Life Without Refrigeration

by Angela aka Farmer Jane on July 26, 2012 · 15 comments

Is it possible to live without refrigeration?

There has never been a time in all my recollected memories that I have been without a refrigerator.

I couldn’t imagine living without one until recently.

Is it possible to live better than well? To live great without the need for this large appliance?

I think so. But then again, I think a lot about why we do the things we do.

In a modern homesteading lifestyle, is refrigeration really a necessity?

We know that fresh eggs will keep without being refrigerated for days, and it has even been argued that eggs will last up to three weeks without the need for refrigeration.

Is the fridge a necessary device? Dom and I are in the process of redesigning our kitchen and the question of refrigeration crossed my mind.

Is it possible to create a kitchen that uses no electricity or gas?

Seems so out of this world right? If it is out of this world then how did people three hundred years ago do it?

I know the argument could be, “well we don’t live in those times anymore! Get a clue!” and I understand that we have this modern life that seems so progressive. But is it really progressive or are we just blinded by technology to the point where we would never have to think of a safe alternative or change our habits around preparing and preserving foods.

I think there could be more to life than cold storage.

If I go out to collect eggs everyday, that’s great for the day without the need for refrigeration. The same goes for the fresh fruits and vegetables I pick from the garden.

It’s starting to look a little like hoarding to me. I’ll say to myself, “sometime this week I’ll use this cheese” without giving any real thought to how it will be used. Or “Better put that in the fridge for tomorrow so we can eat it” and never heat it up again. I know us! It would be better for us to just throw all the left overs to the animals and save on feed. ;)

Looking in my fridges (we have TWO) here is a list of what’s in it:

  • Jars and Jars of kefir
  • Jars and more jars of whey
  • Fresh broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, mangoes, grapes, cabbage, parsnips, cilantro, western sand cherries, lemons
  • Jelly
  • Half gallon of milk
  • Some left-overs
  • butter
  • Homemade mayo
  • Homemade dressing
  • Yogurt

In the freezer:

  • Beef bones
  • Beef bone broth in mason jars
  • Homemade chocolate custard

That’s not much right? Sometimes I just shove stuff in the fridge out of force of habit, but why? What if there was an alternative to putting things mindlessly in the fridge?

Searching the internet, I found a few really beautiful alternatives and I’m thinking of incorporating them into our new kitchen design.

Our kitchen uses only electricity. If ever the power went out, or we decided not to use electricity at all, we’d be screwed!

In our effort to rid our lives of plastic, the big plastic elephants in the kitchen and utility kitchen are the refrigerators, dishwasher, paint on cabinets, vinyl flooring, plastic components in the hood/vent, and the toaster, the blender and juicer.

Adding solar tubes to our kitchen will allow for fresh herbs, lettuce, and maybe even a few citrus trees to be grown inside. Designing the kitchen with these things in mind will make a difference.

Here are a few very interesting ideas about how to keep vegetables and fruits without the use of refrigeration, and with us creating a modern off grid kitchen in the house and off grid summer kitchen outside, I can definitely see utilizing these ideas:




I’m not ready to go without a fridge yet. But I’m considering it. More research is needed as well as finding even more examples of ways to outfit a modern off grid homesteading kitchen.

Wow that was a mouthful!

Do you think living without refrigeration is too extreme or is owning a refrigerator and paying for electricity and things to store in the fridge the real extreme?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Melonie K. July 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I don’t think it’s too extreme – but I’m pretty biased. LOL Besides, these options you show are just lovely to look at. Even if a person incorporated some things like this to so they used less fridge space, and could then sell their larger fridge and use a smaller one, they’d be cutting down on their electricity needs, while still accounting for things they felt uncomfortable leaving unrefrigerated. Even that would be a pretty good step, it seems?

More of a use for occasional convenience vs a reliance on them, where we lose “everything” if the power goes out due to a storm, for instance.


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 27, 2012 at 5:16 am

I’m going to write a part two for Life Without Refrigeration because of the different food preparation techniques used several hundreds of years ago. Aged and cured meats (not just jerky), cheeses, dry storage, canning all can keep food for a long time without the need for refrigeration AND they are good for you. LOL


Melonie K. July 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

Is this where I start squealing and say I ordered my All American canner tonight? :)
Definitely want to learn cheesemaking too.
Gahhh, now I’m hungry. LOL


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

Congratulations! I’m am scared to no end of my pressure canner. AHAHAHAH! I still haven’t used it yet.

We want to get a few mini jersey cows that are only about 4 feet high. They produce about 3 gallons of milk per day which would be perfect for our family and cheese needs.


Rosalyn July 28, 2012 at 10:30 am

I really want a pressure canner too, especially for tomatoes so I can stop drowning them in lemon juice. And Have you looked at Dexter cows? A heritage breed that is small (although not miniature) and you can use them for dairy, meat, and as oxen. A triple-purpose cow sounds pretty awesome to me. They can also eat basically anything and still live, even in awful browse, because they were a hardy Irish breed. :)

Melonie K. July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Oh! Eggs! I saw something mentioned a little while back about a lady that rubs oil on her eggs to store them out of the fridge for months at a time – I think it was mineral oil? Gonna have to go look that up to verify, unless you already know how to do it? She just poured some oil on her hands (w/first aid type gloves) and rubbed it all over each egg and put them back in a carton!


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 27, 2012 at 5:21 am

I don’t clean and prepare my chicken eggs since they are already not dirty, but duck eggs? OMG! We lost so many eggs because I thought they were contaminated since there was duck shit all over them. Sometimes you can’t find a clean spot on the damn egg. They are so gross.

I found a woman that was washing the eggs in warm water with scrubby to get all the dirt and poop off, then wipes them with straight white vinegar, drys them and then coats them with food grade mineral oil. That’s what we do now. Duck eggs have a much thicker shell since God knew they were really pigs in disguise and didn’t want us to die because of salmonella. LOL I just wash those gross eggs off, protect them with mineral oil and they will last for a long time, in or out of the fridge. The mineral oil coats the pores of the shell from air getting into the egg and spoiling, just like the natural bloom on the egg.


Melonie K. July 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

WOW – I did NOT know that about ducks getting the eggs so dirty! Good to know. The kids and I were studying ducks for our unit study for the new homeschool year, which focuses on Swiss Family Robinson and introduces them to a “Critter of the Week” each two-week unit.

Glad it was actually mineral oil. LOL I’m going to have to try this when we get settled – awesome!


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

Are you gonna teach them ALL about ducks or just the basics? If you guys do stop by here on your way home, they will get that extra special question asked of you, “Mom? why are there three ducks on that poor little duck’s back? Why are they holding her wings down so she can’t move?” Uh-hem! Ducks are violent lovers. That’s all I’ll say. I didn’t learn that in any book, and it freaked me out the first time I saw it. LOL


Rosalyn July 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I found this post (and the one above about the stove) really interesting. I don’t think I’d be ready to lose refrigeration, if I’m honest, even though it would be a dream to me to live off-grid. I also know that my husband isn’t exactly super enthusiastic about that kind of lifestyle shift at this point in our lives. But I would absolutely LOVE a masonry stove, and wood-fired oven (even one in our backyard that isn’t a part of a proper kitchen) is definitely on a wish list for our future home. From living in Italy, I know that pizza and bread out of a wood-fired clay or stone oven is to die for. I agree with your first commenter that even if you can’t totally go without refrigeration, buying a smaller unit and incorporating ideas such as you posted above would be a great initial step, and one that I think would be super fun to try. Where did you find those food storage photos, or did you make them yourself?


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

Hi Rosalyn,

I am by no means ready to go without electricity either. I just love to ask the questions of myself and find out what my heart and the angry spoiled child inside of me says. :)

I can’t wait to stop by and check out your blog! Thanks for stopping by.

Being on a question binge, my next question to tackle (after the washer and dryer…posting it today) is heat throughout the house via rocket/masonry stoves.

I’ll be writing a part two to Life Without Refrigeration in the next few days to explore the ways we don’t really even need one. Here is a video of the woman that created the wall pieces for storing fruits and vegetables…she so cute:


Rosalyn July 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

Not yet. :) But I really hope we will in a few years. I looked into mini Jerseys, because they are small and super adorable, but they seem really expensive, and I loved the idea of the heritage breed. But yes, your property might not be big enough for them. At this point, I’m just hoping!


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 28, 2012 at 10:51 am

I looked into the mini Scottish Highland too. I fell in love with those guys! If we ever decide to purchase more land around us, I’ll get those in their standard size. They say that the Highlander and Dexter cross well.

The mini jerseys do have a steep price tag, but if we had two cows we could just inseminate them each year and hopefully they’d pay for themselves in years to come.


Joseph September 20, 2014 at 10:35 pm

If you could not get buy without a refrigerator it may be possible to hook up a methane system from your sewage to a propane refrigerator.
Im not sure how much methane family would produce. but its just a thought.


Angela aka Farmer Jane July 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

We’re on one acre basically and a Dexter might still be too big for us. I should look into if they have an even smaller Dexter. I’d like a small breed we can process here instead of needing to send it away and pay to have it processed. Same with pigs, because there is no way we could process a 250 pound pig. ;)

Do you have Dexters?


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