You’ve started your homestead and finally, the first crops are coming in! If you are growing your own produce for the first time, this can be a pretty amazing feeling. However, if you’re living off-grid you may face challenges to how to preserve all of that home-grown abundance.

What are some food preservation methods that take no power? Drying, storing in oil, or using damp sand are just a few. 

So if you’re living off-grid and don’t have a fridge or cooler, don’t worry: here are tried-and-true ways to preserve food, that has been used for millennia.


Drying is one of the oldest food preservation methods, it works by removing moisture in a food, thus reducing the chances of bacterial growth or allowing the food to form mold. Some foods can last years after being properly dried.

If you’re looking for no-power food preservation methods, sun drying is the way to go. Sun drying is a great option for warm locations like the tropics because the sun is strong enough to dehydrate food in a few days.

Best foods to sundry:

  • Bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Corn
  • Beans: Kidney beans, red beans, navy beans, and lima beans all can be sun-dried for long-term storage

You can also sun dry small fish and thinly-sliced pieces of meat.

What you need to know for sun drying:

Dry on racks, or if using a baking sheet, turn over every day to ensure that both sides of the item get exposed to the sun and properly dehydrate.

You can also slice your produce and skewer them through a string and hang it up horizontally, allowing your fruit to dry that way.

Place in direct sunlight, and if expecting rain, bring indoors every evening.

Thin slices will mean produce dries faster and more uniformly. 

You may need to cover it with a mesh or wire to keep birds away.

Move dried fruits or veggies to airt-tight containers and observe for signs of moisture (misty or cloudy jars) over the first 2 days. If there is moisture at all present, put it back outside in the sun and dry it for another day or two.

How long does drying preserve food?

At least a year, which is perfect – because by that time, you’ve got your next harvest in and will need to start drying again.

Zeer Pot

Believed to have originated in West Africa, this clay “pot-in-pot” off-grid cooler was popularized in the 1990s by a Nigerian man named Mohammed Bah Abba. 

Basically, damp sand between the two clay pots causes speedy evaporation and cools the inner pot, creating a mini cooler without the need for electricity.

Best Foods to Put in a Zeer Pot:

  • Vegetables that have been cut already or are at risk of spoiling if left out
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Leftover cooked food you plan to eat within the next 2 days

What you need to know for using a Zeer Pot:

Damp sand should be changed every 6-8 hours (depending on how dry or humid your climate is) to maintain an appropriate level of cold.

Consider placing a lid on top of the smaller pot to preserve some of that cool air.

Think of a zeer pot as more of a cooler, not a freezer. I wouldn’t store raw meat in it, for example.

You must use an un-glazed, un-painted clay pot. It is essential that there be nothing on the outside of either clay pot, to prevent the necessary evaporation through the walls of the clay and produce the cooling effect.

If you find one zeer pot is too small to store the products you want – make another one! Two small zeer pots will be more effectively cool than one large one.

How long does a Zeer Pot keep food?

Much like a refrigerator, a zeer pot can extend the life of foods for 1-2 weeks longer than room temperature. 

Full-Vinegar Pickling

Many common types of pickling use diluted vinegar (1:1 ratio, vinegar, and water) which is fine if you’re canning the pickled vegetables. 

But, if you want an approach that uses no power, go for full-vinegar pickling. Pickling with undiluted vinegar forms a very acidic environment where bacteria cannot grow.

Foods to pickle, full-vinegar style:

  • Beets
  • Hot chili peppers
  • Baby cucumbers

What you need to know for pickling with straight vinegar:

Use a clear, glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

You need to allow the item to sit submerged in the vinegar for approximately a week. No part of the produce should be outside of the vinegar.

It’s a good idea to pierce the peppers before so that the vinegar can get through the skin a bit easier.

You may need to blanch the beetroot before placing it in vinegar.

The end result will be much, much more sour than traditional pickles. Be prepared the first time you take a bite.

Salt Preservation

Salting food is another traditional method of preserving food without the need for electricity.  Salt has long been a traditional way to preserve meat and fish, as well as some vegetables.

Best Foods to Salt

  •  Beef, Pork, Chicken, etc
  • Fish
  • Cabbage

To use this method of preserving food, it’s best to have an ample supply of salt, some sugar, and meat products that have been butchered and cut.

Generously apply salt and sugar to the meat everywhere you can get it in all the crevices and cavities of the meat. A good rule of thumb is for every 12 pounds use ½ pound of salt and ¼ cup of sugar.

Pack it tight into a container and keep it for a month at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, it should be able to last an entire winter season.

There you have it: four ways to preserve food that requires no power. No power doesn’t mean these options are without effort, though.  In fact, preserving food is much more labor-intensive than throwing everything in a fridge.

Sun drying requires you to have drying racks and turn your fruit or veggie slices over regularly, and the Zeer Pot likewise requires dedication to change out the damp sand regularly.   It’s work.

The cool thing though is that instead of using money for the convenience of it all having done for you by purchasing products at the grocery store, you get to do it yourself from the food you grew, for free!!

That is a liberating feeling!