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LIVING BETTER: Are you in the market for a new refrigerator?

Refrigerators have come a long way since they were called iceboxes in the 1920s and 1930s.  Appropriately named, they were just that, a big box that held a chunk of ice that kept your food cold so it wouldn’t spoil.
Refrigerators have come a long way since they were called iceboxes in the 1920s and 1930s. Appropriately named, they were just that, a big box that held a chunk of ice that kept your food cold so it wouldn’t spoil. - 123RF Stock Photo

Technology is pervasive. If you’ve got some savings socked away, you can buy a refrigerator that costs less than a used pickup truck.

Refrigerators have come a long way since they were called iceboxes in the 1920s and 1930s. Appropriately named, they were just that, a big box that held a chunk of ice that kept your food cold so it wouldn’t spoil.

Iceboxes can be traced to the era of ice harvesting. Ask your grandparents and they’ll tell you about ice men who drove around and sold ice to homeowners and apartment dwellers. Depending upon the size of your icebox, they’d cut a size to fit, pick it up with an ice pick, sling it over their shoulder and place it in your box until the ice melted and you needed a new delivery of ice.

A chunk of ice cost only change, and the box itself ran from $15 to $50. Even factoring in inflation, it was a bargain no matter how you crunch the numbers.

That brief historical excursion will make you appreciate the streamlined new refrigerators that are run on electricity. And the once important iceman has been rendered obsolete, another dinosaur of a bygone era where life was simpler — and certainly cheaper.

Today, there are dozens of companies making refrigerators in all sizes, selling at different price points. They vary dramatically based on brand, time of year and the amount of gadgets it boasts. Expect to pay about $700 to $1,000 for a new top freezer fridge; $900 to $1,500 for a new bottom freezer and $1,200 to $3,000 for a new side-by-side. However, if you want to cheap it, you can buy a new refrigerator for under $500.

What’s the difference? Simply, gadgetry. Do you get upset because your cheese compartment gets too cold and doesn’t keep out moisture? Or, perish the thought, your fruit and vegetable compartment freezes everything in it? It’s a foodie’s worst nightmare. Not to worry. With the right refrigerator, different compartment temperatures can be regulated. In fact, it can even be done with your smartphone while you’re at work.

If you’re a well-healed gadget freak and a card-carrying foodie to boot, the sky is the limit when it comes to buying high-tech refrigerators. They can be likened to buying a fully loaded high-end car or truck.

For example, Italian fridge maker Meneghini tops the market with the Meneghini La Cambusa at a whopping $41,500 (No joke). Website coolthings.com said it is “actually a mini-size self-contained kitchen,” with its own pantry, a coffee maker and a television. The three-door fridge measures 249 x 218 x 63cm.

Saying the La Cambusa’s price tag is off-the-charts is a misnomer; out-of-the-stratosphere would be more accurate. If the price turns you off, you can always buy a Samsung from its special Chef Collection for a greatly reduced $5,000, which would serve everyone cold-storage needs. While a bargain compared to the La Cambusa, my pocketbook screams outrageous. After all, we’re talking about a refrigerator, not a rider mower.

Honestly, these high-tech excursions don’t turn me on. Even if I could afford spending $5,000-plus for a glorified icebox, I could never bring myself to buy one — even if I won the lottery. If I had that much spare money, I’d put it to more practical uses. I live by the philosophy, “If you don’t need it, why buy it.”

Ice Everywhere

A personal anecdote: I confess that I gave in to pressure from my wife to buy a new semi high-tech refrigerator with a smorgasbord of gadgets, one of which was an automatic ice maker which produced ice at warp speed. Instead of the standard drawer full of ice, you place your cup or glass under a movable spigot, push the spigot in and voila, ice gushes out. All it takes is a little push, which I wasn’t aware of the first time I tried it. You can pretty much guess what happened. There was more ice on the floor than there was in my glass. The clincher was when a five-year-old friend of my grandson sampled the automatic ice gadget. He too stuck his glass under the spigot but instead of taking it away when chunks of ice filled the glass, he held it there. Fortunately I was in a room close by. When I heard the sound of ice pouring out, I rushed in. But not fast enough. I never saw ice accumulate so quickly. The little guy had created an hour long project for me. When I asked him to help me clean the mess, he politely said he had to go home to help his mother. In seconds he was gone. Do you think I have good reason to be against unnecessary high-tech gadgets?

Bob Weinstein is editor-in-chief of Edmonton-based the Global Times, a news and commentary website, author of SO WHAT IF I’M 65 and an obsessive do-it-yourselfer.

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