Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Fancy fridge dreams on a frugal budget

The fun just never stops around my house. I get to buy a new refrigerator.

You think I’m being sarcastic, but no. I love it when I can shop for a big ticket item with a completely clear conscience.

We had two refrigerators for a while, which I know is neither ecologically sound nor fiscally responsible. All that is outweighed, however, by having a place to make my husband keep his bait for surf fishing and his foul-smelling cheese collection. It’s also nice to have a place to stock up on drinks and food for the occasional soiree.

It lived a long and useful life as a hand-me-down from my parents but finally succumbed to a hot and moldy death. It didn’t go easily, either. It took a dozen bagels, a six-pack of beer and what I think was leftover onion dip, with it. I can’t be sure if it had any effect on my husband’s cheese.

Meanwhile, the primary fridge in the kitchen appears to be crippled with grief for its dead cousin. It is currently weeping water down the back side into the vegetable crisper, leaving the vegetables anything but crisp. It has been doing this for several years, off and on. The message is clear to me. It has lost its will to live. For certain, I have lost the will to let it live, so refrigerator shopping I will happily go.

I’ll probably settle for a simple over-and-under, but what I’d really like is a walk-in with nothing but eye-level shelves. My goal is never to have to bend over and search a bottom shelf again. It would also be helpful whenever my family needs to find something. Eye level is all they scan. If it can’t be seen with one rotation of the head, it must only exist in mom’s parallel universe and only she can fetch it.

Once I decide I need something like a refrigerator, I want it yesterday. I become easy pickings for every silver-tongued appliance salesman out there in his double-knit, plaid sports coat. It usually goes like this. I first spot, and fall in love with, the $10,000, acre-deep, wood-paneled beauty that purifies your water, makes your coffee and automatically rotates your tires. This one will hold a country ham, a large salad bowl, a platter of hors d’oeuvres and a 24-pack of soda pop, keep the butter soft and the lettuce crisp for a month. And that’s just in the door.

I then sullenly move down the line, looking for that delicate balance of features I want, at a price I am willing to add to my already fat credit card balance. Back and forth, round and round, I try to compare cubic square feet, crushed ice or cubed, energy efficiency and colors until my eyes cross. Then I settle for the one on sale.

By the time they deliver it in two weeks, I’ll have forgotten what it looked like anyway.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer bailing out refrigerator drawers. Contact her at