Kim from Adelaide, Australia has shared this great post with us on her life without a fridge and some alternative cooking ideas! I'm so inspired that living in the heat all year round can be done so well. This summer I am trying this too.
You can make your own refrigerator for free, from stuff that you find in the rubbish, and it doesn’t need any electricity to run, just water. And it really works! Here’s how:
All you need is two clay pots, some sand, and a way to plug the hole in the bottom of the pot.
Get two terracotta pots, one needs to fit inside the other with about 1cm gap between. They could be the same size with one slightly raised. They need to be unglazed, unsealed terracotta, as the cooling happens by evaporation through the porous clay. Pots can sometimes be found in hard rubbish, or by asking around. If you’re really keen you could get hold of some clay and make them yourself. Or if you’re not, try secondhand from a garage sale, flea market, salvage yard or tip shop. They’re about $10 each from hardware stores. Imported from Italy.
Next step: plug the holes in the bottom of the pots, so that water doesn’t drain out. I did this with the lid of a PET bottle and sealed the edges with waterproof silicon sealant, but I’m sure there are other ways that are equally effective. I tried to go low-tech and use clay, but it got soggy and fell apart.
Line the inside of the larger pot with sand, and place the smaller one inside.
Placing the pot in a tray is a good idea, as on hot days the cool water condenses on the outside of the pot and runs down the side. This water is great to cool yourself in hot weather.
Top up the water in the sand layer every day so it stays damp, and cover the top with a towel. Even when it’s over 40 degrees outside, the inside of the zeer pot is 15 degrees, so food keeps a lot longer than it would without refrigeration.
One catch: the evaporation process needs a dry climate to work effectively. It wouldn’t do so well in a humid place.
Some more refrigeration tips:
Lots of things that are often kept in a refrigerator really don’t need to be. Sauces, jams, miso, eggs and fruit keep perfectly well out of a refrigerator.
Many vegetables keep better in a dish of water. This way they continue to be alive so are much more nutritious. Celery, broccoli, leafy greens and beetroot keep really well this way. Tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini are generally fine out of the refrigerator.
Of course all these things are much tastier and higher in nutrients if they are eaten directly from the plant. I read somewhere that leafy greens lose 90% of their nutritional value within hours of being picked. A great reason to eat weeds and grow your own food!
Rocket Stoves and More:
Another technology that I use at home that is made from free recycled materials is a zeer pot. This is a non-electrical refrigerator that works by evaporation. It is made from two terracotta pots, one that fits inside the other, and a layer of wet sand between. The sand is kept wet and as the water evaporates through the porous terracotta, the inside of the pot is maintained at 15°C. Fruit and vegetables can be kept for 20 days, compared to just two without. And meat and dairy can be kept for up to two weeks. Even on 45° days the temperature is maintained. Placing a wet towel over the pot helps to keep the contents cool. A dry climate is needed for the evaporation process to work effectively, so this technology would not be effective in humid places.
For cooking I use a rocket stove, which is made out of used food tins and scraps of ceiling insulation. This is fuelled by scraps of paper and small twigs, and due to the insulation is very fuel efficient. Another technology made completely for free from readily available waste materials. For more information on rocket stoves see www.aprovecho.org
I grow fruit and vegetables at home, keep chickens for eggs and for recycling food waste into fertilizer, make compost and liquid fertilizer, and save seeds. I glean fruit from urban fruit trees, and gather wild food and edible weeds as I walk around the neighborhood. I get a lot of food from supermarket dumpsters, the large supermarket chains throw out huge amounts of perfectly good food. I share excess food with friends and neighbors, which builds community and introduces people to new foods. By planting fruit trees in public places in my neighborhood, I am making it possible for more people to access food this way in the near future.
Kim has also built an amazing composting toilet. Stay tuned!