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Sunday, October 16, 2011


In a recent post (Pipes Under the Garden) I cast doubt on whether as many people need fridges as own them. In the comments, several people encouraged me to explain why I have it in for fridges. It comes in two parts. Here, dedicated to


is part one.

* * *

We’ll begin with exceptions because, of course, there are many;

people who live in very hot places,
people who need to keep medicines cool,
who live far from towns and cities or
who grow so much of their own food that freezing makes sensible sense.

(Salted runner beans aren’t pleasant).

It may be that nearly everyone who reads this blog is an exception; it’s certainly possible. But exceptions are not the point. Of those who live in towns or cities where the climate is temperate - of these - the majority don’t need fridges or freezers.

Here’s a list of things which don’t need to be in a fridge. (Don’t think of exceptions - think of the point I’m making.)

Lettuce and salads of any kind
Food to be eaten today
Food left over from yesterday
Most foods which will be eaten tomorrow

Nearly always, people say
‘But what about milk?’.

Milk can be a problem in summer - but with the bottle in a bowl of cold water and a damp cloth to draw the water up and over, evaporation takes the warmth away and the milk will stay fresh long enough to use.

Why do people need cars?
Often because of the ‘weekly shop’.

Why do people go to large stores out of their own areas and shop once a week, instead of buying things as they go along?
Because local shops are closing.

Why are local shops closing?
Because people shop weekly in large stores.

Why, again, do people shop in big out-of-the-area-stores?
Because prices are cheaper there.

Why are prices cheaper there?
Because local stores have to make up for not selling enough goods by pricing the ones they do sell high.

Why is turn-over low?
Because people do a weekly shop in large stores.

How are people able to buy lots of perishable goods so many days before they’re planning to use them?
 Because they have fridges and freezers.

Why do people buy so many things at once, often more than they need?
- because the fridge is there to fill.
It looks silly with nothing in it.
It’s a habit.

How do people bring home their shopping when they buy so much in bulk? 
In a car, that’s how.

What would people miss if they didn’t have cars?
Some would miss many things . . .
. . . but for others, it would mainly be that they couldn’t do a weekly shop. Buses would take them to work and back - but not back from the store with a mountain of goods.

Fewer fridges - fewer cars; less energy used, a slower consumption of finite resources like metal and plastics and oil and . . . Don’t you think that sounds good?


elizabethm said...

You are a genius and I think I love you. Yes, it sounds good.

Janet said...

I can't escape the logic of your argument, Esther. It is a habit and very different from the way I was brought up when shopping in local shops was an everyday event...

Liz said...

Hi Esther,

It's a nice idea but reality is; I HATE shopping for food with a passion, let alone going on a daily basis to pick up the odds and ends we neeed if we were to have no fridge or freezer.

Although yes the logic does make sense and yes bills would be lower and the environment would be better off.

What about those like me who have no local shops nearby and nowhere for the shops to open up? Should we build them instead? The nearest local butchers, bakers and such is up and over a massive hill that cars struggle up. Either that or a 2 mile walk into the city centre - up a long semi-steep hill all the way back home... For me buying locally isn't feasible and I am sure many others are in a similar situation.

linniew said...

Hi Esther
I'm afraid my walk would be 10 miles. I agree that vital centers of small towns make perfect sense, but my house is antique and has always been remote. So the freezer does indeed save me fuel since I have to drive to shop. I wouldn't mind a horse but for now my tiny hybrid car (10 years old and doing well) is the best I can do. I love this post of yours though, and I love how the world is coming round on so many issues like this.

Elephant's Eye said...

When I met my Swiss mother-in-law I was surprised by her daily shopping routine. Yes she could walk, just a few blocks, and she enjoyed the company, a housewife with some time available. In the salad drawer of the fridge, lived the chocolate. The salad lived on the kitchen windowsill, outside in the shade. Or between the layers of the winter storm windows.

Now you remind me, 30 years ago there was a communal freezer. She had her space there, along with others from the village.

If I was at home in a city I could try. My English born mother likes to keep butter out of the fridge, so she can spread it (ours is hardened with something? or not softened with something?) but in summer that quickly turns to oil ;~(

Mo and Steve said...

Personally, I would give my eye-teeth to have back the Pantry (Larder)that used to be in this house, with it's marble slab. Then you could take my fridge. Not my freezer though, for one of the reasons that you cite :) Mo

Cro Magnon said...

Guilty. We live miles from anywhere. All our fruit and veg comes from the garden. Most of our conserves are bottled, but some goes into the freezer. My weekly shopping trip (by car) takes me about 20 K's away. I think if I suggested to Lady M that we dump the fridge, she might hit me with something... she's actually wanting another freezer!

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

A really challenging and inspiring post Esther. One of the things I hope will be true of where we move to next will be that it is in walking distance of local shops, including a good butchers and greengrocers, though on the latter front I hope we will be growing our own - and will therefore need a freezer or two. I'd also love a larder. I was really inspired the other day when I stumbled upon the eco village built in Shropshire by Living Villages. The homes are all designed to be very sustainable and have low energy requirements, and are built around shared allotments, orchard and even piggery. It is the kind of way I would love to live, though sadly the company went bust and now it is uncertain whether the remaining houses originally planned for will get built. I'm equally concious that to get the kind of space required to grow a goodly amount of our own food, in a way that is convenient enough for me with my health issues, will probably pull us more in the direction of remote living, making life without a car impossible again. But you have given me lots of food for thought...

Bridget said...

Excellent explanation of the vicious cycle created by not thinking about our actions. Well done you!