No Fridge….One Year Later

So a year ago our refrigerator died.  We tried all the usual ‘fixes’ including a really good clean and vacuum underneath, but alas it could not be fixed.  At the time we planned to purchase a new fridge and just needed a temporary fix to keep things cold for a few weeks while we borrowed a trailer and made our way to the city to pick one up (no one…I mean NO ONE delivers out here…unless you want to pay a hefty fee and wait several weeks).

But then January was born, and she had some struggles that just made it impossible to worry about anything else (check that out here https://wp.me/p8t3Rv-us).  And then fall came and Annie started having new medical issues that just gobbled up all our savings and time trying to get her to the right doctors and trying new treatments.  And before I knew it, we had gone a year without a fridge!

So what is living a year without a fridge like? Honestly, it’s just….

Meh.

It’s not really GOOD.  It’s not really BAD.  It’s just ‘meh’.

In order to be able to keep essentials like milk and cheese cool, we put a broken chest freezer in the kitchen, and put 2 gallons worth of frozen milk/juice bottles in it every morning.

Two frozen milk jugs with salt water keep the decommissioned freezer cold. I put the jugs on the built in shelf to encourage the cold air to fall into the bottom of the freezer.

Meh…it works.  Meh…it keeps stuff cold.  Meh…putting the ice in only takes a minute.  Meh….it’s a little more work to keep clean/unsmelly.  Meh…it’s saved me, literally, hundreds of dollars between not buying a new fridge and electricity.

So in short, here’s what it’s been like living for a year with an ‘old fashioned ice box’ (with four kids!).

The ice chest fits nicely next to our hutch!

WHAT I LIKE:

  1. Takes up less space and the door swings UP instead of OUT.  Our old fridge was a space hog and the door was ALWAYS in the way if it was open.  The chest freezer is less than half the size and “blends in” better with the kitchen anyway.
  2. Little kids can’t reach!  No more toddlers dropping bottles of condiments on the ground or trying to ninja climb up the doors.  Haha!  Too short, shorty mc-short shorts.  🙂
  3. Keeps things cool.  The first month or so I had a probe thermometer pinned to the outside and checked it religiously.  Then I realized that the freezer was designed to keep things cool, and it was going to do a good job insulating the ice.  I change the ice every 24 hours just to keep a schedule, but if it’s not a blazing hot summer day it can go 48 hours.
  4. It can’t break.  Things that aren’t plugged in can’t self combust and cost you money and headaches in repairs!  That is probably my favorite feature.  It’s my most trustworthy kitchen “appliance”.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

  1. Ice melts.  Boo.  This creates condensation, which means the ice chest needs wiped out every week or so or it gets smelly and gross.  You also can’t put anything on the bottom that can’t get a little damp (like cardboard egg cartons) because it’ll get wet and rip apart.
  2. Ice melts. Boo.  I have to replace the ice daily.  Yes, it only takes a minute.  But, like all things homesteading related, those extra minutes add up.  I already have plenty of things to worry about in the mornings.
  3. No shelves.  I have two baskets on top for things that just need to be ‘cool’ not cold.  Like lettuce, other veggies, jams, etc.  Everything else has to go on the bottom.  On grocery shopping day this tends to create a big pile of “stuff” on the bottom.  So then you have to dig to get what you need.  However, by the end of the week there’s hardly anything in there, so it’s no problem to get what you want.
  4. I have to be mindful of what goes in the fridge.  I had a lot of junk in my old fridge.  And I didn’t clean it out nearly as often as I should have.  There’s no room in this ice chest to collect leftovers.  If it’s past date, it needs to go.  No being lazy.  I need that space for other things.
Space is limited, and it’s a little hard to organize since most items have to lay flat.

I will say, over all, I had thought the lack of space would have been the biggest problem.  But in a year, I have yet to find an instance that I couldn’t fit everything I needed in the fridge.  Even with four kids and dairy goats!

So what’s the final verdict?  Will I get a fridge?  Yea, probably.  Will I get it tomorrow? Meh.  Actually, the biggest reason we are going to eventually get a fridge is we would like to start selling milk, eggs, meat, etc off the farm later this summer.  I think our clients would appreciate us using a fridge.  Even though I know that the ice chest keeps things just as cold, I’m not sure consumers (or the USDA haha!) would have the same confidence.

So, there will be a fridge again in our future.  But, this ‘temporary’ hack has served us well (and cheaply!)