Thinking Outside the [Ice] Box

Someone recently asked me how the fridge experiment was going, and I realized that I missed the anniversary of when we first unplugged!  To me, that’s a pretty good sign that the project is going well.  The anniversary came and went totally unnoticed.  I imagined (a year ago) that I’d want some sort of fanfare or some official celebration, but I realize that it is better this way.

Running our home without a fridge has become so much a part of our lives that it’s almost mundane to us.  I forget about it completely until someone asks.

Changing ice jugs is routine.  Although we eat mainly fresh food, I don’t shop daily as many people have asked (I have three kids, people, are you nuts!??!), we love dairy (we regularly have milk, yogurt, cheese, half and half and butter in there), and none of us have suffered from Listeria.

Is it for everyone?  Well… I think that if we can do it with three children, probably most other families could too, certainly most single people.  But I realize that living without a fridge in 2012 is pretty far on the other side of the extreme line for many people.  It hasn’t really been an inconvenience for us at all.

I think the key to making it successful for us has been thinking outside of the box.  Many people we’ve talked to about it say they like the idea, but they could never do it because they prefer fresh food too much or that it’s not possible in an urban environment.  We are doing it in Denver and eating fresh foods (including meat and dairy)!  It is basically like using a cooler when camping. We’ve even gone out of town and left it.

Of course it would not be practical for us at all if we did not have the freezer in the garage where we could regularly get ice jugs.  But we run the freezer regardless.

So how long will we keep going?  Right now, we don’t see a reason to stop.  The only question now is what to do with the refrigerator?  Use it for storage for things prone to pests, like flour?  Make a pantry out of it?  A china cupboard? Long-term food storage area for the zombie apocalypse?  Fireproof safe?

We’re currently taking suggestions on that one.

Categories: Food, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Thinking Outside the [Ice] Box

  1. Awesome! I’ve been thinking of moving from a full size fridge to a minibar size. But maybe I should get rid of mine all together.

    Suggestions for the old fridge…turn it into a smoker!

  2. laura h

    Wait, I didn’t know you are in Denver, did I?

  3. Another option is to change out the thermostat in a chest freezer to make it into a refrigerator – WAY WAY more efficient than a stand up fridge. Also you could use this idea for your old fridge and turn it into a “root cellar” by keeping it around 55 in there.

  4. We used our refrigerator as an icebox for years. Our electrical system at that point was a generator to batteries, to an inverter, to the house but the battery bank was not sized to handle the refrigerator continually. We needed to run the generator for about four hours twice a day, so while the batteries charged we ran the fridge. We froze our jugs in the freezer section and rotated them morning and night. Of course, come winter all we had to do was leave the jugs outside. Actually we used far MORE ice in the winter due to the wood cookstove. Oddly, our icebox has been the ‘rodent proof’ cupboard for decades even though the felines are doing a superb job.

  5. Haha, I love the idea of using the fridge as a smoker. Jessie’s idea of using a freezer on lower temperatures as a fridge is a great idea too! You guys are way more creative than me. My only idea was a rodent-proof cupboard 🙂

  6. It might also make a good place to make yogurt, at least in warmer months – no drafts 🙂

  7. Living without a fridge would be an adjustment for most Americans. I have lived overseas in Asia for a year and although we did have a fridge most do not. They buy food fresh and daily at little stores/markets that could be located right next door. We now live in the midwest out in the country so we like the idea of having a fridge because it’s not convenient for us to run into town every time we made need something that should be kept cool/cold. But I think that is awesome your family enjoys it…Care to share what the difference in your electric bill with and now without running the fridge? 🙂

  8. homesteadsimple

    I think for a lot of Americans it would be hard to live without a fridge these days. Only because we are use to the comfort and convenience of having one. I lived overseas for a year in Asia and most did not have a fridge. We did because that was what we were used to. Most just buy fresh per meal and can easily go to a mini store that actually is usually just right next door or not to far from where people live. We now live in the midwest in the country so it’s not easy for us to run to the store to pick up groceries daily. I think that is great you and your family choose to go without and enjoy it. Care to share what the difference has been in your electric bill compared to when you did use it and now what it is since you don’t? I would love to know the savings. 🙂

  9. hmk71

    What are you using as an icebox if you no longer need the fridge? I thought that was the icebox, but I’ve clearly missed something…

    I’ve just succeeded in getting DH to get rid of our big (UK) fridge freezer (so half the size of an American one 😉 ) so we only have an under the counter fridge. (The fridge freezer was in the utility room, so we had 2 fridges. I know.) I turned it off 2 years ago and it had been a cupboard since then. We’re finally giving it to his sister and have put an old wooden cupboard in it’s place , which makes a fab pantry- lots more space.

    I’m not sure how long it would take to persuade him to go fridge free!

  10. laura h

    I think my less than two year old freezer just died.

  11. Gosh, that’s made me think. Live without a fridge? Hmmm

  12. Pingback: What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry « The Lazy Homesteader

  13. Hi there,

    My partner and I are about to unplug our fridge as well, and we also have a chest freezer. I would like to use a small fridge as an icebox, but I am curious – are there any problems with leaving a fridge unplugged, and storing food in it? Why do I feel like I’ve heard over the years that an unplugged fridge must have its door left ajar?

    Thanks for your response!


    • Hi Matt – We have not had any problems, but we’re not experts or anything. I’m not sure why you’d have to leave the door open. ???

      • mattsoltys

        Thanks for your response. I was wondering about build up of gasses, like Freon. But as I’ve been researching, it seems that people stress leaving unplugged fridges with the doors open to keep moisture/mold from building up while it’s in storage.

  14. mattsoltys

    Hi there,

    My partner and I are soon unplugging our fridge too, and would like to use a small fridge as an icebox. My question is, is there a problem with using an unplugged fridge to store food? Why do I feel that over the years I’ve heard you can’t leave an unplugged fridge without the door slightly ajar? I would appreciate your response!

    Thanks, Matt

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