Holiday Food Safety

You come home and notice from all the blinking displays that the power has gone out. Given our current economy, and the fact that the holidays revolve so much around food, the first question that pops into mind might be “how long was the power out, and is the food in the fridge and freezer still good?”

Well, it just so happens we have a few very simple tips that will help protect your food assets while you’re gone, as well as one little freebie that will tell you if the food is probably still good. Naturally, the best thing would be a backup generator that kicks in when the power goes out, but for the masses of us that can’t afford a system like that, here are a few

  • Make sure all your food is properly packaged and sealed for storage. The more layers a package has the better and the less air space in a container the better.
  • Keep a few two-liter bottles of water in your fridge and freezer. Leave a little room in each one for expansion as the water freezes. This carries a few little benefits. First, a full fridge or freezer operates more economically since it’s full of cold-retaining water instead of air space. Second, this is a great way to store water for emergencies. Third, in a power outage where you’re home, you can take some of the frozen bottles out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to keep the fresh food cool.
  • Right before you leave on your trip, turn your fridge and freezer down to their lowest settings so if the power does go out, your food will stay cold longer than it would have.
  • Also right before you leave, pull a couple of the frozen water bottles out of the freezer and put them fridge. They’ll thaw slowly since your fridge is now at its lowest setting, and if the power does go out, this will extend the life of your fresh food even longer.
  • Now, if the power goes out while you were gone, how do you know if it was too long? We have two tips here. First, if your frozen water bottles in the freezer are stored on their side, they’ll have an air bubble that floats to the top side from where you left space for ice expansion. Turn those bottles so that the bubble is on the side. If that ice melts and the bubbles shift, there’s an indicator the power was off for too long and you might want to discard some of your food items (this tip does not apply to the bottles you moved to the fridge). The second tip is to take an ice cube and put it by itself on a saucer in your freezer. If the power was off long enough for the cube to melt completely, then there’s another indicator the power was off for too long. Note: With some humidity-regulating freezers, your ice cube may evaporate simply by the actions of the freezer without the power ever going off so test your freezer now to see how long a naked cube will last on a saucer.
  • If the power was out long enough to trip your indicators then you might want to discard some items. Top of the list are things that could be harmful if spoiled such as turkey, mayonnaise, etc. Many foods will let you know if it’s spoiled by color or odor. Other items such as margarine, jellies, and things like this have a wide range of tolerable storage temperatures and may be okay.