As of this morning, we have been without any power for more than five days and it is still out, with a prediction of 2-4 more days until we reconnect. I have been assuming that we would lose the contents of our entire freezer.
How can I most safely proceed? Are they safe as long as they remain frozen, or is it too risky? I would hate to lose all this food, but I'd hate even more for us to get sick.
I'm sorry about this disruptive power outage! Regarding your specific items, if ice crystals are still present you can refreeze most items.
Frozen foods, including meats, that still have ice crystals in them indicate that they have not reached unsafe temperatures, so no dangerous pathogens could have grown in them. Meat can be refrozen even if it has fully thawed but not reached above 45° F. Just make sure to cook it well when you thaw and consume it.
The following resources have other great tips for navigating power outages:
- Survival Basics: Food, OSU Extension
- If Your Home Freezer Stops, OSU Extension
- No Power? No Problem: Tips to Help You Thrive in the Face of Disaster, OSU Extension
Food safety in power outages
Here are some food storage and safety tips during a power outage:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. All refridgerated foods can be safe for four hours if the door is kept closed.
- If the refrigerator temperature rises above 40°F, most foods can be stored for no longer than two hours. Watch for signs of spoilage such as off-odor, mold or sliminess. Immediately dispose of food showing signs of spoilage.
- Full freezers can keep food safe for 48 hours, and half-filled freezers keep food safe for 24 hours.
Precautionary methods before power outages
Before a disaster, fill the empty freezer space with water in clean, sanitized food-safe containers. The extra ice will help the freezer run more efficiently and keep the freezer colder longer in an emergency.
Fill containers halfway, then freeze. The ice will expand. Add another inch of water and freeze again. Repeat until there is 1-inch headspace, then replace the lid. When it melts, it will provide safe, drinkable water.