It was hours, and sometimes days, without power for many people in the province last week. Sure, many of us know what to do to keep warm, but do you know what to do with all the food in the fridge and freezer?
Are you aware of some of the better and healthier foods to keep on hand for a anticipated power outage? Below are some tips, so we can all be prepared, should another power outage happen again soon.
Stock your shelves with nutritious non-perishables. Canned vegetables, fruits and juices are good staples. Try TO choose reduced sodium veggies, fruits packed in water or juices, and 100 per cent fruit juices over punches and drinks.
Canned beans, tuna, salmon, chicken and turkey are good sources of protein and all go great with a slice or two of bread, just also be sure to have a hand-held can opener ready.
Fresh produce, like apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, tomatoes and carrots, don’t need to be kept in the fridge and make easy snacks.
Shelf stable milk, like good ol’ Carnation or skim milk powder, is useful for cereals. Peanut butter, nuts and trail mix are energy dense foods perfect for sandwiches or snacking.
It doesn’t hurt to have extra water on hand, as well. Should something happen to the water supply, most people need about one gallon of water per person per day at their home.
When it comes to heating up foods, even though conventional stoves, stove tops and microwaves are out of the question, all heat is not lost.
Wood stoves and fireplaces, candle warmers, and fondue pots could be used should you have them. Food can be cooked on skewers, grilled or even wrapped in foil and cooked in a fireplace.
Barbecues and camp stoves are also quite useful in these situations, and likely more powerful at heating up foods. Just remember it’s recommended to keep these outdoors.
Refrigerators should always be set below 4 C to keep foods fresh and prevent bacterial growth. If the power goes out, keep doors closed as much as possible.
Food should stay safe in here for up to four hours.
If the following foods are left in your fridge at 4 C or higher for two hours or more, you’ll want to throw them out: raw or cooked meats, poultry, seafood and deli meats, milk and soft cheeses, homemade mayo and dressings, casseroles, soups and stews, cooked pasta, potatoes and rice, and salads made with any of the above foods.
Refrigerator foods that are 4°C or higher for several days, and likely to still be safe, include butter and margarine, hard or processed cheese, condiments like ketchup, mustard, jams, jellies, barbecue sauce, peanut butter, salad dressings and olives. Fresh fruit and vegetables will also be fine.
Should the power go out, the more foods you have in the freezer, the better, for the short term at least. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for two days, whereas a half-full freezer will keep foods freezing for about one day.
During a longer power outage, it is possible for foods to partially or completely thaw before power comes back. Food that has thawed but is still refrigerator cold temps
(4 C or below) can be refrozen with the exception of fish and shellfish, frozen dinners, desserts and ice cream, all of which should be thrown out.
If raw meat or chicken has partially or fully thawed, you’ll want to fully cook it before refreezing. Any of these mentioned freezer foods where the temps have been at 4°C or higher for two plus hours you’ll want to discard. If your fridge or freezer doesn’t already have a thermometer, it’s a good idea to get one.
There wasn’t much warning for Dark NL, however should there be more warning that a power outage is impending, there are several things you can do to prolong the life of the foods in your fridge and freezer.
Turn both appliances to their coldest settings. If there is extra room in the freezer, try filling empty containers with water and use freezer gel packs to keep foods at their coldest for the maximum amount of time. Keep a cooler on hand to store refrigerated foods.
It also doesn’t hurt to keep a list of the foods in your freezer and fridge, so that way you are aware of what is inside without having to open the doors multiple times.
Even though it may be bone-chilling outside, it’s not the best idea to take fridge and freezer foods and place them outside. For one, there could be the off day the sun’s rays could thaw frozen food even when the outdoor temperature is very cold, and two, animals could contaminate your food.
Amanda O’Brien is a registered dietitian in St. John’s. Contact her through the website www.recipeforhealth.ca.