Density and Refrigeration


I'm so glad to hear that urban shopkeepers are sharing their refrigeration space. Things got a little tight this year at Thanksgiving; next year I can just pop down to the 7-11 and put my brining turkey in with the Coors Lite.

On the other hand, after Sandy I suspect there were more than a few urban dwellers who, finding the distribution network down and the power out for the first time in a decade, probably wish they had a bit more food on hand.

Interesting spin Charles, but not entirely convincing.
Why is quickly cycling food in and out of your kitchen more efficient? People in the country are exploiting the shelf/fridge/freezer life of food a lot more effectively than people in the city. My grocery store is close so meat doesn't stay in my freezer more than 2 weeks while it could probably last at least 6 months and still be good. Am I more efficient? Less? I would say neither. There plenty of reasons that city living may be more efficient but I don't think this post proves one of those reasons.
Exactly, Charles. If you live within walking distance of shopping, all you need "at home" are a few staples (salt, flour, a bottle of olive oil, a stick of butter, a few eggs, maybe a can of tuna). The only thing in your freezer should be some homemade chicken stock. What else? My fridge is basically empty.
You can wax lyrical about how nice it is that city folks can just pop by the store for food on the regular when you're not doing it. However, I can tell you that sharing a fridge with 2 other adults and having to be sure that you're never using too much of the space for yourself and always leaving them room (and the same goes for the cabinets and your dry and canned goods) means that you can't always do the kind of grocery shopping that you want to do. It means that yes, I'm at the grocery store multiple times a week. I am not happy about this. After my 9-12 hr work day and another couple hours of commuting the last thing I want to do is stop by a crowded grocery store to purchase three things just so I can go home and make dinner. Only to know that I'll have to do it again in another two days. It may be 'energy efficient' but it's a pain in the ass.
Another note: a friend of mine lives in an urban environment like me and is close to many grocers, co-ops and a farmers market. So why are his pantries and fridge always stuffed with food? Because he's a much better cook.
If is city is designed correctly, as the Manhattan in this example, then yes, people in houses & apartments should have small fridges and little food on hand. People in Paris have very small fridges, because everything they need -- bakery, grocery, charcuterie, etc.erie -- is literally within 5 blocks of their domicile. You can easily pick up what for dinner on your way home from work, because you are walking home. (Not driving your stink-mobile to the fucking suburbs.)

On the flip-side, in terms of energy use and cooling, a full-fridge is an efficient fridge, because it doesn't have to re-cool all the air in it every time you open the door. If the fridge is packed, it takes less effort to keep it all cool.

Charles, you should do a "city is more efficient" posting about cars and transport... lord knows cars are the least efficient transport mechanism for a city.
can we getCharles an assignment such that he lives in and blogs about life in an apodment.

better yet, make it a reality tv show...
What moosefan said. When my wife and I both had lots of money coming in, we ate out pretty much every meal (just as Charles would hope!). But now that I'm on furlough, we have to make use of the refrigerator, and that's a cause for frustration. I wish we could afford our own place place so it weren't an issue, but that's the downside of the city.
Wait, what? Energy efficient? It's only energy efficient if those people with nearly empty refrigerators and freezers turned them off. A fridge with two jars and a takeout carton sitting in it is still running 24 hours a day, using MORE energy than it would if it were full. (Empty fridges and freezers run less efficiently because they don't have the mass of items helping maintain the cold temperature.)
yeah, because going to the store is just so much fun. man, i'm really missing out living in the suburbs...i only have to go to the store once every 10 days or so. all that time i could be spending in the store, exposed to other peoples' sicknesses, hearing screaming kids, basking in flourescent lighting. bummer.
My country home has a lovely root cellar and ice house (we cut the ice from our mill pond every winter). It keeps our perishables fresh and tasty year round with zero carbon foot print. To date I’ve been unable to find suitable property to replicate that in the city, so I have to suffice with a 48” Subzero built-in at my home in town. Sorry it doesn’t meet your utopian vision of how I should live. But I think you’re doing it wrong too.
Fuck that. I live in the suburbs of Saint Louis. With the amount of violent crime around here you couldn't get me to live downtown if you paid me, cost-efficientcy be damned.
@11 Good post. It's quite pretentious (and ironic) for city folk to declare that we know the best way to handle food.
Lolwat, store refrigerators aren't efficient - their doors are opened constantly, so they wind up using much more energy to keep cool inside than a home refrigerator that's only opened six times a day. If you want to post about efficient refrigerators that would be great I guess, but you should maybe figure out how they use energy first?
@14, there is simply no way a common huge refrigerator is going to be less energy efficient than many small ones. we just do not live in that kind of universe.
My dad grew up in a rural area. Where people would raise a few pigs or a steer and butcher it for their own consumption. They kept all that meat in a meat locker. In a cramped apartment you couldn't store all that meat. Every time I think about trying to make an order of a half a grass fed cow work, I always think how awesome it would be if meat lockers were a common thing in the city.
From what I remember, the waste and inefficiency involved in food has more to do with what Charles is saying (the consumer side) than the production side. As in, it's more energy inefficient and polluting for each of us to drive individually to the store to pick up groceries than it is for those products to come from across the world altogether. Likewise, big fridges, cooking individual meals, etc. Unfortunately, most of us are eager to talk about what the suppliers and producers, and concentrate on what is apparently important (local produce, for instance) rather than what really is so.
Great, so instead of buying in moderate bulk, getting the brand you want and when possible getting it at a reduced sale price, and using the refrigerator to preserve your purchases until you've consumed them, you can go the short distance to your local miniature grocery and purchase from them whatever brand they choose to stock, at whatever price they choose to set.

It's possible the approach you advocate is more energy-efficient, because of reduced energy consumption in each person transporting and storing a large amount of groceries individually. I can assure you that the approach you advocate is, under current structures, vastly more expensive to the consumer in terms of time and money. So if you really think it is the superior approach, you should be considering how to change the incentives that make it such a lousy option.
The biggest energy-efficiency regarding neighborhoods such as the one I live in, revolves around transportation cost, or lack thereof. There are other advantages, too. Popping downstairs to the corner grocer/bodega for that item you ran out of, just takes a couple minutes, and doesn't involve wandering half a mile of aisles and leaving with an entire grocery cart full of stuff you didn't know you needed before you went.

On the other hand, buying items in smaller packages means you're wasting more packaging, so you lose energy-efficiency and environmental responsibility points on that end.


When you say “we”, I must assume you mean the royal “we”. Correct?

Because I assure you that no one else lives in the “universe” you have constructed in your drug addled little mind.

You do realize that just because pot is legal now does not mean you have to smoke it 24/7? Don't you??
Having lived in Manhattan, yes, you don't need a big refrigerato since not only the super markets and the bodegas are within walking distance, but also the delicious take out and restaurants that are open way into the night.

I live in a neighborhood in Seattle where the super markets and the few take out places available are about 1.5-2 miles from home, which necessitates driving a bunch of times a week--for a slightly more stacked refrigerator--with more frozen dinners than NYC.
Charles -

The reading I've done indicates that personal food prep/storage is a relatively minor portion of the overall greenhouse gas budget for food production. A quick source:…

And a quick quote from their info:
"The average American eats out at a fast food or full service restaurant about 4.5 times a week, or roughly
one in five meals.7 And yet food service operations consume roughly the same amount of energy as home
kitchens – and that's before you consider the carbon impact of traveling to the restaurant. A simple way
to reduce your carbon foodprint is to cook more and eat out less."

This is, of course, assuming that you would be interested in measuring efficiency via something like greenhouse gas production.
I live right on Cap Hill and my fridge is often completely stuffed- in fact as its slightly smaller than standard size and I frequently curse it because I have to do all kinds of creative stacking.

The reason for this is simply not everyone in the city lives like Charles imagines they should. Not only do I make dinner and breakfast for my wife and myself most days (and leftovers aren't uncommon), on the weekend I make a whole bunch of stuff for us to to take to work... it's a lot of food. This is not only because I enjoy cooking but also because of the health benefits and the money we save.

There is, by the way, no way that this is less wasteful than eating in restaurants all the time. Absolutely. No. Fucking. Way.

None of Charles' reasoning on this food/kitchen/cooking stuff makes sense I'm afraid...
the new urban settlers are relocating the traditional poor to the reservation. an endless sprawl of dilapidated apartment complexes intersected by garbage filled ravines.

If Chuck's fantasy were a reality, people wouldn't have refrigerators.
Harvey also thinks that Evo Morales is in power because he made the bourgeoisie eat canned food. Not joking.

Hey, cool. There's no such thing as food deserts? Or I guess poor people in those areas can just make a trip to the store--five miles away--a couple times a week after working 18 hours at their three different shitty jobs. Or I guess they should just live off of McDonald's so they can get rid of the kitchen entirely and that's the only thing they can afford/anywhere near where they live. Then they'll die early and stop ruining this fantasy urban utopia. Yay!

Life is so much more idealistic when you pretend the problems of poor people just don't matter.
"Progressives" don't want anyone to own anything.
Country refrigerators and freezers are probably stocked with hunted meat, and of course anything bought in bulk is cheaper than anything bought piecemeal. Efficiency can be measured many ways, Charles.

I bet a lot of people in the countryside are better prepared for bad weather than the average Seattleite. I can't wait for the next 2" snowstorm to bring out the usual panic, which of course will be covered extensively here.
Wrong. #14 is correct.
A small refrigerator that is shut most of the time will use less energy per item than those large ones in the store that are constantly opened by customers. That is the real universe.
If you were comparing a large commercial refrigerator to a small one, where both were opened briefly just a couple of times a day, then you would be correct.
I can't wait for the next 2" snow storm either, but that's because we sooooooo desperately need the moisture. Let hope for 2'.

What's funny to me is that it's obvious Charles has never actually lived in one of these urban paradises, at least not long enough to see their considerable downsides.

New York bodegas massively inflate their prices. Even the best ones offer considerably limited stock. If you solely relied on bodegas for your nutrition, well, enjoy that heart attack. And this isn't taking into account the vast majority of bodegas that make not even the slightest attempt to offer a wide variety of food options. Most are more akin to a 7/11, offering not much else than beer, soda, and candy.

Also, the idea that these bodegas are more energy efficient is laughable on its face. Most of what they refrigerate 24/7 doesn't even need to be refrigerated. They refrigerate all of their beverages, even those that won't spoil, so they can fulfill their customers' demand for ready-to-drink beer and soda. In my home, a drink is only put in the fridge when someone is planning on drinking it within a couple of days.

There's also the fact of the matter that the majority of food waste is on the producer/retail side.
#30 - thank you, and this isn't even counting store refrigerator cabinets that don't have doors, such as the ones most places use to chill meat and dairy. Some places are getting more carbon-footprint aware and putting doors on those fuckers - but really, Charles, even a tiny bit of thermodynamic awareness would tell you that chilling the contents of a cabinet that doesn't even have a door to keep off the heat of everything else in the (large, maybe extremely large) room it's in is not efficient. If you want a more efficient food chain then legislating fridge doors on all cold storage in stores would be a much better start than trying to get rid of home kitchens/fridges.

Even the doors to store freezer compartments are much thinner and less insulating than the freezer doors we have at home, because they have to be made of something we can see through - and then someone opens them every few seconds to let the heat of the room in there, so the thermostats never get a rest during opening hours.

JFC go learn the laws of thermodynamics and then come back and talk to us about efficiency.
My issue with this concept is I find the smaller the quantity I buy food in, the more expensive it is.

Also, having a freezer lets me cook large quantities of food on the weekend when I have time, and freeze the excess to eat during the week, instead of paying to eat out.
Basically this just adds to my notion that the kind of dense urban community that Stranger writers love is one I couldn't afford to live in.
What about those doorless fridge and freezer cases in grocery stores? Those things are hella inefficient, aren't they? The dairy aisle is always so cold, because there are no doors on the refrigerator, and the entire aisle is one long refrigerator! What is the deal with those things?
Of all the things I have challenged on the slog, none has been more resilient that the kitchen. i had no idea there was so much affection for cooking spaces. people will even argue that having many refrigerators in many homes is actually more efficient than a system of socializing refrigeration. the things people will say to protect their beloved kitchens.
@37: All I can say is, when I started cooking at home and stopped eating lunches out, a $200/month surplus suddenly appeared in my budget previously underwater budget. If you can afford to pay someone else to cook for you three meals a day, more power to you. I can't afford a kitchenless lifestyle.
In some ways, Charles' vision isn't the future but old world city living of 50 years ago, with neighborhood restaurants that sold home cooked style meals to every day customers and a variety of stores that provided everything needed to cook a meal with minimal need for storage beyond a day. Nothing wrong with that as it clearly fosters the local economy and higher quality living but we are further away than ever from this model on this side of the pond.
#37 - that's not affection, dude, that's math. More power to you if you can make efficiency calculations without the trouble of using actual math.

Seriously, the only 'efficiency' you seem to be advocating in this regard is one of space, not energy use/greenhouse gas emissions. You don't seem to care about obsoleting inefficient technologies at ALL, only about making things denser. Refrigerator efficiency is a matter of cooling air and then keeping it cool afterwards. The latter stipulation does not socialise well.
@3 - Add in an embarrassingly disproportionate beer-to-food ratio and that describes my refrigerator exactly. If it's perishable and is unlikely to be consumed in the next 3 days, it's not coming home with me.

And if I can get a piece of this luxury home renovation mocking; it's almost a rule that the more expensive the kitchen reno, the less it'll be cooked in. There's sparkly clean Viking and Bertazzoni ranges up in them thar hills.
chuckles, in keeping with the theme...

thank you! troll again!
@28 - Mark me as one "progressive" who wouldn't mind if you owned some condoms once in a while, instead of constantly littering the world with your filthy brood
#39, you can do that right here, right now. And Chuckles the Clown can share his refrigerator while pretending to be amazed that most people might want their own fucking kitchen and their own goddamned food.
Hey Chuckles, how about a central underwear repository? As long as ya get the right size, it's a lot more efficient.
@15: that is true. But people in the city still have refrigerators, and empty fridges and freezers use significantly more energy than full ones. So not only are they using more energy to maintain empty refrigerators, they're also using the shared energy at the grocery store.
It's always nice to read another post by Charles on how country folks is stupid and city folks is smart. I mean, we rural folks serve no purpose and disgust the writer, so he should definitely keep posting about how much he hates us all over and over forever. It really never gets old being insulted every time I read Slog.
Charles, we get it. You can stop whining about how not everyone lives in a city now. Really. Shut up.
#48, something tells me that Uncle Chuckles might be a vegan.