Keeping Your Food Cold Without Electricity

Us humans rely on electricity for almost everything. What if there is a disaster that takes it away? Something that destroys the electric grid? It’s possible. Which means for some people it will be life-threatening. Refrigeration is a very important use of electricity in homes. Everyone owns a fridge, and everyone uses them. This convenient device gives us a way to preserve almost any type of food, short-term and long-term. But if there’s no electricity, a refrigerator can’t do much for us. We’d have to use our ancestor’s methods from generations ago.


At one time our ancestors kept food cool by keeping it underground. Most of the time, it is much cooler underground than it is on the surface. The deeper you go, the colder it gets. Dig a few feet down, and the temperature could be about 40 degrees cooler!

Root Cellar

A root cellar is a cave used for the storage of root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots. They are usually man made and most of them have been dug by hand. Root cellars might have been created for root vegetables but you can use them to preserve any food that you would normally store in a refrigerator. You can make one by digging a hole in the ground and placing an old fridge in it, lying on its back, with the door a little above ground level. You’d want to put it in the shade so sunlight won’t hit it directly. If it is in the sun, try creating extra insulation to put over it. Root cellars commonly have an internal temperature of around 55 degrees. It may not be as cold as an actual freezer, but it is cold enough to make your food last longer!

Cooling Through Evaporation

The evaporation process provides cooling, which would explain why we sweat. For the sweat to be able to evaporate off of our skin, it has to take in an extensive amount of heat which gets absorbed from the body. The same ethic can keep a room or food cool. A simplistic evaporative cooler can be created by suspending a wet piece of cloth in an open window. The air moving through it will make the water evaporate, cooling the air moving through the wet cloth. If you use the wet fabric to cover a metal shelf, it can cool the inside of the unit.

Zeer Pot

To keep things simple, the Zeer Pot is an incomplex refrigerator. They are used very often by vendors that sell produce. To make one, you need two unglazed pots made from ceramic. One should fit inside the other one. The small area between the two pots should be filled with sand, no dirt or clay. For it to cool, water will be poured into the sand between the pots. The water will soak through the ceramic. Then when the water gets to the outer surface if the pot, it starts to evaporate, taking in heat from the pot to do it. This process will cool the whole pot and whatever is inside it. Also, if you place a wet cloth over the opening, it will improve the cooling!


I’m sure most people know ice keeps things cold. And yes, Ice might not be a year-round amenity, but ice IS something you can store. Our ancestors used to cut ice from rivers and lakes in the wintertime and then store them in warehouses. These “ice houses” were usually underground. They would place a layer of straw over the ice to be used as insulation to help slow down melting. But the mass of the ice was a huge factor in helping slow the melting process. The outer edges and corners would melt, but the middle would be kept cold.


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