Fridge-free, car-free update time

It is time to give you an update on life car-free and refrigerator-free.

Car-free living has been surprisingly smooth for for me even though the last time I was car-free I was 17 years old. There is much I forgot in the 33 years  since I was last without a car.

Car-free Living

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Living with a car in many ways becomes a habit.  We are safely locked away behind our windshield, protected from rain and wind,  moving at a faster pace of life.  We can get to just about anywhere locally in a matter of minutes and can go great distances in a fraction of the time it would take to travel by foot or schedule alternative ways of traveling.

Yet, it has been refreshing to feel the wind gust or try planning to avoid the rain. I look forward to hearing the birds, something I didn’t hear in my air conditioned car.  What I have enjoyed the most is the long forgotten feeling of seeing everything.  While I don’t enjoy getting a close up look at the trash that litters my town, I  have met so many wonderful people.  Meeting them, has enhanced my life in many ways, a couple becoming friends,  I would like to think I have enhanced even a few moments of theirs as well.

Early last spring as I was heading to the grocery store I spotted a woman weeding her flower beds.  These beds separate the road (a minor highway) from her yard and are beautiful to watch bloom.  I began to look forward to seeing what new flowers were up each time I went buy. This particular day,  I had to stop to let her know how much I looked forward each day to seeing her garden.  She in turn thanked me and told me some days she wants to give up and just plant hedges like many of her other neighbors, but now that she knows how much I enjoy it she was going to keep weeding and hope others enjoy it as well.

Because I was without a car, one day on the way to the hardware store I spotted a small bench with Penn State’s emblem on it, my ex loves Penn State and I usually pick him up something for Christmas when we get together to be with our son.  I not only wouldn’t have noticed this from a car driving down the street, but I wouldn’t have seen the tiny price sticker which read $1.  It called my ex’s name, I asked kindly if it could be held till I returned from the hardware store (it was) and then carried it home.  What I didn’t know is that my ex had been looking for something of the same size and height to put in front of his one chair, I hear all the time now how perfect it is.  If I had a car I would have been out searching for something for him almost up to Christmas day and most likely would have spent much more than a measly dollar.

Shopping for groceries takes a proper list to be sure I don’t over buy and not have a way to carry everything home.  At the same time, it has reduced the amount of food that spoils before I can eat it.

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Traveling into the city is something I do very rarely, but for when I do need to go into the city I found that the bus will stop in front of my apartment building.  Total cost for a 26 mile round trip will only cost me $2.20. My car got 28 -30 mpg and at current prices would have cost me $3.76 for the one gallon I would need to drive into the city. If I need a transfer to another part of town via the bus that will cost me an additional .10.  Again quite a savings is  added up right there and that’s not including wear and tear on the car’s brakes and tires or the cost of insurance.

I do watch the forecasts a little more to see what the weather is expected to be.  If I need something in a day or two but it will be raining then I will go sooner as I don’t particularly enjoy being on the side of the highway getting splashed with the water from the street, but this planning surprisingly doesn’t bother me.
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This winter was challenging for me.  The roads weren’t plowed well, preventing me from getting out often.  When I first mentioned wanting to explore living without a car, my daughter-in-law offered to get me whatever I needed when she went to the store. I thought that was a sweet offer and in return offered to watch the little ones so she could shop in peace (have you ever tried to shop with two 4 year olds?).  It was a deal and an offer too good for either of us to turn down.  Luckily for me she was true to her word and would call me a day ahead of time to ask me if I needed anything. If my garden produces as I hope it will this summer I will have even less need of food being purchased during the winter months next year and outside of food there is very little I need.
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Not owning a car means I no longer have to buy and/or store the following:
  • Antifreeze
  • Wiper fluid
  • Oil
  • Transmission fluid
  • Extra wiper blades
  • Fuel injector cleaner
  • Tire guage
  • Spare tire (I won’t use those donut tires)
  • Ice scraper and snow brush

Fridge-free

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When my fridge died as I was defrosting it all I could do was laugh.  Seriously, I have found that any situation can be less stressful if you can find something funny about it and my grandson’s wide eyes and remark of “Oh, oh that doesn’t sound good” as we heard hissing coming from the fridge was enough to make me smile and know it wasn’t the end of the world.

As I contemplated the demise of the fridge I realized that I didn’t usually have much in it any way.  If I make a pot of soup I end up getting pretty tired eating it every day to finish it off before it goes bad, I do like a little more variety in my meals.  So I took stock of what needed refrigeration and what could be left out, I really only bought one thing regularly that needed refrigeration in my mind and that was my eggs, but then I was informed that even that wasn’t true.

I started to use the trunk of (previously) my car which my son parked here for winter to store things I wanted to keep cold.  This has worked well, but I have had to watch the forecast for any warming weather to speed up finishing leftovers before the warmer days arrived.  For the most part I have been making smaller, individual sized meals and finishing them that day to avoid going out in the cold to get food.

One good thing that came out of this is that I rarely have any food waste.  I don’t miss the fridge at all and know that as the weather warms I will purchase a freezer to store food for winter in and will be able to again make large batches of food that I can freeze, divided into smaller portions, eliminating my need to eat the same meal all week.

Final Thoughts

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With an assessment of what I can live without there are many things that I took for granted which since moving I have not missed. The following are things I no longer have.

  • Microwave: I haven’t had one in almost ten years and don’t miss it at all
  • Toaster/toaster oven:  I rarely eat bread, it just doesn’t agree with me.  Since I want to enjoy it when I  have it a toaster didn’t make sense, I prefer not to have my bread burned :-)While I used to reheat in a toaster oven, giving that up meant I needed a way to reheat foods, my rice cooker does a great job and rather quickly I might add.
  • Immersion blender: I had both a regular blender (all metal and glass that belonged to my grandparents) and a plastic immersion blender.  This just took up space and while it was convenient there isn’t anything I can’t do in the full-sized blender
  • Pans and bake ware:  without a stove there was no need to hold on to these.  Muffin pans, cake pans, cookies trays, cooling racks etc have all found new homes and I have less need of cabinetry to store them in.
  • Range hood: without a stove there is no need to vent the exhaust from the stove.
  • I used to have two metal colanders, why? Because one was smaller than the other.  Today I have one, the larger one works fine regardless of how much food I am straining or rinsing.
  • Coffee Pot:  I don’t drink coffee, can’t stand the smell of it either.  I owned one to be able to make coffee for guests.  Now within 3/4 of a mile there are 7 places guests can get coffee if they want it, or I can offer them coffee bags and heat water for them.  If you can’t live without coffee for a day or two, I don’t really feel it’s my job to provide, store or make it when I don’t drink it.

I doubt you have seriously considered living without a fridge, but have you considered living without a car?  

34 thoughts on “Fridge-free, car-free update time

  1. I would like to try life without a car, if the situation was right. Here in a small town with no public transportation it doesn’t work of course. But in a city I would definitely give it a go. We do have a second vehicle, a truck, that stays parked most of the time. It is used mainly for hauling things, such as a couple scoops of mulch as my husband works on getting the landscaping cleaned up.

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    • Mrs. GV, I can definitely understand, I lived for years where being without a car would have been a problem as we were too far from even the nearest small town. As for hauling things, I have two friends with trailers so I will give them some money for their gas and my son has a Honda Pilot that I can borrow to haul furniture and stuff that won’t get the vehicle dirty.

      It’s a shame that we designed our suburbs in such a way that we have to be dependent on having a vehicle.

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  2. Driving since the 80′s A car is one of those luxuries we each build our lifestyles around.. When I first learnt to drive I often wondered WHY had I learnt and got my license. As in those early years my hubby drove me everywhere and I lost my confidence as less and less I drove.. We went without a car for 3 yrs as we just couldnt afford to keep one when things got tough.. So we got used to catching public transport and walking, and it was a struggle with two small children, pushchair and bags of shopping getting on and off buses, Then things picked up again, And we got another old banger!
    Now I do own my own car, and doing my present job of Support Worker, I need it to travel around to those I support… We can manage without.. and in the old days there were no fridges and when I first got married I didnt have a fridge for two yrs…
    We all could become Car and fridge free if we had too… :-) My admiration goes out to you for doing what you do.. And I am happy that lady will keep growing her flowers so you may continue to enjoy… :-) Love and Blessings Sue

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    • Your story of how a car has come and gone and returned again into your life is interesting. I lived too far out, no public transportation, in the 90s to consider going without one. There was a period in the very late 80s when I did have a car, but drove it rarely. I would put $5 – $10 in the tank for the month, but was afraid to use “what if I needed to run one of the boys to the emergency room” sort of worries. I would walk to the university pushing one in a stroller to the on-campus daycare, walk to get groceries etc. Then we moved further out to save money and had to rely on the car for everything. I really did forget how much fun we had walking everywhere until last summer.

      I had no idea you lived without a fridge for 2 years. I would really love to hear any tips you may have for me!

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      • The only tip I had was that we lived in a cold house LOL.. no central heating in those days :-) and I would buy everything fresh similar to you… My hubby then grew his veggies in the house garden… Meat I would buy on the Saturday Cook on the Sunday ( budget permitting lol ) and have cold the next day.. Milk was delivered daily by the milk man so that didnt go off..
        Now I was partial to icecream and being pregnant these cravings of raspberry ripple icecream could be a problem, However I lived within a stones throw of a small corner shop so this too would be bought and eaten on the day LOL
        When it was summer I would wrap it in layers and layers of newspaper and my one luxury item was my Spin dryer which would dance across the kitchen floor often missing the bowl I would put under the pipe to catch the water…. So when not in use this would act as my cold storage… LOL as I put the icecream in the bottom of the spinner. I was soft but it managed to keep longer in the summer months .. :-) Arrrgh ALL good memories when I look back..

        My children look at me with eyes rolling lol as I often tell them.. as they dream after their next gadget.. ‘you dont know you are born’ lol… And Im laughing as thats just what my dear Gran would say to me hahahaha…

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        • What great memories, thank you for sharing it helps me to know I can do this year round. Your spin dryer made me laugh I had a portable washer that would move and often jiggle the hose off the faucet spraying water all over. I would try to remember to stand near by just in case, of course it was when I forgot that it would come undone.

          I grew up in the city, so we had the same things others did but like you they are fond memories that my children believe would be a hardship (party lines being one) :-)

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          • Glad you enjoyed and I do admire you living your life by your convictions… you never know one day we may all need to live without our gadgets! we rely on electricity to always be there! ..

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          • Well I am still going to purchase a freezer so if the electricity goes down I’ll either be lugging food out into the cold or having a very large picnic for the neighborhood if it’s warm But you are right, I am learning a lot and will have this knowledge should the power grid fail for any length of time, I don’t think it would take much to adjust.

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  3. Living in the country as we do and having the 4 of us, I dont think we couldnt cope without a car or fridge (we dont have public transportation at all where we are – even the train doesnt stop in our town). However, I like the thought of living independant of all of that stuff.. It is commendable that you are able to.

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    • No Heidi, I couldn’t see you being able to live without a fridge or a car, ( and with all your amazing meals a stove either)

      Two years ago I was where you are, I lived too far out to ever consider living without either no public transportation was available and I had to stock up since the cost of running to town was too much to pay. Knowing my disability would get worse and the day could come when I wouldn’t feel confident behind the wheel I look specifically for a place near everything and on the bus line.

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  4. I totally know what you mean about connecting with your neighbors. My habit of walking to the store has gained me a number of friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood – it’s funny, but knowing people in the area really makes me feel more at home here.

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  5. It’s so easy to jump into the car and take off whenever we get the urge that we don’t often stop and think about the real cost of dragging 2 tons of steel around with us everywhere we go. The TRUE cost of doing that is over 50 cents per mile! That’s why the IRS allows that much as its standard mileage rate for deducting travel expenses by car. I computed this for myself and found it to be spot one – when you figure in everything from maintenance to insurance to property taxes to repairs and – most of all! – the cost of replacing the car when it wears out, which it does every mile you drive it. Most people forget to divide the cost of the vehicle by the number of total miles (say, 100,000) and add that to the cost per mile of driving. It’s a real eye-opener!

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    • That is so true, in addition I also read recently that half the natural resources used in the lifetime of a car are already used just in the production of the car, before it ever arrives at the car dealer to be purchased.

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  6. Wow … impressive! I’d probably have an easier time giving up the car than giving up the refrigerator. I’m not sure how I would manage during the hot months. While giving up the car would be easier, it still would be difficult because in my area (unfortunately) there aren’t many sidewalks and public transportation is only available for limited hours and only during the week. I’d love to be able to walk to the store but one takes their life into their hands to walk, here. I’m hoping that will change. As it is, we use the car maybe once a week. We try to plan out our trips so that we’re not driving daily.

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    • I do know what you mean about having no sidewalks. The street I live on has no sidewalks for a bit in each direction as this is a minor highway. At first I was pretty nervous, but I see people walking and biking all the time so I decided I would just have to have faith.

      That’s wonderful that while you have car you only use it once a week. That’s pretty much were I was when I realized I was spending more money on inspections, registration and insurance than I spent to actually use the car. The decision would have been made sooner if I didn’t have one son who lived out of town that I like to visit a few times a year.

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    • Yes, I make all meals using just those two items (slow cooker and rice cooker). I originally thought I would purchase a hot plate but then as time went by I realized there wasn’t any reason to add another appliance here. There was nothing I missed making that I couldn’t make with these two appliances. The more I thought about it the more I also realized that the hot plate might be dangerous with the little ones around and finally gave away my pans that I had held on to when I made the move.

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    • We do build our lives around the car. I am impressed that you have never driven. I see a trend starting where teens aren’t anxiously waiting for that magic day when they can get their license. That’s a huge change from when I was a teen.

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  7. I didn’t get a car until I was 21 so I walked a lot and caught public transport. Then when we had our first baby we shared a car, I got it once during the week whilst my husband caught the train to work. It was okay as I could walk to the shops to pick up milk etc, but I found it a little isolating being at home with a baby and only able to go places I could walk. I can still vividly remember walking 25 minutes to get to the paediatrician with my baby screaming all the way. When we got inside his office he said , “I heard you arriving”…… Now we are back to two cars, you are right they are such a drain on finances (and the environment). I think perhaps once the boys have grown up we could go back to sharing a car. My husband would quite like a Vespa!

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    • I can only imagine what a nerve wracking walk with a screaming baby that would have been. I couldn’t have ever managed without a car while my boys were young. We didn’t live any where near public transportation and there were too many soccer, basketball and football games etc that needed a car to get to.

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  8. I would love to get rid of my car. I’ve fantasized about leaving it to rot and buying a little motorized scooter, but riding my bicycle most places. I am looking forward to getting on the ol’ bike again soon. You are truly an inspiration. But I will take much more thought before I entertain ditching the car.

    My fridge is SO full. I’m not sure what we are eating that keeps it so full. But stuff rarely expires or rots, so we must be using it all. I am really looking forward to gardening this year. I hope my motivation holds.

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    • I can just see you on a scooter, smiling and waving to everyone as you go. ;-)

      I think most people have at least had a passing thought or two wishing they didn’t need to have their car ever since gas prices started to shoot up. For many, like me, who moved to a more remote area before the prices went up then began to realize the bite it takes out of their budget.

      It’s funny but I’ve never had a full fridge in my life. I could fill it but within hours my boys would have made such a dent in it that you never would have been able to picture it full. Once they moved out, my fridge was a pretty lonely place.

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  9. You know, until Dan mentioned it, I never thought about the fact that I lived for three years in a small mobile home. I had no car and had a 10 minute walk to the bus then a 1/2 hour ride to the campus where I was a student. Although, I didn’t have a car, I did have a stove and a refrigerator. I have also lived in some very small apartments. However, now I have more room and that makes me happy. I enjoy some space around me. However, when we moved to where we are now, we moved into a older much smaller house than we had before including storage areas. And we don’t really miss the extra space. We just rid of what didn’t fit. I think most of us can adapt to what we have.
    I guess that’s a bit of rambling. Thanks for the updates. It will be interesting to see how the summer goes without the fridge.

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    • I think we can learn to live without many things. My son called me from his first deployment in the military telling me how little the people in that country had and the effect it had on him. He had grown up in a small mobile home, surrounded by so many with mini mansions that he dreamed of the huge house, but seeing how little other countries had he changed his views quickly.

      Summer is a little easier. We have two farmer’s markets, one on Tuesday the other Saturday and then there is the garden so I can have fresh food kept here for shorter periods without needing refrigeration, or hopefully can create meals straight from the garden.

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  10. I admire you, it is amazing how you have managed to scale down to what you need without much waste. We moved to our house about 20 yrs ago, and we are miles and miles away from anything, so we are required to have 2 cars. We use a freezer often, and because of you, I have managed to scale down what I put in it. You inspired me to read all of the labels :) Thanks for always having a great blog :)

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    • Thank you, but I do plan to have a freezer to store food for winter. I’m glad you have been reading labels, it’s amazing what we find in our so-called food. I always thought I wanted to live as I called it “in the middle of no where” but then I realized that life didn’t suit me, I just didn’t want to live in a city where there was no open space to enjoy.

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  11. Okay, I’m not living without a car, but we did just reduce to one car instead of two. Yes, I’ll have to have to drive my wife to the airport every 4 or 5 weeks ( she travels for work ), or let her take the car and I’ll bike to work, but as you point out – it sure beats the cost of a ( second ) automobile.

    I’m also giving up my house for a 300 square foot mobile home and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything – I’m gaining freedom from material possesions and obligations.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

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    • Reducing to one car is fantastic, so many people can’t imagine a life without a car for each adult in the household.

      I didn’t realize you were moving into a small mobile home, I love it. You will be living in the same size home I do. I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything in my move either. Actually, I have found much more to living here than I even imagined when I signed the lease. I look forward to hearing about life in your new home.

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  12. not really. I like the convenience of a fridge, and with 3 little children, I do need to be able to store things like milk, yogurt and other perishable items. Also, I cook double at night, so we can eat leftovers for lunch…that would be tricky since we live in the south and winter months are mild and short. Living without a car would also be hard, since we would have to walk 20min just to get to the bus route. I do see your point of view, and definitely a life with less stress would be best for all of us…

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    • I was in a similar situation with transportation in my previous apartment. I lived close to 15 miles from anything (one way) so while there I could never have considered being without a car and can definitely understand where you are coming from.

      I no longer have little ones living with me so I do have more freedom than you do in what I can life without.

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  13. Your last point about coffee made me laugh – my dad insists I have ‘coffee stuff’ for him – instant will not do. Admittedly I think it’s their unused plunger I have! And I have more than one coffee shop oh so close. Sigh. I’m inspired that you do without a stove/oven AND a fridge AND a car. Inspiring. I think I like baking and the like too much to consider an over free life – though in student housing I did without one!

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    • I have never been one who really liked baking. My preferred method of preparing a meal has always been to toss everything in a slow cooker and walk away ;-)

      I never would have pictured life without a car or a fridge before, but now realize there are plenty of things I can live without. Did I also mention I don’t own a TV either?

      I used to keep coffee on hand for my grandfather, but he used instant so it wasn’t hard to have. He didn’t visit often so a tiny jar was plenty.

      I wondered if people would think I was horrible not to provide coffee to overnight guests, but it has worked out, only my ex can’t live with out his morning cups and well friendly or not I’m not providing him with it :-) My kids can take it or leave it.

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