Yep, that’s my house, right there: the power’s out, leaving me with a full fridge and freezer of questionable contents.
I’m writing this from a local tea and coffee shop, where they kindly permit me to re-charge my electronic gizmos. I figure this is a great time to talk about power failures and food, ways to recover but minimize loss, and my current plans (ow, bad pun!)
First of all, let me talk about food safety. There’s a website I’d like to bring to your attention maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.foodsafety.gov
There are two main concerns for your refrigerated or frozen food in a power failure: time and temperature. First of all, keep the door closed! A full refrigerator ought to be able to maintain a safe temperature for about 4 hours, while a full standalone freezer, being a larger and colder thermal mass, will probably keep food safe (though not frozen solid) for up to 48 hours. Temperatures are equally telling: frozen food should be kept at or below 0˚F but will still be frozen at 20˚. Refrigerated food is kept around 35-40˚F though, and if that temperature rises by 20 degrees, it’s very likely unsafe.
This means that my refrigerated food is more at risk in a power failure than my frozen food – but you probably knew that already. If your frozen food thaws but is still cold, or is half-thawed, you can cook it and use it or store it in a new form. But if your chilled food gets too warm, don’t even taste it – discard it. Two helpful charts here:
- refrigerated food and power outages, what to save or throw away
- frozen food and power outages, what to save or throw away
Over the next week or so, I’m planning to post entries about my recovery from the power failure. I expect some things will be a total loss. The no longer frozen blueberries and strawberries will end up canned in jars as jam or sauce. Many of the meats and veggies will turn into stews and soups, and I’m going to put them up with a pressure canner, to have quart jars of easy ready-made meals in the wintertime. I’m already making plans, and I’m so glad I have a freezer inventory! So far, here are my thoughts:
- frozen berries and fruits – jams and sauces, cook and can (water bath)
- meats – soups, stews, pasta sauce, cook and can (pressure canner)
- cheeses – evaluate individually
- breads – very likely okay to use
- rolled oats, flour, wild rice – probably okay
Wish me luck!