The Minimal Refrigerator

I placed my containers of fruits and veggies in the fridge, barely able to fit them on the narrow shelves. Our fridge was stocked, filled from top to bottom, and there are only two of us in our home. We had more food than we needed. But our fridge was full, and I felt good.

It made me think about refrigerators from the past, and I wondered, when did they begin to change, and why?

In the 1950s, refrigerators were pretty pastels, round edges, and short in stature, much different than the boxy ones of the 1970s.

Refrigerators more than doubled in size since the 1950s, when a fridge in the typical American home was a mere 9 cubic feet. By 1980, refrigerators grew to 19.6 cubic feet, and in 2012, 22.5 (tested.com)

But let’s go back a bit. The first home refrigerators were in Indiana in 1911. In the 1920s, freezers were introduced. And by the 1940s, frozen food storage was popular. Refrigerators were small, not like the monsters of today.

Why, and how, did they become so big?

As our homes grew, nearly tripling in square footage since the 50s, so did our appliances. But there is more to it than that.

In the 50s, a larger percentage of moms stayed home and cooked for the family, making multiple trips to the store within a week, and placing whole foods on the table. Much of what was served was not what you see in today’s freezers and stocked on the grocery store shelves. (Though it did exist, and it was around this time frozen dinners came on the market.)

The Big Box Store

Today, in many families, both parents work. Time is short, convenience a necessity, shopping more than once a week is nearly impossible, and the desire (and thus perceived need) is for a larger refrigerator. But there is even more.

When families desired convenience, a few brilliant minds got into the game and created The Big Box Store.

The Big Box Store has everything, multiple boxes of tissues, dozens of batteries, packages with more flashlights than anyone knows what to do with, restaurant size mayonnaise containers, bags of beans larger than a small child, and almost anything one can imagine.

My husband and I have (more than once) fallen victim to the Big Box Store, purchasing large packages of tomatoes and sauce that went bad, and a huge bag of rice that ended up with bugs.

But this isn’t an article about the good, bad, or ugly of a big box store. This is about the size of our refrigerators.

With a large refrigerator comes a desire to fill it, much like the 2500 square foot home with empty space in the corner. Beverages are stuffed in the door, little pudding containers and multiple cheese sticks piled in drawers, and sauces and jams of every flavor are placed on the shelves.

All that food makes us feel rich, look prosperous and well-off, makes us well-fed, and ready for any type of disaster. But are these things true?

How Rich Are We?

Having a lot doesn’t mean richness. It might mean we’ve spent more than we needed to. According to feedingamerica.org and mercola.com, between 40 and 50 percent of food is thrown away. If all that food hadn’t been bought, think of the money that could have been saved. I think of that as I see all the food in my fridge, and wonder, did I need so much?

Looking Good

Prosperity is a goal many aspire to, the right clothes, the expensive car, great jewelry. Even a well-stocked fridge is a sign of being prosperous.

But trying to look good for others is deceitful and dishonest, if only to ourselves. We spend needless time and money impressing people. We often end up in debt because of it.

Well-Fed

As for being well-fed, sad to say, but stocked fridge and freezer is not necessarily the sign of a well-nourished family. Processed foods could mean malnourishment, disease, chemicals fed into growing bodies. Processed foods are not a healthier choice, and often, processed foods are expensive.

Being Prepared

If you want to be ready for a disaster, the fridge is not the way to go. Non-perishables, just the necessities, are your best bet. But be careful, because as I mentioned earlier, even non-perishables expire.

It’s hard to get away from an over-sized fridge. You’d be hard-pressed to find a small fridge in any new home today. But we can get away from the attitude associated with huge appliances. We don’t need to fill our fridge any more than we need to fill our home.

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