During the days of my youth domestic fridges were almost unheard of. Perishable food such as meat, milk and vegetables were kept in a pantry which had at least one external wall so as to make it the coldest part of the house, and anything which was particularly vulnerable, such as meat, poultry or fish was bought as fresh as possible and stored for the minimum length of time on top of a large marble slab which always seemed to feel cold even in the hottest summers! Flies were a particular problem in those days; wire gauze covers were often used to keep them away from the food and they were usually successful with all but the smallest insects. Despite these precautions food did not last very long and food poisoning, particularly from contaminated meat and poultry, was rife. The first domestic refrigerators, massive beasts compared to their modern equivalent, were an absolute boon to the harassed housewife! Food could then be stored for far longer periods with a much lower risk of decay or contamination.
The next major advance in the kitchen was the birth of the domestic freezer, and for this we have to thank an American gentleman called Clarence Birdseye who found out that Arctic people were able to preserve meat and fish for extremely long periods by freezing them as quickly as possible, and being a cook at heart he jumped at the chance of providing fresh food for his family all the year round. Naturally he was not slow to realise the commercial implications and he was soon selling a range of frozen food to an ever appreciative market.
By the 1950s and 1960s it was becoming more and more fashionable for people to own freezers in their own homes, both for storing commercially prepared frozen meat and vegetables and for freezing their own produce, or surplus foodstuffs. These were often quite large and in many cases were completely unsuitable for home use because they were either under utilised or, if they were filled up, a power cut could have disastrously expensive consequences and so the ubiquitous fridge freezer came along inevitably; with the familiar space for chilled items, and an often smaller area for frozen goods.
Initially these were extremely expensive but the effects of mass production and a large and expanding market gradually made them more and more affordable. A major event then brought the prices down even further; the almost universal adoption of Internet access! Prior to it being possible to buy refrigerators and fridge freezers over the Net it was necessary to get them from retailers who usually charged quite large markups, often as much as 40 or 50% on top of manufacturers prices. With the advent of Internet shopping more and more people recognized that this was the cheapest medium for buying white goods from, and not only was it usually much cheaper to buy from an online store but delivery times were usually much shorter too! Many white goods retailers now suffer from customers who come into their stores just to decide upon which refrigerator to buy, and then they go home, go online and buy from the cheapest source. Sadly, the days of being able to do this are numbered as stores of this type are going out of business at a rapidly accelerating rate, since they cannot compete with online merchants with low overheads.