Thursday, January 26, 2012

The all-natural fridge

I'll admit that when I read about a woman who unplugged her fridge, my first thought was not "what a nut!".  "What a nut" was actually my second thought.   My first thought was, "Could I do that?"

It's hard to figure out how to unplug my fridge when I've got a large family that is thoroughly comfy with the modern American lifestyle.  As I've mentioned before, don't-drive-them-nuts is one of my core values.  The thrift has to come under the radar.  Stealth thrift.  Ninja thrift.

So here's a huge wow-are-you-great to Green as a Thistle (see change #78), who did in fact unplug her fridge for nearly a year, and who survived to tell the tale (see her book, Sleeping Naked is Green).  And here's my stealth version:  my kids call it God's refrigerator.  He only turns it on during the winter, but when it works, WOW does it work well!

The  main lesson you learn in Energy Consumption 101 is that making things either hot or cold uses most of our household energy (unless you have a flat-screen TV).  I love my fuel-efficient car, but even if I drove a HumVee, our biggest gas guzzler would still be my home.  I'm a maniac about turning off lights, but the fridge and the dryer are the real energy hogs around here.  So when it's cold outside, I don't make my indoor refrigerator burn those KWHs; I stick my food outside to chill, and then I move it indoors into the fridge.
Leftover squash, cooling off outdoors after a hot meal.

For a bonus, you can turn the fridge into an ice-box, literally.  Fill used jugs or plastic jars with water, stick them outdoors on a cold day, and when they freeze up, move them into the fridge or freezer.  If you're like me, the chest freezer is slowly emptying up from the garden produce and bulk-purchased meats. Fill it up!

For me, I've found that jugs of ice/water at the back of the fridge serve a double benefit.  First, they help to add "thermal mass" (that is, they keep the fridge cold even when unnamed children open and shut the doors several times an hour).  But also, they keep the food I'm storing closer to the front of the fridge.  It's hard for stuff to get lost in the back, which helps keep stuff from going moldy. 


  1. LOL I actually planned on unplugging my fridge for part of my January Low/No spend plan. My aunt sabotaged me though when she showed up with $200 worth of food much of it needing a freezer or fridge. A bizzare mid 40's winter was not cold enough so I shall try again when the food is all used up.

    I think a lot of the success here would be to realy rethink food choices as well and make things that required no milk, eggs or butter.

    Dont know if I could go without cold water, ice cream or root beer floats on a 100 degree day though!

    1. Carrie, I saw that you tried. It's hard, isn't it? I think the only way I could make it through summer (I mean, supposing my family all of a sudden became clones of me -- which will NOT happen) is if I could keep using the chest freezer for ice cream, left-overs, and bulk foods. We keep the butter that's in use out on the counter anyway. And the only milk that I use is powdered milk for cooking. You could say that a chest freezer is cheating, but really, why use both if you can get down to one? And a freezer uses less energy than a vertical fridge.

  2. LOL yeah it is hard, I don't have a chest freezer, that would make a huge difference. Also suppose I could make tortillas for a month, the kids would not complain! LOL

    Funny that there are parts of the world that do not have refrigeration yet here we have a hard time thinking of giving it up for a day!