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What to do with all that frozen food when the power goes out? Here are your best moves before, during, and after a power outage.
I love my freezer. I said it. However, what do you do with all that food when the power goes out? The freezer safety tips for power outages in this article will help you figure it out.
While many in the prepping community will say that you should never use a freezer, I actually suggest using the freezer as part of your long-term food storage plan. I think using the tools that we have can help extend our food reserves for many different kinds of emergencies and better prepare our family with good wholesome foods when the price is good to help save money.
However, in doing so, you must have a backup plan as to how you will handle the eventual power outage that comes with severe storms, freak accidents and the occasional door left open by your child who snuck an ice cream cone when you weren’t looking.
We’re going to take this in 3 phases of Freezer Safety – Before, During and After.
FREEZER SAFETY TIPS – BEFORE THE OUTAGE
Preparing your freezer for the power outage doesn’t have to be scary or hard. A few steps can save you a lot of heartache later.
Set your freezer to 0° F
Knowing that there will be a problem is key here – setting your freezer to a colder level will give you a longer period afterward to keep your food safe. You can return it to your normal setting once the emergency has passed.
Stock your freezer with ice
Fill empty 2-liter soda bottles or water jugs or even good zip top bags (I would double bag the freezer bags) with water and set them into dead spaces in your freezer. Not only will this help keep your freezer working efficiently all the time, it gives you a buffer when the power goes out. You’ve got a ready made cooler. Plus, it’s another hidden source of drinkable water in the case of an emergency.
Install a freezer alarm
A Freezer Alarm will let you set a minimum and maximum temperature for your freezer, which will trigger the audible alarm if the temperature passes those limits.
This alarm will also be helpful for you to see the freezer temperature once the power comes back on. Because it runs on a battery, it will keep a continual record of what the current temperature in the freezer is, which can help you determine what you do later.
Keep Meats in the Bottom
Because the cold air tends to pool at the bottom of the freezer, keeping meats in the coldest part of the freezer is always the safest way to store them.
Tip: I already know you aren’t storing your meats in the packaging that comes from the store, right? Make sure to double bag, vacuum seal or wrap your meats in protective covering before freezing. This not only helps extend the quality of the meat, it will help juices and condensation from the meats from getting on other foods.
Eat the Ice Cream First
Yep. I said it. Eat the Ice Cream First. If you know that a power outage is imminent, it’s smart to pull out your highly perishable foods and go ahead and eat them. No point in letting them go to waste.
>>Read More: Making Your Freezer a Part of Your Food Storage Plan
FREEZER SAFETY TIPS – DURING THE OUTAGE
Don’t Open the Freezer
As much as you’ll want to, do not open your freezer. Because cold air sinks, the minute you open the freezer door, the cold air will escape (with an upright freezer). If you have a full freezer, it may not be a big deal if the power outage is short, but it puts your food at a disadvantage of being ‘blanketed’ by warm air without any way to cool it off.
A fully stocked chest freezer should stay cold enough for about 48-72 hours (24 hours if half full, so remember to fill up dead space with water!), an upright freezer up to 48 hours unopened. They are not as well insulated and the cold air pools on the bottom.
Cover the Freezer with Blankets
This is an especially good tip for chest freezers. Cover the freezer with a few blankets to help insulate it even further.
Stock Up Your Coolers
If you can, get as much ice as possible from local stores. Go home and fill up the bathtub, the washing machine (top loading), coolers and the sink with ice. You can use them as ways to keep food cold. This is particularly a good idea for refrigerated items since they won’t be able to keep their cool as long as frozen ones, but it can be a way to extend the life of some foods while you await the return of power.
Add Ice to the freezer
If you know the power is going to be out for awhile, you can extend the life of your freezer by adding ice. Block ice is best if you can get it because it will last longer, but will not insulate the way smaller ice pieces will, which will thaw faster.
Dry ice is another way to keep the freezer cold if you have access to it. Keep it on the top shelf of an upright, or on a pan in a chest freezer, and it will help keep your food frozen.
Just remember..the minute you open the freezer door, you’ve allowed the warm air to enter, so only do this in extreme outages.
Power Outage Tip: Throw a Party!
While we do all we can to protect our precious frozen food storage, before you get to the three day point and worry that your food may not be good, here are a few tips of using up that food before it goes bad:
- Throw a Party! Have a neighborhood BBQ and cook all that food now!
- Can It! Even without regular electric power, if you have gas or even an outdoor propane station, ou can can up those fruits, vegetables and meats to save them.
- Preserve It! While you may not be able to run your electric dehydrator, consider studying up on air or solar dehydrating, fermenting, pickling (this would work for other vegetables), smoking and other means of non-electric preserving to keep those foods safe.
FREEZER SAFETY TIPS – AFTER THE OUTAGE
Rule of Thumb — if you still have a considerable amount of ice crystals, and the food temp is 40F or below, you’re good, and you can refreeze the food. You might have a change in quality for things like ice cream and frozen fruit, especially if they’re at the top of your freezer.
If the freezer is above 40F, don’t take a chance, throw it out. This is where the freezer thermometer (like this one) is a great idea. When you open the door, you’ll get an immediate indication of the temperature of your freezer.
Foods on top of your freezer may be effected more than those buried, so do a little checking top down for quality. Get a freezer thermometer to be able to test the temperature of the food if you can’t see visible signs of ice crystals. You can also use a digital probe thermometer to test particular foods. It will have to go into the food and puncture your wrapping, but this is a better safe than sorry issue. You can always wrap with some plastic wrap to protect the small hole.
If the probe does not go in, it’s frozen and you’re good and don’t have to worry! But anything that you can puncture through, this is a good test whether it is safe for the specific food instead of the whole freezer.
If you know the food was borderline, make sure to pull it out and eat it sooner than later because the quality may be effected more.
When in doubt, throw it out!
If you are unsure about the safety of the food you’ve pulled out of the fridge, or you’ve also experienced a flood that went into your freezer, just throw it out.
Tip: Don’t waste fruit and vegetables that you have to remove from your freezer – throw them into your compost pile!
If you’ve come home from a trip, and notice that there’s been a power outage while you were gone, have this handy hack ready to determine just how long it may have effected your freezer!
- Fill a cup with water.
- Place it in a safe position in your freezer (towards the top in an upright since a freezer thaws from the top down) and allow to it to freeze. Be careful if you’re using glass which may shatter easily.
- Place a quarter on top of of the ice, then add a small layer of water to help set the quarter when you place it back into the freezer.
- Once you’ve returned, check the positioning of the quarter. If it’s now at the bottom, you’ve had a complete thawing of the freezer, and you will want to throw out the food.
Insurance Tip: If you do experience a total loss of your frozen food due to a power loss, check with your homeowner insurance policy carrier to see if you can be reimbursed for your loss. There are many factors that come into play, such as acts of God or geographical coverage or human error, but it is worth checking to see if you qualify!
Reader Tips – Do you have a tip for keeping your freezer safe in a power outage? Please share it with us to help everyone develop the best food storage plan they can!