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Frozen & preserved food & power outages

    Trays of vegetables
    Transformer fire
    Transformer fire

    The first power outage of the season hit us during a windstorm on Friday night when the transformer across the road exploded.

    There’s nothing worse for a thrifty cook than a freezer full of food and a power outage, especially if you grew any or all of the food yourself. Given that we’re in Canada, it’s a good idea to anticipate this happening and prepare your food accordingly.

    These are also practices that make it much easier to use your food. The extra prep time up front  provides considerable time savings day to day.  When you buy and cook in bulk, as I often do, these things add up and really help.

    I have found that meats freeze better when stored in marinade, and I mostly do this with some form of brine, or curry, so that gives me some comfort when the bad weather comes.

    Worst case scenario, I have easily cooked tasty food in a hurry if I have to do that, but the brines/curries also have some preservative qualities that are part of the reason I use them. Obviously that’s not going to compensate for a long period of complete thaw, but it will help during short softening of the freeze.

    This packaging also means that nothing slides in my freezer, or gets wedged in so tightly that it can’t be used (a sign of thaw and refreezing), and I will not ever have a leaky mess at the bottom of my freezer unless the containers break.

    Everything is kept in individual reusable plastic containers, or double-wrapped in individual portions and sealed together by type again in reusable plastic containers. Veggies are frozen on trays and then stored by type.

    Curry chicken and herbed duck confit
    Curry chicken and herbed duck confit

    I also set by a fair amount of food as confit sealed in fat in canning jars. These should normally last for at least a month in a refrigerator, and much longer if frozen. Obviously, anything made and stored in fat like this in your freezer clearly has a much longer life in the case of a thaw so long as it remains cool.

    Depending on how much is in the freezer, the mass of the frozen food itself will keep most if it pretty solid for some time.

    It is not true that food must be consumed as soon as thawed, btw…that’s a constructed myth, started by BirdsEye.

    What you need to know is how long the food was resting at a non-freezing temperature, particularly at room temperature. 

    Portions of soup and chili
    Portions of soup and chili

    Some decay continues while the food is frozen, to varying degrees depending on the temperature of the freezer and whether the food was commercially flash frozen or simply home frozen, and how it was wrapped.

    Post outage, check to see if the contents remained mostly hard frozen. If they thawed partially or completely, factor that time into the life of the items in the freezer.

    Remember to keep track of what was in the freezer before the power outage. Mark it with labels if necessary. It will need to be consumed more quickly once thawed for use, but if you have prepared it properly for the freezer in the first place, your losses should be minimal.

    2 thoughts on “Frozen & preserved food & power outages”

    1. In the long August blackout from 15 (or so??) years ago, we were without power for more than 48 hours. As soon as it was clear that there would be no quick resolution to the problem, we wrapped our freezer in blankets and didn’t open it again until the power came back on. Even the ice cream remained mostly frozen. And while I’m sure there had been some small amount of thaw in other stuff, we felt confident enough to continue to eat it! As to the food in the refrigerator freeer, we just had a giant neigbourhood cook out going non-stop and everyone’s food was eaten. Very little was lost.

      1. That was a HOT weekend too! Well done.

        My home and the 5 houses south of us were without power for 44 hours, 20 hours after all other houses on both sides of the road were reconnected.

        When the power went out I knew it was huge because my tinitus had completely disappeared. I went across the street, bought 4 bags of ice from the store. Then put the ice into the crisper drawers. We minimized opening the fridge and still had ice in the drawers when the power came back on. Did not consider blankets though.

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