How to Still Be Chill Without a Refrigerator

How to Still Be Chill Without a Refrigerator | refrigerator | Off-Grid & Independent Living Preparedness\Survival Special Interests US News

Looking for a fun way to spend this hot summer week? I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that spending it without a working refrigerator is NOT it.

A few years ago I was out for the day.  I got home and opened the fridge and grabbed a drink. I though, “Hmm….that isn’t very cold.”

In a power outage situation, this is not an unlikely scenario at all.  So  in the spirit of making this a “chance-to-practice-preps” experience instead of a “dad-gum-it- I-had-to-throw-out-a-bunch-of-groceries” experience, here’s what I learned.

Food safety rules

I was absolutely loathe to throw away groceries, but after having a recent bout of food poisoning after a dinner out, I wasn’t will to take any chances.  The dog thoroughly enjoyed her bowl of roast beef with potatoes and carrots though.

FoodSafety.gov offers these guidelines:

Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? It should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours.

Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

Note: Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide.

Food CategoriesSpecific FoodsHeld above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOODRaw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutesDiscard
Thawing meat or poultryDiscard
Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg saladDiscard
Gravy, stuffing, brothDiscard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beefDiscard
Pizza – with any toppingDiscard
Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated”Discard
Canned meats and fish, openedDiscard
Casseroles, soups, stewsDiscard
CHEESESoft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso frescoDiscard
Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, RomanoSafe
Processed CheesesSafe
Shredded CheesesDiscard
Low-fat CheesesDiscard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)Safe
DAIRYMilk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milkDiscard
Butter, margarineSafe
Baby formula, openedDiscard
EGGSFresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg productsDiscard
Custards and puddings, quicheDiscard
FRUITSFresh fruits, cutDiscard
Fruit juices, openedSafe
Canned fruits, openedSafe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, datesSafe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMSOpened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradishDiscard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
Peanut butterSafe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, picklesSafe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin saucesSafe
Fish sauces, oyster sauceDiscard
Opened vinegar-based dressingsSafe
Opened creamy-based dressingsDiscard
Spaghetti sauce, opened jarDiscard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINSBread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillasSafe
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie doughDiscard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoesDiscard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigretteDiscard
Fresh pastaDiscard
CheesecakeDiscard
Breakfast foods –waffles, pancakes, bagelsSafe
PIES, PASTRYPastries, cream filledDiscard
Pies – custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quicheDiscard
Pies, fruitSafe
VEGETABLESFresh mushrooms, herbs, spicesSafe
Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packagedDiscard
Vegetables, rawSafe
Vegetables, cooked; tofuDiscard
Vegetable juice, openedDiscard
Baked potatoesDiscard
Commercial garlic in oilDiscard
Potato saladDiscard
Casseroles, soups, stewsDiscard

Damage control

Had I been home and realized there was a problem in time, I would have immediately canned, cooked, or otherwise preserved the food in my refrigerator.  Click HERE to learn how to can your own recipes.

Since this is not an area-wide power outage, I have access to ice.  The freezer works somewhat so I am able to make more ice. I’m keeping delicate items in the freezer, like milk, mayonnaise, and meat. (I have been buying about 2 days’ worth of fresh items at a time for the past week.)

Basically, a refrigerator that doesn’t work can be used like a large, standing cooler.  If you keep replenishing the ice, you can keep things at a moderate temperature. Here is a picture of my fridge. You can see the large blocks of ice on the sturdy bottom shelf, and bowls of ice on the other two shelves.

How to Still Be Chill Without a Refrigerator | fridge-223x300 | Off-Grid & Independent Living Preparedness\Survival Special Interests US News

Unfortunately, it still isn’t that cold, so I’m using it for drinks, butter, veggies, fruit, hard cheese, and my beloved chocolate.

Here’s the ambient temperature in the fridge after having the door open for a moment to get this photo. This is with all of the ice in it.

How to Still Be Chill Without a Refrigerator | temp | Off-Grid & Independent Living Preparedness\Survival Special Interests US News

Keeping your food cool during power outages

In a grid-down situation, things would be different. I am able to use my freezer sort of like a cranky refrigerator as long as I don’t mind things potentially getting partially frozen.  As well, I have easy access to ice as near as the closest gas station.

For keeping your food safe during a power outage, take these steps to be prepared:

  • Use your deep freezer to freeze gallon bottles of water (leave space for expansion).  You can use these to keep the contents of your refrigerator cool.
  • Have a cooking method that does not require grid power in case you need to can your perishable food.
  • Print out the food safety guidelines above and keep them near the fridge. If you have no grid, you won’t be able to access the list on the internet.
  • If you don’t already have one, invest in a thermometer for your refrigerator so that you can monitor the temperature.
  • Store food in ways that are not grid-dependent: dehydrate or can when possible.
  • Learn how to make a clay pot refrigerator (and get all of your supplies)

When in doubt, throw it out. Food poisoning is horrible, and can even be deadly. It’s just not worth it.

In a long-term scenario, it would be an entirely different ballgame. We’d begin to rely on the methods our ancestors used: we would cook only amounts that could be immediately consumed or items that did not require refrigeration of the leftovers. As well, we’d eat more fruits and vegetables in hot weather. Learn more about surviving in a long-term off-grid scenario HERE.

As for me, a part has been ordered and I had a working fridge the following afternoon.  It took a little extra work, what with shuffling ice back and forth between the fridge and freezer, but, in the grand scheme of things, it was only been a blip on the radar, aside from the loss of some food.

What about you?

Have you ever lost food during a power outage? What did you learn? What is your refrigeration plan in the event of a summer power outage?


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About The Author

Daisy Luther lives on a small organic homestead in Northern California. She is the author of The Organic Canner, The Pantry Primer: A Prepper's Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget, and The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health and preparedness, and offers a path of rational anarchy against a system that will leave us broke, unhealthy, and enslaved if we comply. Daisy's articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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