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How to Keep Food Cool Without Electricity

In the event of a power outage lasting for a week or longer, it’s essential to know how to keep your food supply cool without relying on electricity.

Whether you’re facing a natural disaster or living off the grid, understanding alternative cooling methods can be invaluable.


In addition to learning how to keep your food cool in a power outage or without electricity, we offer some no-cook recipes.

In this article, we will explore various techniques to keep your food cool without electricity, ensuring its safety and longevity.

Food Storage Safety: Understanding Temperature Requirements

When it comes to food storage, safety should be your top priority. Different types of food have specific temperature requirements for proper storage.

Some foods need to be stored at or below 40°F (4°C), while others can be stored at room temperature.

Knowing which foods fall into each category is crucial to maintaining their freshness and preventing spoilage.

Foods to Store at 40°F and Below

According to the FDA, the following foods should be refrigerated at or below 40°F (4°C):

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Dairy Products
  • Sauces
  • Cooked Foods
  • Eggs*
  • Opened Condiments

Foods You Can Store at Room Temperature

Certain foods can be safely stored without refrigeration, including:

Using Zeer Pots or Pot Coolers for Evaporative Cooling

Photo credit Peter Rinker

Zeer Pots or Pot Coolers are ancient cooling devices dating back to 2500 B.C. in Egypt. They employ a technique called evaporative cooling to keep food cool without electricity.

As the water inside the pot evaporates, it draws heat outward, effectively lowering the temperature of the contents.

Building a Zeer Pot can be a simple DIY project, and it can provide a temperature reduction of up to 10°F compared to the surrounding environment.

Utilizing Sand for Food Cooling Off Grid


Storing root vegetables in sand can help extend their shelf life without the need for refrigeration. Vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, and ginger can be stored in sand for months.

The sand helps maintain optimal moisture, air, and humidity levels, preventing premature ripening and rotting.

Evaporation Coolers: An Alternative to Zeer Pots

Similar to Zeer Pots, evaporative coolers cool the air by introducing water vapor. By evaporating water into the air, these devices lower the temperature.

One example of an evaporative cooler is the Swamp Cooler. However, keep in mind that Swamp Coolers require electricity.

You can explore DIY options to create your own evaporation cooler for food storage without electricity.

Keeping Food Cool in Root Cellars

store-foods-in-a-root-cellar-if-you-don't have-refrigeration

Root cellars are well-known for their effectiveness in keeping food cool without electricity.

These structures, typically partially or fully buried underground, are used to store root vegetables, canned goods, fruits, and nuts.

Root cellars provide a cool and stable environment, preserving the freshness of perishable food items.

To learn more about root cellars and their design, usage, and common mistakes to avoid, refer to the comprehensive guide “Root Cellars 101.”

Spring Houses and Well Houses: Utilizing Natural Cold Springs


Spring houses were commonly used in the past to keep food cool before the advent of conventional refrigeration.

These small buildings were constructed over cold springs, allowing the cool water to keep the food at low temperatures. They were often used in conjunction with pottery for storage, similar to root cellars.

Spring houses can provide a naturally cool environment, especially in regions with cold springs or wells.

Coal or Charcoal Coolers: Evaporative Cooling for Refrigeration

Coal or charcoal coolers leverage evaporative cooling principles to maintain a cool interior temperature, facilitating refrigeration and food preservation.

These devices feature an open timber frame filled with moist charcoal.

As warm, dry air passes through the charcoal, the water evaporates, cooling the air and the surrounding space.

Proper construction and management of a charcoal cooler can effectively keep food cool without electricity.

Insulated Coolers with Ice or Dry Ice: Traditional Cooling Method

Insulated coolers with ice or dry ice offer a familiar and effective cooling solution. While they require a source of ice, they can help maintain the proper temperature for a short period.

This method is convenient for temporary situations or emergencies when access to electricity is limited. However, it’s important to note that this solution relies on external resources and is not self-sufficient.

Food Preservation Methods

In addition to refrigeration, various food preservation methods can help extend the shelf life of perishable items. These methods include:

  • Dehydration: Removing moisture from food to prevent spoilage. You can explore recipes for making herbal fruit roll-ups using dehydration techniques.
  • Waxing: Applying wax to cheese to create a protective barrier against spoilage.
  • Canning: Sealing food in airtight containers to prevent microbial growth.
  • Freeze Drying: Removing water from food while preserving its nutritional value.
  • Salt Curing: Preserving meats by treating them with salt and smoke.
  • Oil Curing: Preserving food items with olive oil.
  • Fermenting: Encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in vegetables to extend their shelf life.

Food Safety: A Critical Consideration

When employing alternative methods for keeping food cool, it’s crucial to prioritize food safety. Food poisoning can pose severe health risks, especially for vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Even seemingly unspoiled food can harbor pathogenic bacteria, which can cause illness.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, ensure that perishable foods are properly chilled to slow bacterial growth.

Lastly, if you suspect food poisoning, seek medical attention promptly, and remember the golden rule: when in doubt, throw it out.

By implementing these methods and considering food safety guidelines, you can effectively keep your food cool without relying on electricity.

Whether you face power outages due to natural disasters or choose an off-grid lifestyle, these strategies will help you maintain a safe and sustainable food supply.

Stay prepared, stay safe, and enjoy fresh food even in challenging circumstances.

Tips On How YOU Can Keep Cool Without AC

We covered all the bases on how to keep your food cool, but what about you?

In addition to keeping your food cool, you need to keep cool too!

Follow our tips on How To Keep Cool Without AC.