It's a scene that repeats itself over and over again: the power goes out, you find a flashlight, you settle in and it hits you... the food int the fridge is going to spoil!! Hundreds of dollars of good food is about to go to waste! Should we eat it? Should we pack ice into the fridge? Should we just write it off??!
The fact is, if you loose power, there is little you can do for refrigerated foods in the long haul. You can give yourself (and your food) many extra hours of life - maybe just the hours you need - by doing a little prep work and taking a few precautions.
- Turn the temperature down in your fridge before a major weather event. Everything will get colder and that ice cream will become difficult to scoop, but it will take longer for it to absorb heat from the environment - it'll stay cold longer. A cold freezer can stay frozen for up to two days (if you don't open it).
- When the power goes out, note the time. Most food can last in the fridge for up to six hours.
- Do not open the fridge or freezer if you can help it. Refrigerated foods can last up to six hours. The freezer can stay frozen for up to two days.
- A full fridge lasts longer than an empty fridge. All the cold stuff packed together makes it more difficult to loose heat. I've known people to actually pack the empty spaces a day or two before a major storm to make everything cold.
- Make ice. Transfer that ice to coolers, and make more ice. You can increase your chilled space by chilling a few coolers. This also gets rid of all the nasty tasting ice that sat in your freezer for too long.
- Don't transfer your food to coolers right away. See number 3.
- Once the power comes back on, check your refrigerator's thermometer. If it is 50 degrees or higher, throw everything away except for fresh produce, non-egg or milk dressings, and non-egg condiments.
The USDA also recommends dry ice. "Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days."