9 Ways to Keep Your Food Fresh Without Electricity

Living off the grid is more than just distancing yourself from humankind. It sometimes means disengaging from the wires and surviving without electricity. Though the modern convention of electricity is great, there may come a time when you have no electricity for days, weeks, or even months.

Do you know how to keep your foot stored and preserved to last? Or are you doomed to go hungry? If you are ready to survive then you need to learn how to employ at least 1 or these 9 methods for keeping food cool without electricity.

1. Mitticool Refrigerator

 Mitticool Refrigerator

Image Source: mitticool.com

The story behind Mitticool is very interesting. In 2001, the area in India known as Gujarat was hit by an earthquake. While many were fortunate to escape with their lives, they were without electricity. Mansukhlal Raghavjibhai Prajapati, a clay craftsmen from Gujarat, was working with the relief effort when he had a fantastic idea. He made the first Mitticool refrigerator out of clay to use the old principle called ‘surahi,’ or ‘cooling through evaporation.’ In the topmost “pot,” water is stored. This water drips down the sides of the refrigerator, cooling the interior. A small tap was built into the bottom to serve as a water cooler as well.

Amazingly, even the first Mitticool Refrigerators maintained fruits and vegetables for up to 5 days. Milk and buttermilk were kept fresh for 24 hours.

It takes about 12 hours for the clay to get cool before use, but after that, the internal temperature is usually around 10-20 degrees cooler than the outside environment.

This is a great alternative to electronic refrigerator models, especially of single people who do not require a fully stocked fridge. The standard size is 27 inches in length, 15 inches in width, and a depth of 12 inches. It weighs a little more than 20 kilograms (about 44lbs). A reduced carbon footprint is the main advantage here.

If you are interested in learning about how to procure a Mitticool refrigerator or other products made by Prajapati, you can check out the Mitticool website.

2. Ice house

ice house

These were extensively in the pioneering days of America. Ice houses are typically a combination of root cellars and canning cellars, but they did not require the canning, smoking, or drying of sundries to be used. The basic icehouse was an insulation-heavy shed that kept food from spoiling during the spring and summer months.

The more present ice houses are constructed from a variety of metal, wood, and cinder blocks. However, they do require quite a bit of ice… which might be hard to come by in some survival situations.

How to make an ice house:

· You can build from the ground-up or go with a pre-constructed shed. You will want metal, wood, cinder block or concrete flooring.

· Line the sides of the structure with Styrofoam for insulation. If you have access to tin or aluminum foil, consider adding a layer of that over the Styrofoam too.

· You can choose to make shelving, but it is not required, since the ice will be best left on the floor.

· Place a row of ice slabs or 5-gallon buckets of ice cold water on the floor. Cover the rows of ice or buckets with a layer of sawdust or straw. Food is then placed on top of the ice. Continue the process of piling ice, straw, and food until the space is full.

· Thought the ice will eventually melt, if the icehouse remains closed, it should last through one winter to the next.

3. Clay Pot Refrigeration

clay pot refrigarator

Image Source: soulnspiritblog.com

The infamous “pot-in-pot” cooler. You may also see these called “zeer pots,” and are actually an ancient design used in Africa for centuries. A renewed interest in this type of off-the-grid refrigeration developed when Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian schoolteacher, started mass producing zeer pots for farmers.

The design of these refrigerators consists of two terra cotta pots. One pot is nestled inside the other, and the space between the inner pot’s walls and the outside pot is filled with wet sand and pebbles. This sand barrier allows the inner chamber to stay cool, while wicking the moisture throughout the entire pot. When placed in a breezy, shaded spot, the food can be preserved weeks, especially if you live in a region where cool, dry air is consistent. A typical pot’s internal temperature will be 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to try making one of these zeer pots yourself, it is a fairly easy process. Unglazed pots will work the best. Never place the clay pots in direct sunlight, as this will call the water to evaporate too quickly. Internal heat will rise, and the foot will spoil.

Also, do not try to get overzealous and make a gigantic zeer pot. The effectiveness of the pot-in-pot cooling method has to do with the surface area to volume ratio. In other words, if you make the zeer pot too large, the volume will increase proportional to the cube of the linear dimensions. That means the moisture will not spread fast enough, and the surface area of the inner pot will not remain cool enough. Therefore, if you are going to make zeer pots, opt for several smaller ones to remain practical.

4. Root Cellar Refrigeration

root celler

Image Source: www.goodshomedesign.com

There are multiple forms of root cellars, from caves to trenches. Traditionally, root cellars are a underground space used to store vegetables, fruit, and wine. There are three basic things every root cellar should provide:

· Humidity. This is because the vegetables and fruit you may wish to keep do best in 90 to 95 percent humidity. This level of humidity can be obtained by using a dirt floor covered in gravel. Add some water to the floor (not enough to make mud). The vegetables, for example, should also be packed in materials that retain moisture, like dampened sawdust, moss, or sand.

· Ventilation. Air must always be monitored in a root cellar, because it can reduce excessive humidity, removes ethylene gas, and prevents condensation from forming.

· Temperature. When digging a root cellar, you have to get below frost level. The ground should be a steady 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding an exhaust pipe will help regulate both ventilation and temperature.

Make a Trash Can Root Cellar

You might be thinking about how expensive making your own subterranean storage space sounds like a monetary nightmare, then check out this cheap substitute.

Find a metal trash can with a tight-fitting lid. Dig a hole so that the bin can fit in with about an inch or so of the can above ground. Place some loose stones at the bottom of the hole before putting in the trash can. This allows for drainage.

Punch some holes into the bottom of the can to allow for excess moisture to leak out.

Next, grab your root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, radishes, parsnips, for example) and some straw. Layer the bottom of the can with some straw, then stack your potatoes. Keep laying straw and vegetable until you reach the top. Make sure you leave enough room to close the lid.

Just keep in mind that some foods do not store well together. For example, if you put apples and potatoes together, they will both spoil. If you put onions in a cool, moist environment with potatoes, the onions will get slimy. Be sure to study up on what is compatible with what.

Once the lid is shut, make a square out of cinder blocks around the shut metal can. Place a large piece of plywood over those blocks and lid. The plywood is mainly to keep critters away.

5. Canning Food

canned food

The canning process takes jarred food then heats that food to a temperature that destroys the microorganisms that could cause the food to spoil. The heating process also drives air out from the jar, creating a vacuum seal.

There are two main ways to safely can food—the boiling water bath or the pressure canner.

In a survival situation, you will want to know the boiling water bath route. This is the safest way for preserving fruits, jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, and anything else called a “preserve.” The jars of food need to be covered by boiling water and cooked for a specific amount of time at that high temperature. The usual timeframe for high-acid foods like tomatoes and picked foods in vinegar is about 10 minutes.

Keep in mind that non-acid foods like meat, fish, poultry, and some vegetables require the second method, the pressure canner, a specialized pot that gets water temperature up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Always remember to first sterilize the jars or containers in near boiling water (around 180 degrees Fahrenheit) prior to putting the food inside. Allow the jars to cool down and for the sealing action of the lids to occur.

6. Salt-Curing Food

salt meat

Image Source: wn.com

Curing meats and fish is an ancient method that requires a delicate touch. Too little salt will cause foods to spoil prematurely. Salting can be done with brine, a salty liquid solution, with dry salt, or a mixture of both. What makes curing a perfect preservation technique for meat and fish is that the process renders the surface uninhabitable to dangerous microbes, thus delaying decay of the animal protein.

The amount of salt you need directly correlates with how much meat or fish you want to store. It is suggests that you use ¾ ounces of curing salt per pound of meat. First you rub salt all over the chunk of meat (without cutting it up) then hang it in a cloth bag for about a month. Keep a drip pan underneath the meat to catch any fluids. The meat will need to stay between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for about a month (and an extra two days per pound). The second round of salt is applied about 4 days after the first rub. The third rubbing happens 2 weeks later.

For salt curing fish, brining is recommended. Bring a pot of water to boil then add some spices (for flavor), about 2 cups salt, 1 cup sugar, and mix it all in. Let the water cool before adding the fish. Put the pot in a cold spot or in refrigeration for 2 to 4 hours. You can choose to smoke the fish afterwards.

7. Groundfridge

ground frige

Image Source: www.florisschoonderbeek.com

This is an actual product based off of root cellars. Except, this one you do not have fabricate yourself and can be used in any type of climate. This Groundfridge is an invention by Floris Schoonderbeek. From the website, the Groundfridge is described as “an autonomic operating and actively cooled cellar” that has “today’s sustainable companies and cosmopolitans with their own vegetable garden and who lead modern, self-providing lives” in mind. The Groundfridge works by using the natural insulation of the earth around it as well as small fans that circulate the air day and night. The temperature stays a steady 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year.

As mentioned before, the Groundfridge comes to you preconstructed. The cellar requires a hole to be dug in the ground; and it is then placed halfway down. Displaced dirt covers the top half of the dome.

Just how big is the Groundfridge? It is pretty enormous. It is 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) in diameter and has a capacity of 3000 liters. The price tag for this Groundfridge is set at $16,000. So, if you are interested, you may want to start saving or refinance your house.

8. Evaporative Refrigerator

evaporative cooler

Image Source: instructables.com

Here is an interesting concept: Getting the natural process of water evaporation to work for you. This is similar to how humans perspire to get cool as the moisture evaporates. Basically, this is another form of clay pot refrigeration, where the water evaporates from a moistened thermal mass that “cools” over time as the air around it circulates and starts evaporation.

That said, you can build an evaporative refrigerator out of more than just terra cotta pots. Anything that conducts heat is a good choice. While it may seem counterintuitive, the reason why lies within physics—hot items cool down faster than cold items, because more energy is needed to heat things. You may choose a Styrofoam box with a bowl inside, or a stainless steel strainer with a clay pot. Just remember that bigger is not always better. Metal, wood, and plastic are all decent materials but may require some repurposing before usage.

The thermal mass does not always have to be sand either. In essence, anything that can efficiently absorb and hold water will work. This can be soil, sponges, or charcoal.

9. Solar Oven as a Cooler

If you have a solar oven that you typically use for warming food during the, it can be of service to you even at night. According to a process routinely used by the ancient Egyptians, exposing the solar oven to a cool night sky can provide you with ice.

So, how does that work, you ask? Simple. In the daytime, a solar oven takes the sun’s rays all reflects them around the dark box to increase the temperature. At night, the same thing happens, except the lack of light turns the solar over into a moonlit cooler by sinking heat. To try it out, put a jar or pan in the middle of the solar oven at night and two bags on either side, either filled with air or water.

In the morning, you will either have successfully chilled food or frozen water, depending on the ambient temperatures. For the best results, place the solar oven in a place where there is nothing but moonlight.


By using several of these methods, you can not only preserve food for a long duration, you can have peace of mind should there ever come a time when electricity is lost for good. Or perhaps you desire to go off-grid and want to use these 9 ways to keep food fresh without electricity methods to reduce your impact on the environment. Some methods may be more adequate for your situation or region, but that does not mean you cannot experiment to see which is best for you!

Nelson V. Larsen

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