Living without a refrigerator is tough. Preserving foods without refrigeration was done for centuries and is still done in many countries. Most people take refrigeration for granted. It does make life easier and convenient. If you want to live without paying for that convenience it can be done. I have lived off and on without it myself. When my husband and I moved to our homestead here the house already had a Servel gas refrigerator in it. We were very pleased with it even though it was a very old model from the 1930s. I liked the fact that it was very quiet and the food stayed at a constant temperature without the fluctuating temperatures that the electric models have. My Servel had one of those tiny freezers. I managed to squeeze packages of meat in it as long as I re-wrapped so it was as small as possible. Usually it was harder to get out than get in! It would freeze as hard as a rock and become embedded in the frost build up. I would go at it with my ice pick!
Now we have been here for eighteen years and my husband has been slowly remodeling our house which included insulating it. Once the house was closed up and insulated, the propane for the refrigerator started bothering me. I could not breathe. So we had to sell the refrigerator. We managed to live for over six years without any refrigerator except an ice chest. Our plan was to purchase the SunDanzer refrigerator and freezer. They are two separate units built the same as the chest freezers. Use very little power and are perfect for anyone generating their own power. We did purchase the SunDanzer refrigerator in 2013. Very thankful for that!
Our house was built in the 1850s and included an old fashioned root cellar which is also part of the refrigeration system. My root cellar has a dirt floor and fieldstone walls. It also has a big built in bin that is connected to the ceiling with no legs on the floor. I think it may have been used for storing apples since our property had many apple trees. I open one of the windows in the root cellar to let the cool night air in. Then in the morning I close that window so it does not heat it up. I want to keep it cool. The pantry is connected to the root cellar by a door and stairs. In the morning when I close the root cellar window, I open the pantry door a crack and let that cool night air cool our pantry all day. It works well. In the summer it is still cool, but not as good as I’d like.
My pantry is presently being remodeled to be the ideal food pantry. We are removing the window as it just takes up space and I will use a light in there. Dark is better for your stored foods anyway. It will have steel or metal flooring, walls and ceiling. There will be a air intake register on the floor to allow the cool air from the root cellar to come into the pantry to keep it cool. Presently everything in the pantry has to be covered and protected from the mice that always find their way in. We are hoping the new walls, flooring, ceiling and removing the window will help keep them out. I always planned on having open shelves in the pantry so anyone could go in and find something on their own. Not to be. I will be putting in metal cabinets with a tight fitting door that is strong enough to hold home canned jars of food. Even if I have mouse proofed it as much as possible, there is always that one mouse………
Luckily, I love to can! That was the key to our survival during this period. I will still be canning even if we had our Sundanzer freezer. When we have a freezer we will be able to freeze some foods. I will always try to use types of food that do not need refrigeration as much as possible. I am always canning many foods and even did that when I had the gas refrigerator. I can meat often and it keeps much longer than frozen. If you think canned meat tastes like the stuff you get in the store…….then you are in for a real surprise! Your own home canned meats are excellent. The taste is so good that sometimes I cannot believe it myself. I like to buy a big roast or big turkey breast or something else like that and cook it slowly in the oven at a medium temperature till it is more than half cooked. Then I can it and let if finish off cooking in the pressure canner. I save all the broth and juice and can that too. So tasty that I even drink it for a snack. Or use it for soup or gravy. What a savings that is!
Then there are those dairy products which make it the hardest for someone not using refrigeration. That is the whole reason I really wanted the Sundanzers. Cold dairy products are the main thing I missed. We used to put a bottle of milk in a cold pail of water or in a ice chest packed with store bought ice. It didn’t last too long and you have to consume those foods pretty quickly. I dumped a lot of sour milk and cream! Canned in the half pint jars I am able to can cheese and butter and keep them in the pantry for future uses. Some people will say “yuck, canned cheese?” or “Butter can be preserved without any preservation methods.” I know this. I like to store it for a period of time and not have to use it up. Canned cheese needs to be heated a little to get it out of the jar when you go to use it. The only thing you cannot do with it is put a slice in a sandwich. It comes out in a lump. For grilled cheese sandwiches I just spoon some out and put on my bread and it melts perfectly for the normal grilled cheese sandwich or anything else you need it for.
I found that living without refrigeration helped me save money at the grocery store. I did not buy all those extras that I used to buy since I could not store it back then. Now with the SunDanzer refrigerator we do splurge more often. I have found a store locally where I can purchase our condiments in the little packets that do not need refrigeration, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, etc. So for a time being we used those but they were more expensive. Yes, the refrigerator made life so much easier. It takes up a lot of room in the pantry, but is so worth it. In the winter, it never turns on at all and when it does, it uses less power than my energy efficient laptop. It doesn’t lose the cold air when you open it because it is all down in the bottom of the unit. I love having the convenience of cold food! Still don’t have the freezer yet……..but we will!
Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
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