Tuesday, March 3, 2015

frugal living 24




As touched on before, you can relatively cheaply provide conventional refrigeration by buying the plug in commercial unit ( around $50 ) that is built specifically to turn a chest freezer ( under $200 ) into a fridge.  Running around ten hours a day you can probably assume 400 watts-about a third of a conventional unit.  If you were paranoid about your solar exposure and bought extra panels to take into account cloudy weather, call it $500 for 300 watts.  You’ll need a few extra batteries to get you through a week, so just call it an even thousand bucks.  Not much more than a regular household fridge and probably cheaper than a propane unit ( which are energy pigs-two tanks a month ).  If you kept the unit in a root cellar or at least on the north side of your home you should enjoy a fridge with minimal cost.  Of course, there are those times when the sun just refuses to come out.  I have enough issues with minimal energy draw, so I’d hate to chance it.  I think an actual old fashion ice box is a much better bet.  That only takes 90 watts for an hour or two and that is only during the non freezing season when you get all that sunshine anyway (  “sunshine to dollars” book.  Worth every penny, the source of most of my solar experiments.  I’ve also been told it is free online, so do a search ).


Now, an ice box is good enough for most of our needs- dairy and condiments and keeping meat for half a day until cooking.  I never cook leftovers, and if you do that is just a lazy habit that cost you $1,000 for a fridge.  Dairy you can actually keep without a fridge, as well as all condiments except mayonnaise ( in the summer, I don’t trust it at all, but the rest of the year I can safely keep it a week without worry, down underground ).  A fridge is really not strictly necessary although nice to have to assure food safety.  For dairy, cheese keeps just fine for the hard variety if you wrap it in a slightly vinegar wetted cheesecloth.  Butter is kept a week, easily, if you place it in a butter crock which is an upside down butter dish in a water filled larger dish.  The water keeps the air out ( clean the butter dish after each week when you add butter.  And, no need to buy a crock, just use a thin glass for the butter placed upside down in a larger glass with some water in it ).  I don’t need either method, as my underground hovel stays cool enough- in fact, the butter only softens in the hottest summer months in which case I only bring home one stick at a time ( I freeze meat at work, one of the perks of having walk-in freezers, and bring home a bit at a time, and keep the butter there during the summer ).  Eggs keep if you place them in a large enough container so water covers all of them- same principle as the butter.  As for not having a freezer, I used to buy that nights dinner meat each evening after work.  Once that got too expensive I started using works freezer.  If you have to, can your meat rather than freeze it.  That will be my next step if I’m ever unemployed ( if I even can afford to do so-it might be seven days a week lacto-vegetarian rather than my current two ).  To duplicate living underground, when you actually don’t, just dig as deep a hole as you can manage and have an insulated cover for it.  Lower a five gallon poly bucket on a rope, with a twist off top, with your dairy inside.  That should stay pretty cool.


Please support Bison by buying through the Amazon ad graphics at the top of the page. You can purchase anything, not just the linked item. Enter Amazon through my item link and then go to whatever other item you desire. As long as you don’t leave Amazon until after the order is placed, I get credit for your purchase.  For those that can’t get the ads because they are blocked by your software, just PayPal me occasionally or buy me something from my Amazon Wish List once a year.

The Old Bison Blog on CD 
Over five years of work and nearly two million words of pure brilliance. Here is the link to order:

Also as a free e-book, but not cleaned up or organized, at Lulu

 my bio & biblio
My books on PDF ( ALL free!!  If you like it, most are available for sale in paper versions )  available at
By the by, all my writing is copyrighted. For the obtuse out there.




  1. A good summary of off-grid refrigeration options here, including what I think is the overrated "zeer pot":


    For myself, I built a variation of the "California cooler". I live on the Washington coast and summer days here seldom exceed 75F and night temperatures are generally between 20 and 45F year round.

    I built an insulated (4" foam) pantry inside the north side of my garage and plumbed a thin 6" aluminum duct outside the building where it is always in the shade. The duct runs from near the floor inside the panty, through the wall, up outside the garage, then back inside at to the top of the pantry. It pumps naturally. The heat in the air radiates through the duct wall, cooling as if falls, pulling more warm air in from the top and dumping the cooled air back into the bottom of the panty. A closed cycle California cooler. I wanted closed cycle to avoid pulling in humidity always present here on the coast. Temperature inside the panty has never exceeded 44F over the last two years. I put a thin plastic film flapper over the bottom exit to prevent reverse flow when the temperature outside is higher than inside. Basically it gather the cold night temperatures and stores them during the day. During the winter when days are below 40 and nights are below freezing, I seal it off to prevent bulk freezing of everything in the pantry.