Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Power Outages and Food Timeframes

Things you can do now: 
  • If you have any chronically empty space in your freezer, then make some blocks of ice. It will improve your efficiency of your freezer and you'll have ice for your cooler.
  • Make sure you have (and know how to use) an alternative cooking appliance. A propane grill or camp stove are my two favorites. I cannot emphasize enough the dangers of toxic gases or risk of fire. KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY USE AND MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT.
  • Purchase a food thermometer and calibrate it.
  • Know your Danger Zones for bacteria ( 42 degrees F to 140 degrees F ).

Hour 0:
  • Call your energy provider and report the power outage. It gives you a timeline for the expected grid-down situation.
  • Stay out of your freezer and refrigerator if at all possible.
  • Access situation: security, safety, health, etc...
Hour 4:
  • If you have a generator, now is the time to run it and cool your refrigerator and freezer. Reset the stop watch to zero and repeat every four hours. Stay on this step as long as you are able.
  • Otherwise continue...
  • The USDA considers this time to be when the refrigerator is no longer within the safe zone. If it is cold outside (under 42 degrees) then move your products outside or into a cooler. If it is hot outside, then put as many critical items into a cooler with the ice from the freezer. 
  • Eat as much as possible of the thawed foods, better to eat it than throw it away.
Hour 7:
  • Time to eat. Now is the time to cook any raw products. Invite neighbors over for a BBQ or potluck. Discuss helping one another.
Hour 8:
  • Any items that have been within the Danger Zone for bacteria for FOUR hours or more are now considered unsafe for public restaurant sales. These items should be discarded. Do not place your family or self at risk to save a few dollars.
  • Some people are at higher risk for developing foodborne illness. These include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborns, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
    If you — or someone you care for — are in one of these at-risk groups, it's important to pay extra attention to handling food safely. For more on those most at risk, visit
Hour 12:
  • The freezer should still ( on average ) be okay and under 42 degrees.
  • If a cooler is being used, then check to make sure ice is still in it. Sometimes shaking the cooler and listening is a good indicator. Still prevent unnecessary openings.
Hour 16:
  •  If a cooler is being used, then check to make sure ice is still in it. Continue to prevent any unnecessary openings.
Hour 24:
  • On average, the freezer is now approaching the Danger Zone for bacterial growth.
  • Ideally, you'll have another cooler for meat products because you don't want to cross contaminate any of your other food. Start at Hour 4 with the freezer items.
  • Again, consider cooking the previously frozen items and eating them. Waste not, Want not.
Day 2:
  • Hopefully, you still have some ice or able to acquire some.
  • Some foods will be edible for a day at room temperature such as eggs and hard cheeses.
  • Here is a link to one of the best sites for bacterial growth requirements. Bacteria Needs for Growth.
Day 3:
  • Assess all of your previously refrigerated foods. An old kitchen motto says, "When in doubt, throw it out."
  • At this point you will be starting to get into your pantry supply.
  • Minimize leftovers so that you don't have to worry about food poisoning.
  • Feed any appropriate scraps to your pets to reduce waste.
  • Sanitation is even more important now. Paper plates were a good investment now.
  • Increase security concerns, if applicable. 
  • Most grocery stores only carry three days supply.
  • Statically speaking, neighbors have started to run out of food.
Week 2 and beyond:
  • Depending on the situation, start accessing if a garden would be necessary and take appropriate actions. Hunting skills/Raising Farm Animals also are starting to look even more appealing.
  • Continue using pantry items and fill gaps with the long term preparation food items. That is why you bought them.
  • Your stored food will run out and you will have to forage, hunt, and farm. Start learning these skills now.


  1. Hope things are going well for you all. Thanks for this post!

    1. Is there still a link on here to a shop where if I buy something you get a small percentage? I've looked, but missed it somehow...

    2. I took it away when I started to revamp the blog. Thank you for asking though.

    3. Ah. Okay. Hope you have a good week!

  2. Around here we have a saying. When meats in doubt or freezer burned the dog will love it :)

    Seriously though dogs don't suffer from bad meat like we do so a lot of bad or questionable stuff can go to our stray who stayed. Don't tell my wife though she thinks it's wrong to feed the dog scraps and the like. Then she wonders why the dog is always more happy to see me than her :)

    1. Yeah, we quit buying treats for the four-legged human, and he gets the table scraps as a reward for keeping the burglars away.

  3. Use 1 gallon milk juss to keep the freezer full. Tale in/put out as space is needed or opens up.

    A a full freezer is more efficient and the ice will hold the temp far longer.