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How to survive without a refrigerator

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Josh S. is a resident of Manhattan, NY, who went over a year without using a refrigerator.

Josh said his refrigerator was using the most electricity of all the appliances in his apartment, so to cut back on electricity, he stopped using the refrigerator.

Josh said it was, “a mindset shift followed by continual improvement.”

“People in Manhattan lived without refrigeration until the mid-20th century, so it’s doable,” he told the Associated Press.

Depending on the time of year, Josh said his food will keep for about two days on his windowsill.

But Josh admits it’s easier for him to go without a refrigerator because he’s vegan and doesn’t eat meat or dairy, foods that can cause major health risks if not refrigerated.

According to Josh…

“You take what you have, and you make it taste good and now I just have to eat what I buy before it goes bad or pickle it so it lasts a bit longer.”

At first, he started unplugging his refrigerator for a few months during the winter.

He said, “I honestly wasn’t sure I could survive a week without it. I didn’t have a plan for how I would get by without one.”

Now, before you go and unplug your refrigerator, keep these things in mind…

Obviously, refrigerators are one of the most important household appliances.

According to the Department of Agriculture, “Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Bacteria exist everywhere in nature. They are in the soil, air, water, and the foods we eat.”

The USDA cautions that, “Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 F and 140 F.”

So, keeping your refrigerator set at 40F or below will protect most foods from going bad.

Even though Josh doesn’t have a refrigerator, he still cooks food using an electric pressure cooker powered by a solar panel and battery.

He mostly cooks with ingredients from a local farmer’s market and a farm cooperative.

While Josh is not against refrigerators, he said, “If everyone could live without a fridge for, say, two weeks over the year it would save an extraordinary amount of power.”

But the fact is, 99% of Americans have a refrigerator. And 23% of Americans have more than one.

And getting most people to break out of their comfort zone, for even a day or two, is a fool’s errand.

But as Americans face more power disruptions, there could come a day when large swaths of people are forced to live without a refrigerator for an extended period.

So, being prepared now, before the power blinks out, will put you ahead of 99% of the population.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend going and unplugging your refrigerator as Josh did.

But to help you prepare to live without reliable refrigeration, here are a few things you can do when surviving without a refrigerator.

Get groceries daily:

If you don’t have a refrigerator, food will spoil quickly. This is why it’s best to buy your food daily.

Go to the store each day and get what you need to eat for the whole day. You would likely need to do this every morning since you can’t keep food fresh.

In addition, try to buy fresh food from a farmer’s market. If you buy fresh fruits and vegetables that have never been refrigerated, they will likely stay fresh longer.

Of course, during a true disaster this likely won’t be feasible, which is why you want survival food that can last 25 years and doesn’t require refrigeration.

What needs refrigeration:

Far fewer items need refrigeration than we think. For example, some fruit can last one to four weeks without refrigeration.

Also, some vegetables can last weeks if they have been unwashed and not refrigerated from the start.

Eggs and condiments such as ketchup and jelly can also go without refrigeration for at least a week.

When the power goes out, don’t stress over fruits or vegetables since they can survive without being kept cold.

Instead, focus your efforts on keeping foods that must be refrigerated, such as meat, from spoiling.

Cold storage:

If you don’t have a refrigerator your next best option is to keep food in a cool, dry, and dark place. Ideally, a basement if you have one.

Another option is to construct an underground – or partially underground – root cellar.

Both of these options need to be planned for before losing your power. So, now is a good time to think about building a cold room or root cellar.

Finally, another option is to put your food in five-gallon buckets and secure it. Then, you can bury the buckets in your yard.

The ground is cold, especially in the winter. This method can provide short-term cold storage when all you have time to do is dig a hole.

Now, your best bet to survive without refrigeration is to have enough non-perishable food on hand to last at least a month, preferably 6 months.

Start where you can and build up your stock. Just make sure you have enough for you and your family to survive an extended emergency or grid-down scenario.

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