Life without fridges

IMG_7566 When I travelled in Oz, mostly on the move and living out of a tent, one thing we pretty much didn’t have was a decent fridge. I thought some information on life without fridges would be useful if you are considering this sort of trip, and wondering if you need this option.

First off, I admit we had a fridge. But it was a totally crappy thermoelectric jobby which was basically a glorified coolbox. It ran off the 12v cigarette lighter which meant, as we didn’t have a funky dual battery set up, that it only ran when the engine was running. Really we only used it to keep beer cold between purchase and imbibing, usually not a large span of time later. If I was going to do the trip over, then perhaps a second battery powering a slightly more advanced electric fridge, or a gas powered fridge, would be an option.

When we started the trip I was so used to living with a fridge that living without a fridge for came as a bit of a shock. How, therefore, does one cope?

You need to realise, straight away, that there are some things that just aren’t going to feature in your new fridgeless lifestyle, unless you happen to be travelling somewhere excessively cold with the windows open all the time. And who wants that?

Food box. Stowaway optional.Butter, for example, is pretty much a no-go, as is most dairy. You can get UHT milk in small cartons, if you are desperate for milk. It’s easier however, just to get used to milk free coffee/tea/breakfast/life. Cheese could be kept for short periods, if you happen to be into sweaty cheese. Nice.

So what else is there? Most vegetables can survive without refrigeration, just stick them in a cardboard box with some newspaper or something like that to stop them getting squished. Don’t leave them in their plastic packaging, they tend to go goopy quickly. Onions and garlic in particular last for ages, and having a few fresh things in your food makes all the difference when cooking.

Otherwise, it is time to embrace what we lovingly referred to as the apocalypse diet. This largely consists of tinned food. It’s pretty amazing how many varieties of tinned food you can get hold of these days, not even counting the slightly dodgy pre-made meals. We were travelling with a pescatarian, so thankfully we were not really getting involved with the strange pre-made tinned meals, but my Dad swore by tins of Irish stew on his trip round Oz back in the mists of time, so that’s certainly an option for the meat eaters out there. However just a few basic things, with a good combination of spices, can be thrown together to make a fairly wide range of tasty food.

Things you probably want to keep stocked include tins of tuna, (all kids of fish come in tins, get whatever you like) tomatoes, vegetables (peas, corn and mushrooms were all deemed fine, asparagus was not the most tinnable of items we learnt), as well as pulses like kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils. You can get tinned fruit as well. With a good selection of spices, from the essential mixed herbs, through to paprika, Chinese five spice, curry powder, chilli, and that old favourite, Tabasco, it’s quite amazing what you can make. Dried foods travel easily, like pasta, rice and noodles. Eggs are an option, but need to be securely packaged, particularly if you happen to be travelling off the beaten track.

Coffee. Never leave home without it. From a relatively simple base of ingredients you can chuck together meals ranging from tuna bolognaise, to three bean chilli, curries, goulashes (paprika, despite my travelling companions best efforts, is not a replacement for every missing spice), and even simple Chinese dishes. Mix it up a bit. Get some tinned coconut cream, some tinned pineapple, add lentils and curry powder, and voila, some kind of dhansak dish magically appears. Sometimes imagination is admittedly required when your travelling companion presents you the same mashed up pile of reddish goo you’ve been eating for the previous two weeks disguised under a different name, but with a bit of creativity you really can have enough variety to avoid meals becoming static.

When you do go shopping to re-stock, which we did every two or three weeks, buy some fresh stuff and cook it that evening. Get some steak for the bbq, or some fresh fish and fresh veg, the kind of stuff that you can’t keep for too long normally. Bacon for the following morning breakfast is a nice one too. Obviously baked beans survive forever. Bread should last up to five days without going mouldy.

So, that’s surviving without a fridge, the basic guide. It’s also a pretty cheap way to live. There are probably some environmentally friendly credentials, if you don’t happen to be navigating in a 4.2 litre diesel monstrosity. Hopefully it was either useful, of interest, or kept you from doing something you really didn’t want to do for five minutes ;)

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