, even milk isn't a huge problem. (and of course it wouldn't be a problem at all for you)

Sometimes it would be nice to have some backup foods, and it would be nice to be able to chill my sourdough. Try shutting it off and see how it goes.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2013

My guess is that whatever savings you'd see on your electric bill would be outweighed by losing those leftovers - I know I save a lot of time and money when I plan well enough to eat leftovers several nights a week.

(On the other hand, if you're doing it just for the sake of doing it, I lived without a fridge (not by choice) for three months one summer. In an apartment with no a/c and lots of bugs, produce didn't keep very long, and it was hard to cost-effectively buy fresh produce for one person when I had to eat it within about 24 hours. I was also too broke to eat out, so it meant that I spent about three months eating canned beans and veggies. It was not awesome. HOWEVER, if I'd been in a position to eat out all the time, or if I'd had a/c, it would have been fine.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:21 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

The NY Times wrote about this in 2009. Being a vegan, you've eliminated a lot of the most common concerns already.
posted by purpleclover at 4:32 PM on June 6, 2013

I would rather have a very small fridge than no fridge. Some of them are extraordinarily energy efficient as well. I'd look at peltier-based, not compressor based solutions here. Higher end(but still pretty cheap, honestly) coolers/ice chests with a little digital readout to let you set the internal temperature.

Get a fairly small one(like a bit bigger than a desktop PC) and store just your leftovers and rice milk in it. Most of them run on 12v even, and you'll be using very little resources while still having the ability to refrigerate things if you'll need it. If you don't need it right then, you can always wheel it in to the closet. You can also take it on trips and use it for anything else you'd use a cooler for, except you don't need any ice.

I wouldn't be willing to fully give up the ability to refrigerate things in my own place, but being able to tuck it in and out is great.
posted by emptythought at 4:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

look into heavy ceramics. you would need to back up with ice and a cool, dark place.
posted by parmanparman at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These peltier-based fridges - are they quiet?

I live in a small place, and one of my motivations for wanting to do without a fridge is to try to escape the noise of the compressor kicking in and whirring away periodically. Bar fridges tend to be particularly noisy, since they have less insulation.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:27 PM on June 6, 2013

The place I lived in Romania got away with this (mostly) by having a pantry that was built as such about a hundred years before, was completely dark and noticeably cooler than the rest of the house. If you have a space that stays dark and cool (even, like, a sealed bathroom cabinet or under-kitchen-sink cabinet), your produce and leftovers should be ok as long as nothing sits more than a day or two, even shelf-stabilized rice milk. Hell, they kept the eggs and milk in the pantry. You might have to deal with flies, though, even if the stuff is still good.

I had one of those teeny microwave-sized cube fridges when I was in college and I never noticed the noise. Then again, I had noisy neighbors and a box fan.
posted by theweasel at 5:35 PM on June 6, 2013

Fun question. (Stay tuned for my own question on living fridge free, unless this question solves all my challenges.)

One issue to consider is protection from pests. The biggest issue I've been having is ants! Very little of my hummus or other items have been going bad, but I haven't yet figured out how to keep things from being invaded by ants (... in part due to a total lack of tupperware. I used to store leftovers in a plate covered by a bowl. So you may be fine).

The other issue I've had is with leafy greens, which wilt so quickly, and with berries, which used to last a week and now last 2 days or so. I've been wanting to plant a window box with lettuce, basil, and cilantro.

You didn't mention whether you keep beer on hand? And what about that rice milk? I've actually resorted to single serving "lunch pack" style soy milk, which is okay, but wastes more packaging and costs 2-3 times as much.
posted by slidell at 6:16 PM on June 6, 2013

I'll admit that the challenges I mentioned -- wilting lettuce, soy milk single-servings, and ants -- have alone been enough to get me debating a fridge or cooler.

If noise is your main rationale, have you thought about just unplugging your fridge when you get home from work?
posted by slidell at 6:21 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: You didn't mention whether you keep beer on hand? And what about that rice milk?

I don't drink beer.

I go through the rice milk pretty quickly. It comes in 1 litre cartons, and between porridge, hot chocolate and a couple of cups of tea, I use about 2/3 of the carton in a day.

If noise is your main rationale

Nah, it's not my main rationale. It's just one of my motivations. My main rationale is: I have this thing that uses space, electricity and money, and I barely use it; can I do without it?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:31 PM on June 6, 2013

I live without a fridge, but...not really relevant to your situation. In your shoes, I would try a zeer.
posted by Michele in California at 6:32 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you ever have overnight guests? If you do, would they want/need to use a fridge?

Do you (or guests) ever have beverages that you prefer to drink cold? Wine, juice, soda, iced tea, lemonade, etc.

Do you, guests, or pets ever have medications that need to be refrigerated?

I think if I wanted to live without a fridge I'd probably unplug it for a month and see if I missed it.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:52 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Pelletier fridges make almost no noise since there is no compressor. Most are creepy quiet.
posted by advicepig at 6:52 PM on June 6, 2013

Never having seen one up close I can't be 100% certain, but since it operates on the thermoelectric effect a peltier fridge should have no (or very few) moving parts.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:36 AM on June 7, 2013

These peltier-based fridges - are they quiet?

As quiet as the average laptop generally. They usually contain the thermoelectric chip, which makes no noise, and a small computer-style fan which runs at a pretty low speed.

Unless its like recording studio foam baffles on the wall kind of quiet in your place, you wouldn't notice it being on. My plasma TV makes more noise than the last one of those coolers I played around with.
posted by emptythought at 12:13 PM on June 7, 2013

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