PSA: What to do with your food when the power goes out.
With all these Bomb Cyclones, Snow Hurricanes, and other apocolyptic-sensationalized-weather in New England this winter, I hear a lot of people talking about how they “needed” to throw away food because their fridge didn’t have any power. I’m going to let you in on a little secret about what to do with your food when the power goes out.
But I’m afraid of bacteria!
Hold your horses. Let’s give bacteria a break. Right now you have over 10,000 species of bacteria living in and on your body. No matter how many squirts of antibacterial gel you use, they aren’t going away. And that’s a good thing because you need those bacteria to survive. They aren’t all bad! But some of them are.
When food “spoils”, it’s simply a form of wild fermentation. Wild fermentation can result in yogurt, cheese, sour beers, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, ginger bugs, and a whole bunch of other delicious things.
But it can also lead to some funky smells, mysterious lumps, and extra fuzz. And some of these bacteria can also be really dangerous.
Food safety is no joke, but if you act quickly after your power goes out, you can save all those groceries with this one simple trick, and some advice from the USDA.
What to do with your food when the power goes out:
Dealing with spoilt food is no joke… HOWEVER, when the temperature outside is the exact temperature of a refrigerator, no one should need to throw away perfectly good food during a snow storm.
Are you ready? Here is the BIG secret:
That car sitting under 12″+ of powdery white fluff is no good for driving — but it’s pretty much a HUGE refrigerator in your driveway. It’s safe from animals and wet snow flakes, and maintains a cool 20-30 degrees, depending on the outside temperature. Just throw your freezer + refrigerator food in the trunk (yes, even the freezer goods!) and wait out the storm.
Wait, freezer goods too?
Yes. If it’s snowing, odds are it’s below 32 degrees outside, which is the temperature at which science says water freezes. Anything above 26 degrees might soften your ice cream or frozen burritos (thanks to the sugar and salt, which both lower the freezing temp by a few degrees), but ultimately your food will stay bacteria free – even if it needs to spend a few days as soft-serve.
According to the USDA, as long as your food is kept below 40 degrees, you shouldn’t have a problem with dangerous bacteria growth, and your food is still safe to eat. If your fridge dies, the USDA says you have two hours to get that food back down below 40 degrees before the food becomes unsafe to eat.
Now, let’s put it all together:
If it’s snowing
it’s below 40 degrees outside
food is safe to eat under 40 degrees
put your food outside if your fridge stops working and it’s snowing.
Don’t have a car? Build a “cooler” out of snow. Or throw some snow in a cooler and put your food in it.
You do not want to put food that is above 40 degrees in a cooler that does not have ice/snow in it. The insulation in the cooler will keep it from getting cold – even if it’s outside under a few feet of snow. Make sure you pack up your cooler with snow to keep everything nice and cold. When the power comes back on you’ll be glad you still have groceries, and that you knew what to do with your food when the power goes out.
Ultimately, when in doubt, don’t risk it. But if you can act fast and get your good into your car, or into the snow, you can save your groceries from the trash can.
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