Here’s how to use cold storage to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh, even without electricity
03/31/2020 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

When the power goes out, you won't be able to rely on electric-powered refrigeration to keep your healthy fruits and vegetables fresh. Given the state of the world today and the fact that panic buying is becoming the norm in grocery stores all over the country, you may want to consider alternative ways for keeping your produce fresh for as long as possible. You can still do this by utilizing cold storage.

Cold storage is simply the act of keeping your fruits, vegetables, meats and other foods in a cold place for preservation. This usually means – but is not limited to – keeping your food in the refrigerator. For example, the Inuit people, who live most of their lives near or inside the Arctic circle, were confident enough of the temperature to bury their meats in ice. These meats would ferment over the months and still be good to eat when they dug them back up.

Where to store your fruits and vegetables

Before you attempt this survival food storage technique, consider where you would keep your fruits and vegetables. (Related: Stockpiling perishables: How to store fresh fruits and vegetables for the long term.)

  • Attics, entryways and spare rooms - If you have an attic or a corridor in your house that isn't heated, you may be able to use that space to store your foods. If you have an unheated spare room, all the better.
  • Basements - Cool and dry basements with a room temperature of anywhere between 50 to 60 F and relative humidity of between 60 to 65 percent can work wonderfully for storing your produce. So long as this space remains unheated and that you can provide the area with ventilation and good air circulation, you may be able to store your food here for several months.
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  • Root cellars - A root cellar may be the ideal place for you to keep fruits and vegetables in cold storage. Temperatures underground are more likely to be stable, meaning that your perishable foods are more likely to stay fresh for longer. For ideal conditions, your root cellar should have a temperature of 32 to 40 F and relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Don't forget that even in root cellars your produce will require some ventilation and insulation against rare temperature fluctuations.

General rules to follow for cold storage

Once you've decided on a place to store your fruits and vegetables, here are several factors to consider when you begin putting your produce in your cold storage.

  1. Do not store immature fruits and vegetables. They will rot quicker. Fully mature fruits and vegetables will last longer.
  2. Do not store fruits and vegetables that show even the slightest sign of rotting. If they bruise while you handle them, they won't be viable for long.
  3. Don't wash your produce. Brush off any excess soil and let your fruits and veggies dry. You can wash them before you consume them.
  4. Thoroughly clean your storage area before using it.
  5. Keep your storage area dark.
  6. Do not expose your cold storage area to below freezing temperatures.
  7. Remember to check on your foods every week.
  8. Use produce preserved in cold storage as soon as possible. They won't last forever.

Don't forget that dry and moist vegetables need to be preserved differently as well. Dry vegetables need more space but require less effort in storing. They can take up any unused, dark spaces in your storeroom. Keep them off the floor, and don't let them touch each other. If you need to stack them on top of or next to each other, they will need to be checked on more frequently, and any that start to spoil removed.

Moist vegetables, on the other hand, will require a little more effort. They cannot be exposed to the air so you will need to keep them in containers. You can use peat, sand, sawdust, newspaper, plastic bags or cardboard boxes. If you use plastic bags, poke a few holes in them to help excess moisture escape.

For more information about different ways to store your food, be sure to check out the articles at

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