Monday, July 06, 2015

What the Hell is Buried in There? Making Sense of a Top Loading Fridge

Boat life certainly has it's advantages, but refrigerator space is not one of them. You landlubbers know the scene: You're hungry. You fling open your refrigerator, standing in front of it quizzically as you take stock of all the bounty inside. Hmmm? You ponder. What to eat today? You scan the various shelves and drawers. You grab for the deli meat, and put it back. You tousle the block of cheese, but at the last minute decide on the leftover pizza from last night. You shut the door and dig in. Easy peasy.

You land folks have no idea what a luxury this little ritual is.

Most sailboats come with top-loading refrigerators (or ice boxes as they are more appropriately known) which are glorified coolers that get jam-packed with food, Tetris-style. This arrangement certainly makes the most sense of the space, but these 'boxes' quickly become trenches of despair and agony (particularly when the incredibly heavy top comes slamming down on your hand as you reach for the guacamole). Many a time I've noticed a stench only to start digging around only to find a two month old forgotten brick of cheese that had gone rogue and septic. It's not unusual to forget that I have not one, but two peppers at the bottom and only make the discovery when that second pepper is a soggy, putrid mess. Many times, the effort of digging through our "fridge" is simply not worth it and I end up noshing on a handful of almonds in lieu of an actual meal. In other words, boat fridges can be a pain in the "A" and there have been many a science experiment in ours. Not only is this gross, but it's wasteful.

Enter: The dry erase board.

This brilliantly simple "galley hack" comes from my good friend, Jody, over at Where the Coconuts Grow. I was getting a tour of her boat (we have sister ships) and she showed me the mirror that hangs above her icebox. "What's that for?" I asked curiously noting the scribbles that peppered it. And she told me. "It's the only way I know what's inside" she finished.  I was gob-smacked. BRILLIANT! The next day when Scott went into town, he picked up a cheap dry erase board from Home Depot.

Now, I not only know what fresh stuff I have inside without having to open it and rifle around (saving precious energy), but I can write down what I open and what needs to be eaten. For example, a jar of salsa was one of the things that would frequently be opened, replaced, and forgotten about - but now, I can write "1/2 jar of salsa" on the board and know that I need to eat that sooner than later. This also inadvertently helps with meal planning. When I see on the board that I have celery and a cucumber that needs to be eaten soon (I denote these items with an asterisk), I quickly decide on tuna salad sandwiches for lunch.

This great galley hack also caught the eye of my friend and bonafide 'Galley Guru' Carolyn of The Boat Galley. Check out what she had to say about it here, and be sure to look for some other tips in the comment section! Jody also wrote about this tip, among all other things "boat fridge" (from insulation to stowing), so be sure to check out her post here.

What great galley hacks have you learned? How would you perfect this system? Share in the comments!


Jean Baardsen said...

When we moved on our 42-ft. ketch in 1978 the boat had an icebox and a freezer behind one of the settees. My husband ripped both of them out, which made for a huge storage area. We had no fridge or icebox for 14 years and managed fine. Yes, we drank warm Coke. We lived in the Caribbean for five of those years. There was a shelf over the kerosene stove where I kept things like jam, ketchup, mustard, etc. We had egg suitcases, and plastic containers to hold cheese. Our meat mostly came from cans. I had to keep on top of things, like you do with your fridge, but I was amazed at how much food we could keep, and for how long, without it spoiling. Oh, and we had hanging nets for our fruits and vegetables. We always figured, the fewer "conveniences" we had onboard, the less time Ed would spend repairing them. I'm enjoying following your travels, and always look forward to your photos.

Anonymous said...

Great tip! JD and I use our experiences as adventure camping guides and living out of coolers for months at a time to organize our boat fridge. We use several stacking plastic containers to keep things separated into manageable categories like meat/cheese, fruit/veg and condiments. Each box is labeled appropriately, and while it is still annoying to have to take everything out to get to the bottom box, at least I know where to find the rogue pepper. To keep up with what is actually stored in the depths of the fridge, I added some chalk board contact paper to the outside lid of the fridge that I update appropriately. It's not fool proof, but it helps! My newest "duh" fridge moment-- when I open an item that won't get used immediately, I've started writing the date that it was opened on the carton/packaging so that there are less "how long has this been opened and will I get sick if I actually eat it" moments. Thanks for sharing your tips!! Love them. ~Jen

Grinn II said...

We stole the brilliant idea to use snap lock bins with handles for everything in the fridge from the couple who taught us to sail. At least if something spoils or drips, the mess is contained and the handles make getting that box up out of the bottom corner as easy as it's going t get. I never thought to try a dry erase marker on the lids so I know what's in them - I use an external list - but I'm going to try that.

desireexg said...

Oooo! Great ideas! Excited to start using these tricks! Thinking to myself right now what snack I want....

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