What would you do if your fridge suddenly stopped working? Replacing your fridge is a significant financial hurdle. 

Sometimes you just can’t afford a new fridge. With delivery and taxes, a new fridge will cost you somewhere between $500 and several thousand dollars. Here’s what you can do while you save up for a new fridge. 

If you can’t afford a new fridge, you can make the most out of your old one. You can clean and repair an old fridge to have it working just like new. There are also some clever ways to get a like-new fridge for cheap or even free. There are also diets that can help you live without a fridge while you save up for the new one. 

Don’t let the lack of a brand-new fridge hold you down. Check out these tips for making the most of your old fridge—or even living without one! 

Can You Live Without a Fridge?

Yes. You can live without a refrigerator. It might seem totally alien to try to live without a refrigerator in our modern times, but people have been doing this for centuries.

One of the biggest changes is that we no longer get our food fresh every day. Before refrigeration, people used to eat food quickly after acquiring it. Either that, or they used storage techniques that no longer work today such as root cellars. They were also big fans of other retro preservation techniques such as DIY canning and drying. 

If you’re really going to be stuck without a fridge for a long time, number 7 on our list will show you how to prepare for a fridge-free meal plan. This will help you hold out for as long as you need to while you save up some cash for a new refrigerator. 

What to Do When You Can’t Afford a Fridge

Whether your fridge is toast or you just wish you had the cash to upgrade, we’ve got some solutions for your refrigerator woes. 

#1 Give Your Old Fridge a Deep Clean

Maybe your old fridge isn’t broken. If it’s just got some funky smells and discoloration, you can fix this problem with good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Giving your fridge a deep clean can also help it stay cool. Grime and gunk can prevent your fridge from sealing shut, they can also clog vents, and prevent your fridge from keeping your food cool.

a woman cleaning the fridge
Cleaning the refrigerator not only prevents breeding of germs, proper maintenance help minimize wear and tear and help increase its lifespan

 Here’s how you can extend the life of your old fridge by giving it a deep clean.

  1. Get ready to clean as quickly as you can to prevent your food from getting too warm
  2. Quickly remove all food from your fridge and freezer. You can temporarily store it in a cooler or stash it in neighbor’s fridge.
  3. Give the inside of your fridge a good scrub making sure to pay attention to any vents and gaskets.
  4. Clean the condenser coils on the back of the fridge. These will either be exposed and on the back or behind a panel on the bottom of the fridge. You can remove this panel using a screwdriver or nut driver.
  5. Behind that same panel you also find the drainage pan. Wash the drainage pan with warm soapy water to get rid of any funky smells.
  6. Make sure to dry out your fridge completely to prevent any humidity or frost build up.
  7. Add all of your food back into your fridge and you’ll be good to go .

#2 Try DIY Repairs

Your refrigerator might seem like a big mysterious monolith that magically generates cold air in your kitchen. However, your fridge is actually a collection of simple machines that you can repair on your own. In fact, your fridge was designed so that it could be quickly and easily repaired.

You can find in-depth guides to DIY fridge repair beneath this article. Here are a few quick DIY repairs that can extend the life of an old fridge. These repairs can also take a fridge from wrecked to working before you know it. 

  1. You can replace the gasket that seals the fridge door shut. This is an easy replacement and it just needs a spare gasket. It doesn’t even require any tools
  2. The condenser fan and evaporator fan in your fridge can also be quickly repaired. All you need to do is order a replacement and have a basic screwdriver set so that you can remove the old fan
  3. The defroster assembly is a bit more complicated to repair, but you can do this on your own as well. This is especially true if the only thing that’s broken is the defroster control
  4. Sometimes the problem is just in the settings. Keep in mind that your fridge has a thermometer that looks a little backwards. 1 is the warmest setting while the largest number represents the coldest setting. Double check that setting before ditching your old fridge 

These are just a few of the most common DIY repairs that you can do on your fridge. If the thought of taking your fridge apart and replacing a fan motor is a little daunting, you can always call an expert before buying a new fridge. 

#3 Call an Appliance Repair Technician 

Appliance repair technicians are experts on the fridges of today as well as yesteryear. They will be able to help you with any repair job on your fridge.

Not only can they quickly locate the problem with your fridge, but they can also repair it. This is typically cheaper than the cost of buying a new fridge out right. 

What happens if you call a repair technician and the cost of fixing your fridge is more expensive than buying a new one? That’s where our next steps come in. 

#4 Use a Mini Fridge for Now

Most mini fridges are very energy efficient, this helps reduce you monthly electric bill while your saving for a replacement

You can pick up a brand new mini fridge for as little as $50. While this won’t be able to replace a full size fridge, it will be able to cover the necessities while you find your replacement fridge. 

You can use your mini fridge to store things that you can’t live without. They are also great for storing lunch for the kids or foods that spoil easily such as dairy products or leftovers. 

Once you are ready to buy your new fridge, you can either use your mini fridge for parties or resell it to get some of your money back. 

#5 Where to Find Cheap Fridges

So, you don’t want to spend a few thousand dollars on a “smart” fridge? Are there ways you can buy a cheap fridge? 

Yes! Here’s are some life hacks you can use to find a new fridge for a fraction of the price. 

  1. Call around to your local big-box stores and ask if they have any open box or display models for sale. These are like new fridges that have just been out of their box, but haven’t actually been used and are typically discounted
  2. Those same stores will also likely have some fridges on sale. You can also ask about rebate programs for any of the fridges that they have in stock
  3. Check local websites like Facebook and Craigslist. There’s always someone who’s remodeling their kitchen and looking to get rid of an old model of refrigerator for a little money. You can usually talk people down on the price if you’re able to transport the fridge on your own
  4. Get in touch with your local salvaging company or house flippers. These individuals are constantly picking up old fridges that they’re looking to sell
  5. You can also get in touch with local kitchen remodeling companies. They will occasionally be working on a job site that involves them getting rid of refrigerator and they might be willing to sell it to you 

#6 Where to Find FREE Fridges

Why spend any money on what you can get for free?

The thought of a free refrigerator might be a little shocking, but there are some clever ways that you can get a fridge without spending a dime. 

  1. Check Craigslist or Facebook. There’s always someone looking to get rid of their fridge for free
  2. If you’re feeling bold, drive through college neighborhoods during move out. College students are often tossing everything in their apartments when they move out. This can include a full size or a mini fridge 
  3. Those kitchen remodeling companies we mentioned earlier might be willing to part with an old fridge on a job site for free. This often means you’ll be doing the moving

#7 Prep for a Fridge-Free Meal Plan

making a grocery plan
Only stock on foods that don’t spoil quickly and those that don’t need refrigeration

One of the hardest situations that you can face is not being able to attempt any of the other solutions in this guide. This means you’re going to have to find a way to live without a fridge until you can get a new one.

Here’s a few things that you can do to plan for fridge-free meals.

  1. Add more bread, oatmeal, and other grains to your diet 
  2. Use nut butters to get some protein and flavor 
  3. Canned veggies
  4. Canned fish (Trust us, sardines really aren’t that bad!)

You can also use fresh ingredients, but only buy as much as you need for one meal. This might be a big change to your diet, but you’ll be saved up for a new fridge before you know it! 

Wrapping Up Tips for Making Your Old Fridge Last

If you suddenly find yourself without a fridge, things can look pretty scary. We’ve based most of our modern diet around being able to have reliable access to a fridge, but don’t worry. Our guide has all the tips you need to quickly replace that broken fridge and hold you over while you save up. 

You can check out our other DIY fridge guides to help make your fridge last for a lifetime. Take a look below for articles on fridge repair, cleaning, and troubleshooting.