23 February 2018

Flashback Friday | Cooking Without A Fridge: A Week On Our Boat In New Zealand


Flashback Friday takes place on the last Friday of the month. The idea is to give a little more love to a blog post you've published before that maybe didn't get enough attention, or is something you think is still relevant or even a something that you really love and want to share again.

Many thanks to Michael d’Agostino for starting Flashback Friday and inspiring me to go back and revisit some of our earlier blog posts.


This is a flashback to when we lived and cruised aboard our 26' sailboat, Rainbow's End, in New Zealand. She was a great little boat, but one of the things I really like about our new boat, Tickety Boo, is that fact that she has a fridge. We managed fine cooking without a fridge in New Zealand, but it's so much nicer to have a fridge, especially when it comes to keeping your beer cool.

{This post was originally published in March 2014. You can find the original post here.}  


When we first decided to start cruising full-time on our 26’ sailboat, I thought one of the biggest challenges would be living without a fridge. Yes, that’s right -  we don’t have a fridge on board. We don’t have an oven, a dishwasher or a laundry machine either. This is a very low-tech boat and certainly a long, long way from living on land. But, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised that living without a fridge isn’t really a problem at all. And just to prove it, I thought I would share a week’s worth of our meals to show you the types of things we cook and eat.

One of my “inspirations” for preparing to cruise full-time has been Lin Pardey’s The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. In her book, she describes the meals she made each day on a passage that they took from Asia to North America, along with some handy tips and tricks. So, like all good idol worshipers, I decided to imitate her and I’ve been recording what we eat in our log. When I looked back to pick a week of cooking to share, I made a few observations:

  • We eat a lot of pasta. Which you might not think is a bad thing, but I only make it one or two ways.  

  • Tortillas are a godsend when you don’t have an oven and easy access to store bought bread. 

  • Cooking experiments don’t always turn out. 

  • Some things that I’ve made, even a dog wouldn’t eat. 

  • Those are the days you think to yourself, “I wish we could order a pizza to go just now.” But you can’t. Because you have no cell phone reception and you are far, far away from a pizzeria.  
  • We could definitely do better on that whole 5 a day thing. But that was probably the case before we moved onto the boat.  

Tuesday, 3 March 2014 (Bay of Islands) 

Breakfast – nada 
Lunch – rice & bean burritos and cheese quesadillas 
Dinner – pasta 

Usually, I’m a big believer in eating breakfast and demand to be fed pretty much first thing after I wake. But, since we’ve been out cruising, I find that we often eat much later at night then we did on land as we’re either anchoring someplace new or have been out exploring an island during the day. Or, I just can’t be bothered to cook until the sun goes down. So, I find that there have been quite a few days where we’ve skipped breakfast and quickly got the boat ready and headed out to our next destination. This was one of those days. 

For lunch, Scott likes to play a little game I call “Salmonella Roulette”. I heat up last night’s dinner – which has been sitting out without refrigeration – and he happily eats it. So far, he hasn’t gotten sick. So while he had leftover vegetarian rice and beans burritos, I settled for a cheese quesadilla.  

For dinner, I made my specialty – Ellen’s pasta with red sauce. Simple to make. You chop up an onion, a green bell pepper/capsicum, a couple of cloves of garlic and some sun dried tomatoes. Sauté them in pan with some olive oil. Add in a can of tomatoes, some olives, chili flakes and black pepper. (If you’re using a plain can of tomatoes, add in some salt and sugar too.) Turn up the heat and get everything talking to each other. Then turn off the heat for 10 minutes and let the pan sit. Turn the heat back on briefly, then turn off again. This is how we try to minimize how much LPG we use. Oh, the fun and games on a boat. Cook some spaghetti, add the sauce and voila – you have dinner. Even better if you add in some salami and cheese. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014 (Bay of Islands) 

Breakfast – egg & cheese breakfast burrito
Lunch – nada 
Dinner – chili bean spaghetti with griddle bread and pepper jelly 

Even though Scott is our full-time skipper, he generally makes our breakfast. Technically, I should be doing that given my complete lack of useful contribution to sailing. But Scott is a real sweetheart so he does it. Either that or he is worried I’ll mutiny. His specialty is egg & cheese breakfast burritos. Another simple dish – make some scramble eggs with cheese. Heat up some tortillas in a frying pan with some olive oil. Combine. Yummo.  

Tortillas are fabulous little creatures. They live happily in their plastic pouches for months until you’re ready for them. We use a lot of them as bread is hard to find or is way too expensive to buy and we don’t have an oven to make our own. Tortillas are a regular feature in our repertoire. Unfortunately, they are made with white flour so the nutrional value is probably negligible.  

For some reason we skipped lunch. I was probably unhappy about this. But dinner made up for it as I made my only other pasta recipe – vegetarian chili beans served on spaghetti. At this point, we only had two tortillas left and lacked any other substance which resembles bread, so I made some skillet bread with rosemary and garlic to go with dinner. I found a jar of red pepper jelly in one of the cubby holes which we spread on it.  

Thursday, 6 March 2014 (Passage from Bay of Islands to Whangaroa Harbour) 

Breakfast – leftover skillet bread 
Lunch – leftover chili bean spaghetti & crackers with peanut butter and smoked mussels 
Dinner – pretzels, salami, cheese & crackers 

We had an early start to make our way up north to Whangaroa so we got the boat underway and then ate leftover skillet bread in the cockpit. It was okay. Pancakes would have been better, but they didn’t seem to be on offer. 

We stopped off at the Cavalli Islands at lunchtime to wait out the tides so that we could get into the Whangaroa Harbour (when you have a strong tidal stream vs. 10 hp engine, you wait). Scott played “Salmonella Roulette” again and finished off the leftover chili bean spaghetti. He offered to share. I looked at him like he was a madman and refreshed myself about what to say on the VHF if he got really sick and I needed to call for help. As usual, his tummy is made of iron and he was just fine. To top off his spaghetti, he had some crackers with smoked mussels. I was content to just have crackers and peanut butter – a meal which I personally think is a cruiser’s best friend. 

When dinner time rolled around, I decided to call a general strike in the kitchen and said, “I’m not going to make dinner tonight!”  Scott looked at me, rolled his eye and said, “Fine, I’m not going to skipper the boat anymore.” We stared at each other for a good ten minutes and finally realized no one was going to give in. So we settled for a smorgasbord of pretzels, salami, cheese and crackers. I’m not sure there was any winner in this particular battle of wills.  

Salami and cheese are a couple of our staples on the boat. I’ve found a great salami which doesn’t require refrigeration. Once you open it, you just have to eat it within 30 days, but that really isn’t a problem for us. It is a great little protein solution – we put a little in my famous red pasta sauce and have it for snacks. Cheese also doesn’t seem to require refrigeration but that might just be the New Zealand climate. It doesn’t get very hot here and we happily leave a block of Colby cheese in a container and put it in all sorts of things.  

Friday, 7 March 2014 (Whangaroa Harbour) 

Linner - grilled cheese 

For some reason, the only think I marked down in our log was grilled cheese. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what we ate for breakfast. But I think we had them for a late lunch/dinner combo – what we like to call “linner”. When we were in Whangaroa town, we went to the general store. The thing about general stores in New Zealand is that prices are rarely marked on anything. Usually, I ask how much something costs. This time, I just took a load of bread up to the counter, the woman sized me and my American accent up and said, “$6.50, please.” This is the most we have ever paid for a loaf of bread here. I want an oven on my next boat so that I can make my own and not be held hostage to the general stores.  

So with our very expensive bread, we had some lovely grilled cheese sandwiches with onions and garlic granules sprinkled in for good measure. This wasn’t one of our better days when it comes to getting your daily dose of fruit and veg. 

Saturday, 8 March to Sunday 9 March 2014 (Passage from Whangaroa Harbour to Kawau Island) 


Breakfast – eggs & toast 
Lunch – grilled cheese w/salami 
Dinner – peanut noodles 


Breakfast – toast & breakfast burritos 
Snack – pretzels and coke 
Dinner - pasta 

While I have done a teeny bit of night sailing before, this was my first official night passage – it took us 30 hours and 45 minutes to sail 119 nautical miles from Whangaroa to Kawau. We didn’t actually know that we were going to do it until later on Saturday when we realized that it was miles and miles from an anchorage and it was getting dark. And then Scott suggested we just carry on to Kawau.  

I was glad that we had breakfast that morning, as it turned out to be a very long two days. Because we had bread, toast featured in our breakfast, along with some scrambled eggs. Lunch on the first day featured more grilled cheese with the added bonus of some salami thrown in. For dinner, I decided to make peanut noodles for a couple of reasons – it only requires one pan to boil the pasta in and it tastes just as nice cold as it does warm so we could eat it throughout the night.  

On the second day, Skipper Scott made us breakfast using up the last of the bread for some toast along with some of his famous breakfast burritos with the last of our tortillas. Everything just tastes better when you haven’t slept. Once we got to Kawau, we celebrated with some coke and pretzels and then I topped off the evening with spaghetti and red sauce. One thing you have to love about Scott is that he will happily eat the same thing day in and day out. Which is fortunate as I make the same thing day in and day out.  

Monday, 10 March 2014 (Kawau Island to Islinton Bay) 

Breakfast – cheese & salami omelet & scrambled eggs 
Lunch – peanut butter, smoked mussels & crackers 
Dinner – pasta 

Because we were out of tortillas and bread, we had a “low carb” breakfast of eggs. I had mine plain and scrambled while Scott went all out and put cheese and salami in an omelet. Lunch we the usual cruiser’s special of crackers with peanut butter for me and smoked mussels for Scott. And of course, what would dinner be without my usual spaghetti and red sauce pasta dish. I’m nothing, if not creative.  

So there you have it, a glimpse into a week eating and cooking onboard Rainbow’s End. I’m guessing that job offers won’t be streaming in for me to be a chef aboard a super yacht? But in the end, as long as the skipper’s belly is full, that’s all that counts. 

Could you live without a fridge? Or, if you don't have a fridge, what are your go-to recipes? 

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  1. huh. Your post has me thinking. Did you use a cooler to refrigerate the eggs, cheese, and meat? Or I guess salami doesn't really need to refrigerated, does it? And I know Europe doesn't refrigerate eggs, but do the people of New Zealand? And for a second I was wondering how you were heating up your food; I totally missed the picture of your stove!

    Living without electricity definitely sounds exciting and really makes you think! I'm really impressed at your creativeness/inventiveness in handling this time in your lives! I kind of love and want to try it myself. Except not really. Modern convenience is really nice when you are short on time. But I do absolutely love the challenge.

    Thanks for re-sharing this post. I doubt I would have clicked back to find it, but it was a really interesting post to read!

    1. I don't think anyone refrigerates eggs except North Americans. I remember when we first moved to Scotland and finding the eggs on a shelf. It kind of creeped me out at first. We didn't use a cooler for anything. But the weather in New Zealand is pretty temperate, so it doesn't get as hot during the day and things last longer without being refrigerated.

  2. Just how do you store eggs and cheese then? I'm really curious.

    1. Except for North America, I think most places don't refrigerate eggs. If they've never been refrigerated, then you can store them on a shelf no problem. But the minute they've been refrigerated, then you have to keep them that way. Cheese stayed fine without a fridge because it never got that warm. And we ate it quickly :-)

  3. With some thought you can eat pretty well without a fridge. We've done it too. We do have two fridges on our boat. One for food and one for champagne. Got to keep our priorities straight. I love our boat and I know you love your boat.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ♥

    1. I love your priorities! A fridge just for champagne - awesome!

  4. You two are made of sterner stuff than us, my dear. ~grin~ When Hurricane Ike knocked out power in Ohio we were without for five days. The first things SO did were boil all our eggs on a camp stove for pickling and fire up the grill for a huge pork roast from the useless freezer. Fortunately, we didn't lose any food thanks to a fast trip for ice and our huge cooler. Fun read. Be well!

    1. It's a good think you had a camp stove to get by while the power was out. You were lucky not to have lost food.

  5. OMG. Salmonella Roulette. I know this game well. My husband plays it, too. He has literally told me with a straight face, "What? Fish doesn't go bad." I'm like: That is wrong, wrong, very wrong information. lol

    We used to entirely skip breakfast because none of us gets hungry until late morning. Now, I wake up at a more leisurely pace than I did when we were first transitioning to boat life, and I usually make beans and rice or some other protein-heavy dish for what I guess would be brunch. We nibble and graze the rest of the day.

    I just wrote a post on a formula that I've come up with to deal with our own meager galley, which right now does include a small fridge and an Instant Pot, but that's it. Do you have an IP on your sailboat?

    1. I'm so glad to hear that I don't have the only husband who thinks nothing of playing salmonella roulette :-)

      We don't have an Instant Pot. They look fantastic, but I think they probably take up too much energy when we're away from shore power. We have an old fashioned pressure cooker (which I rarely use) and a Wonderbag which I use all the time.

  6. Wow. I'm sure I could get by without a fridge or oven if I absolutely HAD to, but as a bit of a foodie and wannabe chef, I'm very happy to have them. It sounds like you guys did okay, and evidently, your hubby survived the Salmonella Roulette. I had food poisoning as a kid, so that's a game I'd take a pass on today.

    Have a super weekend!

  7. Reminds me of a old cookbook I have, "While the Pasta Cooks"--it has like 100 simple pasta sauces. It sounds like you're doing the same thing with your chili spaghetti and peanut noodles. Cool.

    1. That sounds like a cookbook I wouldn't mind having.


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