How to Feed the Family During a Power Outage
These food safety tips and meal ideas can help you weather the storm.
Severe weather on the way? The last thing you want is a fridge full of perishables when the power goes out. If the stench alone isn't enough to deter you, the safety of your food is at risk when you're fridge shuts off for an extended period of time.
Don't get stuck in the storm with nothing to eat. Plan ahead by stocking up with nonperishable food items and taking steps to preserve what you can and say goodbye to what you can't. Read on for our top food safety tips and meal ideas to get you and your family through the storm.
1. Stock up ahead of time.
To avoid pre-storm grocery store madness, it's good to have lots of nonperishables ready to go in case of an emergency. Don't let the forecast catch you by surprise — have a stockpile ready for easy, no-cook meals. Some foods to have on hand include canned beans, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned milk, breakfast cereal, peanut butter, nuts, crackers, and pouches of pre-cooked rice or grains.
If you know a storm's a-comin' and you're able to get to the store, stocking up on perishable foods that don't require refrigeration is also a good idea. We all know peanut butter sandwiches can get old after a while, so adding a little color with some fresh fruits and veggies is never a bad idea. Some fresh produce that don't require refrigeration include apples, avocado, peppers, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits, cucumbers, carrots, and more. And of course bread will last you through the storm as well, so grab a few loaves while you're at it.
2. Prep while you still have power.
In addition to stocking up on what you don't have, make sure to preserve as much as you can of what you do have. To avoid food waste, use up or freeze any perishables like meat, eggs, or dairy products while you still have power. To freeze items that you can't bear to lose, try filling plastic bags with water and placing them in the freezer before you lose power. These can act as ice packs in a cooler if you'd like to keep anything chilled. Some foods that you would normally store in the fridge, like hard cheeses, jelly, and even butter will be fine at room temperature. Refer to this chart from foodsafety.gov for which foods to keep and which to discard during an outage.
And don't forget to take advantage of electricity while you still have it. If you think you'll lose water, make sure to fill up as many containers as possible in advance. You may also cook some food items in advance that can last through the storm without refrigeration, like muffins for an easy breakfast.
3. Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed.
According to the USDA, your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to four hours during an outage, assuming you've kept the door closed. A full freezer will keep its temperature for up to 48 hours if it remains unopened. So depending on how long your power is out, some of your perishable food may be salvaged.
However, refrigerated foods should remain at 40 degrees F or below, while frozen foods should remain at 0 degrees F or below. Constantly opening your door will only cause the temperature to rise faster. Using an appliance thermometer to read the temperature of your fridge and freezer will save you the guesswork of determining when your food is no longer safe to eat.
4. Save yourself some dishes.
If you lose hot water, or you're just too storm-stressed to deal with dishes, now is a great time to scrounge up all your disposable dinnerware. As dishes pile up in the sink, so does your stress level. Try to keep a positive attitude and focus on staying safe in the storm, rather than cleaning the kitchen.
7 No-Cook Meal Ideas for a Power Outage
Looking for meal ideas to ride out the storm? Keep everyone's spirits up with these flavorful no-cook meals that don't require refrigerated ingredients. Be sure to read the modifications that make these recipes power-outage approved.
You can still enjoy fresh fruits or vegetables during a power outage, so long as you choose ones that can last several days unrefrigerated. Stock up on avocados before you lose power, and enjoy a nutritious and hearty breakfast during the storm.
Bananas will last several days on the counter, no refrigeration necessary. This simple breakfast wrap is made up of peanut butter, honey, shredded coconut, granola, banana, and whole-wheat tortillas, all foods that don't need to be cooled. Reviewer Jillian says, "Peanut butter and bananas are a great combination in my book, but sandwich them between some tortillas and well...you have yourself a really nice little treat!"
Instead of using a food processor or blender as the recipe calls for, you can use a potato masher or a fork to mash this hummus from canned garbanzo beans. Along with some hummus or crackers, this simple, tahini-free hummus recipe makes for a flavorful snack. And since you're refrigerator is out of commission, you and your family have an excuse to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
Lunch or Dinner
Peppers, onions, and tomatoes will last for several days on your countertop, so be sure to stock up ahead of the storm. This corn salad uses canned corn in addition to fresh veggies for a no-cook salad that's easy to prepare. Serve immediately or chill in your cooler before serving.
Yes, you can still enjoy tuna salad during a power outage. According to foodsafety.gov, mayonnaise will last up to 8 hours if stored at above 50 degrees F (even longer if kept below this temperature — keep that refrigerator door closed!). Hard cheeses like Parmesan will be fine at room temperature, so don't throw it out just yet! Using canned tuna, prepared basil pesto, and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, this recipe gives a unique twist on a classic lunch dish.
6. Bean Salad
A few cans of beans will get you a long way during a power outage. Use canned corn instead of frozen corn in this bean salad, and you can enjoy a flavorful and healthy dish during the storm. Reviewer em says, "This took 5 minutes to throw together. My husband and I love it, as do my kids!"
Reviewer Chari Campell says, "Very nice blend of flavors—this is great when you don't feel like heating up the house with the oven and want something light and fresh." Go ahead and skip the green onions and radishes as they require refrigeration. Substitute pre-cooked or "ready to eat" rice for regular white rice. This wrap is made using canned salmon instead of fresh, so you can still enjoy a hearty meal without an ounce of electricity.