How Do You Keep Something Cool without A Refrigerator

Updated on April 16, 2022

Cooling without a Working Refrigerator. Create a collection of freezer packs and ice in your freezer. Always keep some space for ice cubes and freezer packs for situations like power outages that can put your food at risk. Block or dry ice is ideal for keeping your freezer cold for longer periods.

How Do You Keep Something Cool without A Refrigerator

1. Choose a cooler made from insulation material suited to your needs. Styrofoam coolers are the cheapest and lightest, although also less effective than other options. Plastic and metal are the next step up, with the former great for camping trips and the latter sturdy enough for fishers and hunters. Electric coolers are the most expensive, but eliminate the need for ice.

  • Purchase a cooler that works with dry ice for greater flexibility.

2. Purchase dry ice for meat items that need to be frozen. Dry ice is composed of carbon dioxide and is colder than standard ice (an average of around 109.3 °F (42.9 °C)). It also doesn’t liquefy as it gets warm, which makes for a cleaner cooler. Insulate your dry ice with cardboard or newspaper before layering it into your cooler, and always keep some dry ice on the top to maximize cooling.

  • Dry ice only works with approved dry ice coolers.

3. Avoid using the bags of party ice sold at supermarkets. Although these bags are cheap and accessible, they melt faster than other forms of ice due to their brittle nature.

  • Reserve party ice for topping up your cooler last-minute or keeping your food cold for 1 to 2 days at most.

4. Freeze water in 2 litres (2,000 ml) containers a week prior to your trip. Keep containers in your freezer until the day you leave. Prior to leaving, add them into your coolers to help keep their temperature low.

  • You can also defrost these juice containers over the course of 1 to 2 days for cold and clean drinking water.

5. Place thermal ice packs in your cooler the night prior to your trip. Doing this will ensure that when you pack all of your food the next morning, it will be going straight into a cold environment, as opposed to one that starts off warm.

  • Pre-cooling helps the temperatures of your food slay lower for longer periods of time.
  • Always use thermal ice packs as opposed to bagged ice. They come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges, and are reusable.

6. Bring 2 coolers and designate one for food and one for drinks. Opening your cooler all the time to get drinks will compromise the quality of food stored in it. With one cooler designed for food, you can minimize the amount of cold air that escapes.[4]

  • Some cooler brands are specifically designed for food.

7. Layer your cooler in rows and keep frozen foods at the bottom. Begin by placing your ice at the bottom of the cooler, followed by frozen foods and raw meats. Continue to alternate between layers of ice and food, working your way up to the items that need the least amount of refrigeration, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Top off your cooler with a layer of ice.

  • Items closer to the lid will be exposed to the air most frequently and experience the most temperature increases when you open the lid.

8. Keep your cooler in locations with plenty of shade. Always avoid exposing your cooler to higher temperatures. During the summer when weather is warm, cover it with a blanket or tarp as well.

  • Keep moving your cooler throughout the day to make sure it’s always covered by shade.

9. Monitor your cooler’s temperature using an appliance thermometer. Appliance thermometers (the ones you can buy for your fridge and freezer) can be used to monitor cooler temperature. Meats should be kept in a cooler with a temperature of 0 °F (−18 °C) or below, while anything you would keep in your refrigerator should be in an environment that is 40 °F (4 °C) or below.

  • Discard perishable food (poultry, meat, eggs, leftovers) that is stored above 40 °F (4 °C) for a period of 2 hours or more.

Here’s how to make one:

  1. Get two unglazed ceramic pots—one that will fit inside the other—plus some sand and water.
  2. Fill the bottom of the larger pot with a couple inches of sand.
  3. Put the smaller pot in the larger one.
  4. Fill the space between the pots with sand.
  5. Pour water into the sand.
  6. Cover the pots with a ceramic lid or wet cloth.

Done. You’re ready to store food inside. Just remember to add water to the sand every day, because zeer pots use evaporation to cool food.

As water evaporates through the clay, it releases energy into the air and cools the space inside the pot. It’s like splashing water on your face on a hot day; the water evaporates off your skin, cooling it in the process. Refrigerator coolant actually works in a similar way, using evaporation to draw heat out of the fridge itself. That’s why the back of your Frigidaire is so warm.

These pot-in-pot coolers are useful in places that don’t have power grids, but they’re also great for people who don’t have fridges, need more space, or want to cut their energy bills. On that last point: they’re also much better for the environment since they don’t require any sort of fuel, much less oil or gas.

It’s best to keep zeer pots in the shade, since the sun will warm them up, but you can also put them in a breezy area—wind makes the water evaporate faster, which cools the food more quickly. They’re most effective in arid climates, because water evaporates more when there’s less of it in the air. So, these pots will likely work better in Arizona than Florida.

They work well in Sudan, where Practical Action has introduced the zeer pot to many in need of refrigeration.

Food security is a huge problem in the Northeast African country, and the homemade coolers can make food last 10 times longer, Lomas says.

“Someone told me they once made ice out of a zeer pot,” he says, laughing.

He didn’t believe the guy, but he does find the pots incredibly effective. According to Practical Action’s website, one woman, Hawa Abbas, used to watch half her okra, tomato, and carrot crops spoil. After discovering zeer pots, that changed.

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