old cooler fridge

4 Forgotten Ways That Were Used To Keep Food Cold Without Electricity

People didn’t always use to have refrigerators to keep their food from spoiling. A lot of the time, people had to rely on the finite sources that the land was able to provide. Forcing people to get creative on how they stored their food. Their imagination has brought convenience and survivability to a whole new level. However, these five ways on how to keep food cold without electricity have proven very useful.

It would be wise to take this article as an informal history lesson and to keep using your refrigerator. Most of these techniques only work well in places with arid weather. If you live somewhere with high humidity, most of these methods will be difficult to use. With that being said here are some of the more inventive ways people have historically kept their food cold without electricity.

1. The Ice Box and Ice House Method

You might be thinking of a modernized icebox you have in your basement. It’s essentially the same concept, however, there is no actual box. Ideally, you have a space underground suitable for storing large pieces of ice. This room should be insulated enough to keep your food cold without electricity. Going as deep underground as possible to keep heat out. The earth that surrounds a basement keeps cold temperatures in. Obtaining large ice fragments and lining the underground room with them. Additionally, using sawdust and straw to help keep the room insulated. (1) Iceboxes, also called cold closets, were also used. These are essentially compact non-mechanical refrigerators which were common in the early-twentieth-century. Check out the video below for more detail.

Read: Man Transforms His Staircase Into Wine Cellar That Can Hold 156 Bottles

2. Root Cellars Keeps Food Cold

This is the same concept as before, however, this technique doesn’t involve ice. The real term for this concept is called a ‘root cellar. People who live in the country prefer this method to keep their food cold without electricity. Using a cave-like space as storage that remains cold indefinitely. Some prefer to even use their well as food storage since wells run deep underground. There are even some old-styled homes that were designed with the intention of having a root cellar. You might find these to be familiar with people who like to store their wine in root cellars. However, you might actually be surprised how many people still use a root cellar for storage. (2) You can store a variety of foods in a root cellar, check out this list.

Read: The Shelf Life of 32 Foods in Your Pantry

3. Evaporative Cooling Food Storage Without Electricity

This concept has everything to do with evaporation. People who live in dry, arid places will find this technique useful. Ideally, you don’t want a lot of humidity in the air for this method. If you are camping in the desert or live in the middle of nowhere, this technique can help a lot. This process has been used a multitude of times with more than just food storage. Evaporative cooling has been incorporated into multiple areas of life that we find convenient today. For example, your air conditioner uses evaporative cooling to cool your house.

Just by wrapping the food you wish to store into a large enough piece of fabric. Placing the food in a shaded cool space as you consistently wet the fabric with cold water. This is a little more involved process but works effectively to keep food cold without electricity. Especially if you’re going camping, this method actually works wonders if you forgot your cooler. (4)

4. Zeer Pots For Cooling Food Without Electricity

The zeer pot is quite possibly one of the most effective ways to keep your food cold without electricity. This method is the easiest to assemble without a lot of time involved. All you will need are some ceramic pots, sand, and water.

First, you will need two unglazed ceramic pots that fit inside each other. Second, fill the larger pot with a couple inches of sand before placing the smaller pot inside. Third, fill in the extra spaces with sand between the pots inside. Fourth, pour the water into the sand that lines the smaller pot inside. Finally, placing the food you wish to store inside and covering it with a ceramic lid or a wet cloth. (5)

This method incorporates the evaporation technique in a much more elaborate way. It may be wise to pour water into the sand daily just to be sure the process is working. As the water evaporates from the clay, energy is released into the air that cools the inside of the zeer pot. Turning itself into a portable mini fridge! Some people who have made zeer pots say that they were able to make ice in them as well. In much dryer parts of the world, the zeer pot is a revered method to keeping food cold without electricity. (5)

Happy To Have A Fridge

Although these techniques are very old, they’re impressive given the limited resources of our ancestors. Without inventive methods such as these, we might not have evolved to the point we are today. Some of these food storage techniques are still being used in today’s society. While this is all very interesting, it probably best to stick to your refrigerator as they are more reliable and maintain the freshness and safety of a larger variety of foods.

Keep reading: 9 Surprising Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

Cody Medina
Environmental Activist
Cody was born on the western slope of Colorado. In his high school career, Cody was nominated and awarded the Amazing Youth Leadership Award by the HRC for establishing one of the first Gay Straight Alliances which then inspired the creation of several other GSAs on the western slope. Cody’s interest in environmentalism stemmed from that experience as well. Cody now resides in Oregon with his partner and beloved animals. He enjoys hiking, camping, running, climbing, watching movies, writing, reading, walking his dog, driving to the ocean, and hanging out with his friends when possible.