Spring storms in Northeast Ohio can become quite severe. The high winds and heavy rain wreak havoc on buildings, plants, and power lines.
You’ve seen it before, on your drive to work or maybe even outside your own home — a tree branch has been knocked off and landed on a powerline, cutting off power to the surrounding area.
Losing power is bad enough as your home can get dark and mundane quickly – everyone becomes bored and irritated fast, which means tensions can get high. But when you remember all the groceries you have sitting in your fridge and freezer which no longer have a power supply, it can become rather frustrating. You become torn between throwing out all your groceries too quickly or risking eating spoiled food. And with food expenses, throwing all that food in the garbage doesn’t even seem like an option. So what should you do?
The 2-Hour Rule of Refrigerated Food
One basic rule to follow is that if the temperature in your fridge and freezer reaches 40°F or higher for 2+ hours, the food inside is no longer safe for consumption.
Now while that’s an easy rule to know, measuring temperatures and keeping refrigerated food below the 40°F mark is a little more difficult to follow. It does take a strategic approach, but it’s not impossible.
The best thing to do is get a jump start on it before spring and summer storms arrive in full blast. Purchase 2 small thermometers, and place one in the fridge and one in the freezer. If at all possible, the best option is to get smart thermometers to send the temperature readings to your smartphone. That way you can avoid opening the doors too often which causes the temperature to rise even more quickly.
Fridge vs. Freezer
Because your fridge already sits at a higher temperature — and power outages can last far longer than that 2-hour time limit — this rule isn’t going to give you much leeway with your refrigerated food.
Your freezer, however, is a little more forgiving, because they start off at a much lower temperature. If your freezer is full and you use a smart thermometer to check the temperature rather than opening the door, the food inside could potentially stay safe for up to 2 days. A halfway full freezer, on the other hand, can keep food safe for half that time.
And if you still have any food which you’re calling into question, FoodSafety.gov has a helpful chart to assist you in figuring out if it’s salvageable or if it should be discarded.
Keep Your Fridge and Freezer Full
Believe it or not, the groceries in your fridge help it to stay cold.
Here’s a quick lesson from middle school science class. Solids and liquids hold heat and cold better than gases (like air). So that means a fridge full of food and drinks stays colder than a half-full one.
If you’re under warning for a severe storm, and you’re expecting a power outage, one of the best things you can do is to restock your fridge and freezer. The added supplies can help the temperature stay lower for longer. But if you don’t have enough time for that, give yourself a leg up by filling containers with water and placing those in your appliances. Just make sure they have enough time to reach the refrigerator or freezer temperature before you lose power. Otherwise, they’ll be pulling in too much cold air and raising the overall temperature faster.
You also don’t want to overfill your appliances. Your fridge and freezer need enough space for airflow to keep refrigerated food at the optimal temperature. The best way to accomplish this is to allow just enough space around each item so the conditioned air can cover the entire surface area. But don’t leave too much space – that will cause you to be unable to fill the fridge to capacity. Try leaving about a finger-width of space between items.
And of course, you don’t want anything to block the vents located on the inside. If you have any refrigerated food in the way, make sure you move them.
You’re now on the right track for how to save your refrigerated food. But that still begs the question: “What will I eat while the power’s out?”
While your refrigerator is no longer available to you until you have power again, you still have your pantry. Try to keep a stable supply of non-perishable food which can be ready to eat right out of the packaging. (That also means you’ll need to keep reliable tools on-hand such as a trusty can opener and sharp scissors. So make sure you have those supplies in working order, as well.)
If you want to go a step further, consider investing in a portable camp stove to prepare hot meals you can make with non-perishables. If you think this is something you’d like to do, keep in mind that it also means you’ll need to keep fuel on-hand.
Generators Can Save Your Refrigerated Food
If all of the above information seems like too much of a hassle for you, you have another open: a generator.
You have some different options when it comes to purchasing a generator. Permanent standby generators can kick on instantly so you never lose power to your home. You can also opt for a large, portable generator which does the same job, but it will not self-activate. Or, you can go with a smaller generator to keep just your fridge and freezer running so you never have to worry about your groceries going bad too quickly.
If having a generator on hand seems to make sense to you and your family, but you’re not sure where to begin, Stack has a handy generating purchasing guide which can help you get started.
And if you’re ready to move forward and need a generator installation, we can help with that, too. We’ll get the generator of your choice all set up so you don’t have to worry about losing expensive groceries ever again during a power outage.