This ancient method is simple and cheap.
My own experience accidentally freezing my groceries this week made wonder if fridges are a bit overrated. Sure, they keep food fresh. But so does Mother Nature. I knew about the existence of cellars, but when I started really looking into it, I discovered that there are a whole lot more electricity-free fridge alternatives than I had any idea existed.
Sure, there are some really high tech ones (think solar powered), but I was more interested in the simple options, ideas I could actually put to use quickly and cheaply. Turns out, there are a ton. But one stood out to me. I introduce you to ... zeer pots.
This is an ancient type of refrigerator that uses clay pots to keep food cold. Archaeologists have found evidence for people using variations of these things for over 4,000 years. They hail from Africa (read more here) and the Middle East, and plenty of people around the world use them today.You just need two differently-sized, unglazed clay pots and some sand.
1. Stuff a layer of sand into the bottom of the larger clay pot.
2. Put the small clay pot inside.
3. Fill the space between the pots with more sand.
4. Pour cold water into the sand.
5. Put a towel on top.
That's it! Water evaporates out of the pot, cooling the inside. These pots work best in dry climates. Although some people claim they've made them work in humid areas too.
Unofficially, you don't necessarily need two pots and sand, especially if you're indoors. I'd actually used an even simpler version without realizing it. When I was in Morocco and out of fridge space, someone suggested I put my vegetables inside a tagine, a Moroccan clay pot. I didn't have much faith in the idea, but I didn't have much to lose. To my surprise, my cucumbers and tomatoes stayed just as fresh as the ones in the fridge.