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Off-Grid Refrigerator: 12 Alternatives to Help You Survive Without Refrigeration

There once was a time I considered giving up refrigeration.

For some of you that are reading this and living off-grid, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” While others (like myself) that still live very much on the grid are thinking I’ve lost my mind.

Regardless of where you are at, it is important to understand that all of our on-grid amenities are just, amenities. They may not always be available, and we should know what to do if we are forced to live without them.

So here are a few ways to live without refrigeration, whether it be by choice or necessity.

1. Ice, Ice Baby

I’m sitting in my mom’s kitchen, in the wee hours of the morning, writing this with my sleeping children on air mattresses nearby as I’m humming “Ice, Ice Baby” all while styling pajamas and messy morning hair.

Anyway, if you are looking for an alternate route for refrigeration, buying a cooler and stocking it with ice a few times a week is a solid option.

You can buy a cooler here and get ice from any local gas station.

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During the winter, you can even put bottles of water outside and allow them to freeze.

Obviously, you’ll have to pare down what you actually refrigerate if you use this method. But, with a little downsizing, this would help you to refrigerate what you absolutely need.

2. Keep The Home Fires Burning

So you have leftovers you want to save for the next meal. I don’t blame you. It is one less thing I have to waste and one less meal I have to cook.

The only truly safe method to do this is to keep the leftovers on a wooden cook stove or even leave your electric stove on to keep them simmering. This will help keep any bacteria from forming.

However, I urge you not to allow the leftovers to sit at a simmer for longer than 24 hours.

It just isn’t safe.

You do not want food poisoning, so it is better to err on the side of caution in this instance.

If the worst happens, and you are not able to consume it all within a 24 hour period, you will have some happy farm animals that will gladly accept your leftover bounty.

3. Quit Your Local Super Market

I don’t say that to wage war with the local grocers. But I do say this to help you on your journey of breaking free from consumerism and being tied to conveniences such as a refrigerator.

You can read how to quit your local grocery store here.

Groceries

If you buy ahead of time at the grocery store, then you have to have a way of storing it. There’s no other way.

Instead, just raise it yourself.

When you need milk, go milk the cow or goat. If you need meat, butcher it that day. This will help you stay away from the issue of storing items that might require refrigeration if kept long term.

4. Does It Even Require Refrigeration?

We refrigerate a lot of things in America that a lot of other countries do not. Dare I say, we could probably do without refrigerating half of the things that we do.

Condiments don’t require refrigeration, for the most part.

Fruits and vegetables do not require refrigeration.

You can actually store most vegetables (like lettuce) with their stems attached and placed in water. The rest of the fruits and vegetables can be stored in a cool place where they can be separated out.

This will help keep mold at bay.

If you do have items that require long-term storage, consider preservation methods like dehydrating or canning.

Here is a more detailed list of foods you don’t need to refrigerate.

This is a helpful guide to keep around. Like I said, even if you aren’t interested in going completely off-grid. This might be a good list to keep on hand in case of a power outage.

5. A Spring House

I am making a very open statement here. If I ever live in a place that I have a spring coming out of the ground, my refrigerator and I are getting a divorce.

There, I said it.

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I’m in love with spring houses. I love the fact that they are not only gorgeous but also a great way to store food that needs refrigeration without the use of electricity.

I wouldn’t care a bit if I had to walk out of my door to get to my refrigerated items.

If you are unfamiliar with a spring house, it is a building that you build right over where a spring comes up out of the ground. The cool water helps keep the building materials cold and creates natural refrigeration.

Obviously, I am partial to spring houses, but they truly are an amazing way of storing food.

6. Fish Baskets And An Old Well

We had an old well in a house that we rented years ago. It was before our homesteading days, and I thought it was a neat feature to an old farmhouse.

I never realized how handy of a feature it could be.

If you have an old functioning well and a few fish baskets, then you have refrigeration.

You will need some Mason jars that you can pack and seal tightly. Place them in the fish baskets and then submerge them in the well.

This will keep your items cold that need refrigeration without a lot of fuss. So if you have an old well that is just sitting there, put it to use.

7. Don’t Over Cook

Another solution to your leftovers is just not to h have any. I say that like it is a simple task.

I have a large family and regardless of who is eating, I still cook enough to feed an army.

But if you can teach yourself to scale it back a little then you shouldn’t have to worry about any leftovers that will need refrigeration.

Now, that was a simple option.

8. Know What You’re Dealing With

We all know that stores have expiration dates on their products that are a little premature. It is important to understand when foods will actually go bad.

If you know this then you can skip refrigeration and not worry about having to prolong their expiration.

Here is a great resource to help you figure out how long products can actually last without refrigeration.

This is another list I would keep printed out and handy in the event of a power outage. That way you will know right off hand what is safe and what is not.

It will also help you to avoid excess waste.

9. Evaporative Cooler Fridge

When I was honestly considering giving up refrigeration, this was one option I truly considered to use as a replacement.

Basically, what you do is find a three-tier plastic shelf. You can buy one here.

After you have it assembled, you need to place it in the coolest part of your home. Then take old sheets or towels and soak them in water. Be sure to wring them out and then use clothes pins and clip them on the edge of the shelf.

This will help retain moisture and provide coolness to your refrigerated food without taking up a ton of space or causing a ton of fuss.

Here are more details on how to build an evaporative cooler fridge.

10. Zeer Pots

This is a good idea for storing food if you only have small amounts that need to be refrigerated. Zeer Pots was a design created for people in Africa so they could store some of their foods for longer periods of time.

 

The whole idea behind this is that you use two terra cotta pots. You can find them here.

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Then fill the larger terra cotta pot up partial with wet sand. This helps serve as an insulator for the food.

You will then place the smaller pot in the larger pot. Then place the food inside the small pot and place a lid on it.

If you begin to notice your food is heating up, just add more cool water to the sand. Even if you have larger quantities of food that needs to be stored you could just use multiple pots.

This is a very economical way of having some form of refrigeration without electricity.

Watch this video to learn how to build a Zeer Pot:

11. A Radiant Fridge

This is another really neat idea that I once considered. The person that created this idea took a solar oven and insulated the outside of it.

Radiant-Refridgerator

They actually show it with wood built all around it.

Then they placed the insulted solar oven outside at night. The tricky part is it has to be able to have full shade during the day to help hold in the cool air.

Basically, you open the oven with all of your refrigerated items and allow the cool air to take over.

Then in the morning, you just go outside and shut the radiant fridge. That is all there is to keeping your food nice and cool.

Don’t have a solar oven? No worries. You can buy one here or learn to build your own here.

Here are more detailed plans on how to build your own radiant fridge.

12. Root Cellar

I am a huge fan of having a root cellar. It is an excellent way to help preserve foods without electricity. They are great for storing canned foods and freshly harvested foods like root vegetables.

There are simple options for a root cellar and more in-depth options too.

root cellar

Need more insight on what you can actually store in a root cellar?

Here is a great list.

You know root cellars work because this is what our parents and grandparents used before refrigeration was so common.

I have tried using the freezer in the ground option as a root cellar. In my experience, it is a good idea if you don’t need to store a lot of food.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a larger family, so we are now looking into getting into a more in-depth root cellar. I love the idea of a larger in-ground root cellar because not only can you store lots of food in it but it also doubles as a storm shelter.

We don’t have a lot of storms in the foothills, but a few short years ago we had a massive outbreak, so it never hurts to be prepared.

So that is another usage of a root cellar if you are worried about taking on a larger project.

Well, that is all I have for you today. I hope these 12 tips on how to live without refrigeration will help you on whichever path you take.

But now it is your turn. I’d love hearing from you all!

Comments:

  1. This is such an intriguing post! Living in the U.S, we often forget that millions of people around the world do not use or have access to the type of refrigeration methods we are so accustomed to. I am so delighted that you shared these valuable and very interesting ways to live without refrigeration with us at the Healthy Happy Green & Natural Party. I’m Pinning and sharing this!

  2. I remember camping with my grandparents. They carried supplies in a double fruit crate that grandma had made a gunny sack cover for. When we set up camp, she unpacked the crate, but wet the gunny sack in a creek before placing it over the fruit crate and hanging it from one end in a tree. The gunny sack completely covered the crate but one side was left open for access. Grandma sent me to the creek with an old coffee pot that had a pinhole leak in the bottom, and this was placed on top of the crate to help keep the covering moist for a longer period of time. Worked like a swamp cooler.

  3. If you use the cooler method and have a relative with a freezer, fill milk jugs with water (leaving a little room for expansion when it freezes) and rotate them from that freezer. When the ice begins to melt, you have good water for your use. Also the nieces & nephews know where to get cold Koolade! If you use loose ice, leave the drain hole open but plug the opening with a small rag to allow the water to drain. Just don’t plug it too tightly or it will act like a cork and keep the melted water inside.

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