Eight Days Without A Refrigerator (Life At Room Temperature)

We have deemed this season as, “The Summer of our Discontent.”

No matter my pledge to be present for my kids during these sunny months, life has posed some distractions. In the past four weeks, our basement flooded, the phone line went down, and the air conditioning in my car blew up. There have been scheduling issues, hospital visits, Lego disputes, and I believe the ground squirrel who lives in our gutter is in need of therapy.

And then, last Tuesday, our refrigerator — our four-year-old refrigerator — started blowing warm air onto about ten bags worth of newly purchased groceries.

Now, I’m a gal who likes her ice piled high and the fruit served cold. And I shall not even speak of the frosty sheen I prefer on the bottles of my favorite evening beverage. So this situation was an alarming one.

The next day I looked expectantly at service-man extraordinaire, Big Jim, as he gave me the news.

“Your compressor is shot, so we’ll be back next week to replace it.”

Me: “Oh, okay then.” (Pause) “Next week?!”

Big Jim: “Yep. Gotta wait for the parts to come in.”

I thought of the sad shape of my sour cream. “Isn’t this considered some sort of refrigeration emergency?” Big Jim gave me a blank stare. “I mean, I have four kids home on summer break.” He didn’t blink. “Four eating kids, and two eating grown-ups.” No response.

I tried another tactic, “I have a hankering for chicken and peppers!”

“Sorry. We’ll be back on Wednesday.” Apparently Big Jim was more of a steak and potatoes fella.

I surveyed the contents of our sweating coolers. After just one night, things were already looking wet and droopy — the rainbow sherbet had been a hard and early loss.

I called my sister. “How long does butter last when it’s cool-ish?”

“Well, when you think about it, they used to just wrap it in paper and put it in the cellar.”

They, of course, meaning the good folks from The Little House on the Prairie. Hmmm…WWLID?! (What would Laura Ingalls do?)

Menu planning was going to be tricky. We had already wasted cash on the spoiled food, so I didn’t want to go crazy with takeout. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to thin out the pantry.

Menu, Day 2

Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter, and Crystal Light

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches, and lukewarm water

Dinner: Bread with butter(!), and orange drink juice boxes (which everyone hates)

Clearly, there was room for improvement.

On Day #3, we went through the pasta, crackers and stale corn flakes. We ate our grapes at room temperature. Like the Pilgrims.

Day #4 consisted of “Canned-Food-Buffet!” (Two things: #1 – It really is possible to have too many beans, magical fruit and all. And, #2 — The use of exclamation points doesn’t make a meal any better.) That night, we dug out our old, tiny, temperamental fridge from storage and sprung for the staples: milk, cheese, and Cookie Dipped Drumsticks.

On Day #5, I pretended to be one of those people who likes to go to “the market” each morning to pull together a lovely, fresh organic meal. I also pretended to have naturally curly hair and speak with a French accent. I came home with donuts.

Days #6 and #7 were a blur of gastro-depression. We ate out once. We finished the diced chiles, the For-The-Food-Drive olives, and a two-year-old bag of garden veggie pita chips. We wept.

Finally, it was Wednesday morning. Big Jim arrived early and was now looking oddly like a shish kabob in a toolbelt. He fired up his blow torch and secret refrigeration lasers and by 11:00 am he was done.

I clapped my hands a little. Oh, the food I was going to store! Oh, the ice I was going to freeze!

Big Jim: “Remember, it takes 24 hours for the box to cool down enough to fill up again.”


Menu, Day 8

PB&J on end pieces (Who knew they weren’t toxic?) and Dum Dums from the dry cleaner’s.

Bon appetit.


Note: I realize there are far worse problems than my refrigerator mishap — things like war, poverty, sickness, and missing the early-bird specials at Kohl’s. Thanks for indulging me. I’m currently at the grocery store.

Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

36 thoughts on “Eight Days Without A Refrigerator (Life At Room Temperature)”

  1. haha…You had me laughing (sorry) at day #5. However, I do understand it’s no laughing matter. Along the gulf coast we have generators on stand by for the hurricane season. Yet no generator can revive a compressor. That would be a different storm of sorts.
    It’s funny…one of our refrigerators lasted 21 years yet another was toast with only 9 and yours at only 4.


  2. “Like the Pilgrims” – snort. Love it!! And I often think WWLID, except the whole make head cheese thing.

    We’re going on day 8 of no downstairs AC. Our compressor part should, should, be arriving today. It’s been aggravating for sure, but no joke, I told Hubs last night “thank goodness it’s not the fridge!”

    Enjoy your newly restored fancy ice box!


    1. Oh, the head cheese — one of life’s disturbing mysteries.

      I’m sorry for your lack of AC, Ash. I’m thinking that might actually be worse than my refrigerator. Sending cool thoughts your way…


  3. Sounds like the summer we’re having. The latest is that our 17-month-old washing machine has begun vibrating so violently when it spins down that it shakes the entire 2nd floor of the house. Hang in there. Fall will be here before you know it.


  4. While I’m sorry to hear about your summer I really enjoyed this story. Eating grapes at room temp like the Pilgrims is hilarious. The extra day added by Big Jim is a nice payoff too. Glad you made it through though. In my past life I had just as many mouths to feed and went through some rough seasons of appliance bewitchery myself.


  5. Absolutely hate it when the fridge dies (or as we often have in winter, a power outage hits) …. all that food to toss or use, inevitably right after a huge shopping trip! At least you approached it with humor and the correct response: write a blog. 🙂


  6. The only thing I hate more than the fridge dying? Having the A/C on either my house or car go out during an Arizona summer. I’ve had both happen in the last two weeks. So, I’m feeling your pain, Amanda.
    Funny post. Keep smilin’!


  7. Hi Amanda,

    I’m new to your blog and I am laughing hysterically, though I can totally feel your pain.

    Wow, you are handling this so well! I say this b/c I would be a total raging lunatic nutcase if I were in your shoes. But then, planning meals is not my strength, so something like the fridge breaking down after I’ve bought a slew of groceries would send me completely over the edge.

    You’re amazing. It was great to indulge you . So glad your fridge is fixed.


  8. So funny, Amanda, although it must have been miserable! And you ate the end pieces of the bread? Impressive. My kids hate them…okay, me too.

    Thanks for the laughs and hope the rest of your summer is breakdown free.


    1. Thank you, Jenny. Regarding those end pieces — it drives my husband crazy that the kids and I won’t eat them. He gathers them all up from the various bags, and puts them in one bag together. So, basically, we end up with a loaf of ends until I quietly toss them away. Not this time. (Shudder) What an experience. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)


  9. This is sort of like when my AC went out recently. I blogged my frustration about that! I can’t imagine having to live without a refrigerator for several days. It’s crazy how we get used to those creature comforts.

    great post – thanks for the chuckle!


  10. I am truly sorry to hear about your refrigeration woes. Some people in my neighborhood have been without electricity for the past four days due to a storm. That means, no refrigerator, no hair dryer and no air conditioning. Yikes!


  11. Oye! So much for my hope that you were luxuriating in take-out every night (yeah, that would have been us with bread ends–even WITH a working fridge. You’re keeping your sense of humor, dear, and that does count for something!


  12. I commend you for your creativity. I would have gone to Costco, stocked up on Easy Mac and served that for eight days. Oh yeah, the kids might show some appreciation for my cooking after that…or then again, maybe not 🙂

    I’m glad you have a refrigerator again. I couldn’t imagine going that long without one. Ours is nearly fourteen years old and I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed it doesn’t die this year.


  13. Oh, Amanda, I always love your humor. Day #5 is especially good. I’ve always wanted lovely, curly hair . . . and a French accent . . . and the ability to cook. Sigh. I’d buy donuts too.
    Not quite on the same level, but my computer hard drive died on Tuesday. I had most of my work backed up, but that other side of “most” was a sad, sad state of affairs. We’re getting a new hard drive and there’s a possibility that we can recover some of the missing stuff — music, pictures, bookmarks. I was infinitely grateful that all the writing and homeschooling files were on the external drive. Shows my priorities!
    Ah, it’s August and the summer is not really settling down into its promised, illusive days of relaxation, is it?


  14. I see you didn’t mention breaking out the can of SPAM. At least things hadn’t come to that.

    Now, go turn on that ice maker. 🙂


  15. Know just how you feel, Honey! Within three weeks a tornado roared by our apartment and blew out our 6×8 window. Both my and my hubby’s Jeeps decided to spit and sputter like they were on their final wheels. Our washer broke, and our repairman decided that four days actually meant two weeks. Ugh. Everything’s pretty much repaired now (it’s amazing what Duct tape can do). I’m so glad you and yours survived life at room temperature. I loved the image of Big Jim as a shishkabob in a tool belt. You crack me up, girl.


  16. The fact that you didn’t resort to take-out or eating out (which is what I would have done!) every single day is a miracle to me. You’re my hero!


  17. At the very least you can know that your trials and tribulations are keeping the blogosphere entertained! Big Jim’s lucky he didn’t get grilled. I’m not sure I’d have been as merciful. Here’s to a cool rest of the summer, filled with rainbow sherbet…


  18. Funny post. I’ve had the same kind of trouble but with my dishwasher. It broke twice this summer, was fixed then replaced, then the new one broke. You never really realize how much you take your kitchen appliances for granted until they break down.


  19. I missed this post, as I think it was right around the time of my own refrigerator woes. I think our refrigerators had like minds and decided to blow their compressors at about the same time. So I know exactly what you are talking about! Of course, I had a tiny refrigerator hogging up my already small kitchen, so at least I had milk!


  20. Sorry for your loss Amanda, but glad you could put it to good use with this post. V funny. And Laura would be proud – although she might wonder what peanut butter is – and how long you need to churn for that…


  21. Thanks for all of the kind comments, everyone. I realize I’ve been MIA for the past two weeks (too busy peeking into my newly fixed fridge), but I’ll be back next week. Thankfully, (knock on wood) summer has been looking up!


  22. I”ve seen you on several blogrolls and decided to stop by. And this post was hysterical–especiialy to me who lived in Haiti for a year with very, very limited access to electricity. Good God, what we can do without, if we have to–but then we might also be pretty damn miserable at the same time!



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