Prepare Your Freezer For Power Outs

Prepare your freezer for a hurricane or other natural disaster where power outages are expected and you might not have to throw out all your frozen food.

Power outs of some sort are a fact of life for many of us. If it's not due to the weather it might be because someone left the freezer door open, the electric fuse blows, or somehow the freezer gets unplugged.

It takes a long time and a lot of money to fill your freezer. A few simple steps might help you save it.

Before The Power Out

Leave the freezer (and fridge) plugged in and Turn it up
While you want to unplug things like your TV and computers in case of power surges you should leave the fridge and freezer plugged in and turned up they are at their coldest until the very last minute the power goes out.

You can keep a thermometer in the freezer (and one in the fridge). The ideal freezer temperature is 0F and the fridge should be 35-38F.

Fill the Freezer
While you can expect hat the temperature in the fridge will start rising in 4 hours, a full freezer will not start to thaw for about 2 days. However, a half full freezer will start to thaw in 24 hours.

Group food together - but organize your freezer so foods like baked goods are on top, fruits and veggies below that, then precooked foods and raw meats on the bottom. That way if your freezer does thaw you'll be able to salvage as much as possible and wont have to throw away food due to cross contamination.

Fill your freezer from the top down (use baskets in chest freezers) so if there is some flooding as much food as possible will be safe.

Move as Much as Possible to the Big Freezer
Freeze extra food in your fridge like leftovers, raw meats, milk and cheeses that you won't need immediately.

If you have more than one freezer, including the little freezer attached to your fridge move as much as possible to your largest freezer. The sheer mass of food will keep everything colder longer.

Freeze Water
You want to fill as much space as possible in the freezer. But when you're expecting a freezer power out you don't want to add more food.

Instead fill empty gallon jugs, from milk for example, with water.

Or fill coffee cups of fresh drinking water and freeze, just leave room for the water to expand when it freezes. Want to leave them there all season? Place the ice cups in a sealed plastic bag in case of spills when thawed and to prevent the water from absorbing tastes and smells.

No time to freeze water? Freeze foods like dry pastas, bags of flour, sugar, coffee etc that you don't want to get wet if your house gets water damage, however, denser foods like meat, or even water, will stay colder longer.

Empty Automatic Icemakers
Empty your automatic icemaker or ice dispenser and turn off the ice maker so it doesn't melt and spill and ruin your floor while the power is out.

A Bag of Ice Cubes
A bag of ice cubes will give you a way to gauge if and how much the food in your freezer might have thawed.

A penny on top of an ice cube also shows if the freezer thawed but doesn't give as much detail.

Store Food in Garbage Bags
Storing food in garbage bags or plastic storage containers means faster clean up if the freezer does thaw and all the food goes bad.

Staying through a power out

Keep the Door Closed

Don't open the door unless you have to. Consider taping it shut to remind yourself to only open the freezer if you absolutely need to.

Insulate the Freezer

If you expect the power out to last away you can cover your freezer with blankets or quilts. Leave the ventilation exposed for when the power does come back on.

If you have time before taking shelter, crumple up paper to put between the freezer and blankets as yet another layer of insulation.

Dry Ice?

If you can get a hold of enough dry ice it can keep your freezer frozen an extra day or two.

Be sure to follow the safety guidelines and never touch it against your bare skin.

Share the Wealth

Share with neighbors if you're freezer stash is thawing and there is nothing else you can do about it. At least your food won't be wasted.

Cleaning Up After the Power Out

Know what can refreeze and what to toss.

Have a food thermometer (aka meat thermometer) or something similar you can pierce into foods. If they still have ice crystals and the food is below 40 F it can be refrozen. Toss ice cream and fish that has thawed even if it refroze before you got there.

Turn the dial to the coldest setting until everything is fully frozen again.

Defrost and clean the freezer if it's mostly empty.

Got some time to plan ahead?

Defrost your freezer before the storm so there is less ice build up to thaw and flood out of the freezer.

Keep a freezer inventory so you know what's inside before you open the door.

Get a generator to keep your critical appliances, like your fridge and freezer, running. Electric companies warn not to plug generators into household outlets because it can backfeed the electric system and puts electric workers at high risk.

Prepare foods to a point that it's easy to eat or reheat without electricity. Make sure you've got plenty of propane or charcoal for the grill.

Learn more about freezer cooking basics.

Return to the homepage of your freezing food guide from Freezer Power Out Prep.

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