Refrigeration (Part 2…How-To)

Having talked about all the reasons not to have a fridge, there are times when keeping stuff cold is a must.

I’ve found that many foods I once refrigerated do nicely on the shelf or in a dark, cool cabinet.

No Refrigerate List:

Eggs, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, squash, citrus and tropical fruit, apples, butter, non-mayo based condiments (ketchup, mustard, sriracha, BBQ, etc.), salsa, green beans, spinach, carrots, kale, potatoes-white or sweet, berries, bagged lettuce mixes, tortillas, bread, organic peanut butter, jams/preserves & tea.

This list could include many more foods I think-what didn’t make the list we either have not tried or do not eat.

As a caveat, you can also have veggies like broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, even cilantro without refrigeration for up to a day, day and a half IF it is cool inside your shed.  If it’s warm or hot-you have to refrigerate or they wilt quickly.


Shed’s Thermometer

When I say cool I mean 50-65 degrees F.  Our shed temp stays pretty cool most of the year, in the 50-60s fall and early winter and 50s January through early March.

In the winter and early  Spring our kitchen cabinet’s back wall is an external facing (actually they all are…being that there’s only four of them), and it stays between 40-45 degrees F inside it.  We have found this quite handy for keeping left overs over night and the more tender veggies above.

Refrigerate List:

Non-preserved and raw meats, milk and milk products like soft cheeses and yogurt, opened mayo and mayo based dressings, cooked foods (left overs) & tender veggies.

Off-Grid Refrigerator


Coleman Cooler

We use a Coleman cooler and bagged ice to keep foods cool when necessary.  We chose the one we are using now for no other particular reason than someone left it here. 🙂 We have looked (multiple times) at a Yeti cooler.  I do believe they are as good as they say-but I can’t bring myself to pay $300+ for one. I just cannot.

However, if I lived remotely where I could NOT get to town and had to buy perishables for a week+ at a time, I would certainly buy one.

Fridge Set-Up

There are several ways to set up a cooler for food storage and there are important considerations depending on the food you are storing.  We developed our method based on a lot of error, wasted food, and getting sick a couple of times.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian eating off-grid is actually much simpler.  If you are of the omnivore class, like our family, there are special considerations that must be taken to avoid food borne illness.

E. Coli is serious and Salmonella can kill you. Besides, having intestinal issues, throwing up, or both at one time (E. Coli) is even less fun in an out house than it is in a well plumbed bathroom.

E.Coli courtesy of

Hear me say this brothers and sisters:  I am by no means a germaphobe.  I believe a healthy level of bacteria in our environments helps our immune systems stay strong.  However, I cannot emphasize this enough:  Keeping food on ice in a cooler DOES NOT keep it at an even temperature like a normal fridge.  That means that bacteria will multiply more quickly.

To keep food safe, we combine 2 methods:  We use a cooler rack and ziploc bags.  

Brand name isn’t important-the bags should just be of the resealable variety.

Cooler Rack

This rack was bought at Wal-Mart and fits decently well into the cooler.

How it Works

All meat should be sealed in ziplocs.  You can leave it in its original packaging or take it out-but seal it.  Sealed meat goes in the bottom of the cooler in the ice.

Anything like cheese or other stuff you want cold that could possibly touch the meat should also be put in a ziploc.

Cover ziplocked food with ice. Place the rack over all of it.  Veggies go on top of the rack and should NEVER come in contact with the ice-both for sanitary reasons and because it will ruin them.

Think of it this way-if you are going to eat/drink it without cooking it (cheese/canned drinks/veggies, etc.) it cannot get near the meat.  Try as you might while sacking the meat in ziplocs, you will get blood/germs on your hands and on the outside of the bags-even if you wash your hands repeatedly-then the ice and water from the ice has bacteria on it.

I am aware that another solution is a second cooler.  However, in a 200 sq ft space that’s just not floor space I’m willing to give up.

We are always looking for smaller and more efficient ways to keep food.  As we come across them we will share!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s