Getting rid of your fridge: A money saver?


Here in Portland, several people I know are considering getting rid of their refrigerators -- just in time for spring. Two acquaintances are planning on turning their family fridge off in March, and another has been slowly planning her experiment for months. Part of it is to save money on electricity and to help reduce the harmful off-gassing of refrigerants. Part of it is just for the foodie joy and pioneer spirit. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) the New York Times did a piece on going without refrigerators last week.

But, does it save money? It's a straightforward question with way too many variables. Crunchy Chicken and Greenpa have both weighed in and the battle lines are drawn. On the "modern conveniences are great!" side is Ms. Chicken, who proclaims that the energy savings may be little or none (especially if you're using a chest freezer for meats and such, as many fridge-free do) and the extra costs of shopping more frequently (unless you can walk to the store of course) and being unable to purchase and prepare perishable food in bulk outweigh the savings. She argues that you'll throw away the leftovers, to avoid harmful bacteria, and that waste of food and resources is untenable.

On the "what did our ancestors do?" side is Greenpa, who points out that his super-efficient freezer is only opened once a week, saving him 10% of the average American's electric bill, or so, and he makes tradeoffs to avoid needing the fridge. He cooks only a little fresh meat at a time and tends to avoid luxuries like ice cream and cold beer most of the time (one fridge-less person in the NYT article said her husband just put a beer in a cooler for an hour to get cold beer). He drinks powdered milk (if I ever go fridge-free, I will just keep my raw milk at room temperature, making a lot of yogurt in the summer to avoid excessive sourness; the cultures keep it "good" far longer than homogenized milk); he eats a lot of eggs and dried beans.