I feed a family of seven out of a mini-fridge. One mini-fridge. You remember the kind we had in college. I don't even have the one with the serious freezer. We've got the common one with the narrow 4 inch freezer unit on the top shelf. Inside, we can fit either 2 ice cube trays inside or a few packages of frozen peas. Not both.
It is crazy. It is fun!
So when we moved into this house, we came into ownership of the world's largest fridge. It was huge. It was old, a tired stained ivory, but it was the fridge of my elementary school dreams--side by side freezer/ fridge. It had a water dispenser in the door. It had an ice-cube maker. (The last two items weren't hooked up, but they looked nice anyway).
My house is tiny. 850 square feet. Its vintage 1950. Its the house that our grandmothers lived in. Dude, our grandmothers baked three meals a day, everyday, in a small kitchen!
So this mammoth fridge took up my entire kitchen! I had one piece of shelf space at the kitchen sink--cluttered with overhead cabinets and half hidden by a protruding stove. I had one spot to mix up cupcake batter right over the dishwasher.
There was no kitchen table. No center island. No space for a baking rack or pot holder. Nothing.
The mammoth fridge never got filled up. It would be depressing. We'd go grocery shopping. Come home laden with bags. Then we put it away. The fridge swallowed up our food. It looked bare and depressing--always.
Last summer we lost the electricity for 8 days during a freak thunderstorm. We lost all of our food. Every half opened can of mayonnaise. Everything.
A funny thing happened while we waited for the overworked electricians to get the lines to our home fixed. We learned how easy it is to live without refrigeration. We Americans are crazy. We like to chill everything.
My husband and I were forced to do actual "food research." We had to figure out what stuff is safe to leave out, what stuff needed to be chilled. Surprising, the answer is "not that much." I learned that as long as I use up all my food within a few days, I don't have to "chill" eggs, or strawberries, or cheese.
When the power came back on, we kept our "not over using the fridge ways" and then a radical thing happened. We gave up our fridge. My husband put it on freecycle. Another family of seven picked it up. (I thought that was so ironic. They lady said "I need a second fridge because I have five children." I laughed and said "I have to get rid of my giant fridge because I have 5 kids. I need more space in my kitchen!)
The swap out was only supposed to be short term. Our kitchen has three doorways close together in three walls. (a back door, a dining room entrance, and a hall entrance). If I wanted an "eat in kitchen" the only space for a fridge is super narrow. I couldn't get a standard cheap fridge for $300. I have to get one of those special order, super skinny fridges they make for apartments in New York City. The cheapest one of those I found was for $1,000. (Curiously skinny fridges are not common to find used in rural West Virginia. Bigger is always better for food storage in the countryside).
So we gave up our fridge in September--expecting that we'd get a new fridge shortly--but you know, the grand plans for saving money as a family of seven rarely go as easily as expected. So here we in April--no money for a new fridge on the horizon--but I've got to say. I don't care anymore!
I love my mini-fridge.
I love it!
It is perfect for a big family. It's sort of a game to figure out how to position all the butter, diary, meat, and open condiment jars in a tight space. No kid, can sneak food out with me hearing a distinct "clunk" when a loose butter package hits the floor. "Stay out of the fridge. Lunch is in 20 minutes" I can yell from any part of the house. Being on such a tight space constraint actually means that we waste less food and appreciate our meal times more. Less is more.
I had to adjust my grocery shopping slightly. I can't fit those huge gallon plastic milk jugs in my fridge. I buy the 1/2 gallon milk in paper containers. It costs more, but then we easily switched up to Organic Milk. Now I'm more careful about our milk use. We buy 3 1/2 gallons each week. Usually I run out within 4 days. However, that's an easy shopping trip.
We gave up ice cubes and ice cream. No freezer space. We used to eat a lot of ice cream. Its crazy because that was an easy "go to dessert." Now I have to work a little more and my family is happier. I'm hoping to get into "ice-cream from scratch" and then life will be perfect. Ice-cream as a special treat at special times--instead of a daily treat. I read some stuff online that complained the old fashioned crank ice-cream makers were so time consuming "20 minutes" I started to laugh. I have 5 kids. 4 that are old enough to easily crank ice cream. What is that? 5 minutes per kid? No problem!
It's cool to be little and a little counter-cultural.
The fridge is an awesome. invention Electricity is awesome. I like my milk and sour cream safe and chill. But I don't want to be lazy and live off of frozen vegetables and easy ice-cream every night. I like my veggies fresh and my desserts varied.
I know we are saving money on our electricity bill. My mini-fridge costs $40 to chill for an entire year! That's money I'd rather spend heating my house in winter and running my little window air-conditioning units with in the summer.
The mini-fridge. An adventure in the "middle way."