Close the Door Tight!

I love it when the family comes over to visit.  Usually on Sunday’s, my wife will make a big feast and all the kids and grandkids will come over for a great meal, visiting, games and the traditional stroll around the block in the cool of the evening.

My wife loves to spoil the grandkids and always has treats and goodies for them when they come to visit.  There’s a special cupboard that is stocked with candy and a special place in the downstairs freezer where they know they can find popsicles and other frozen treats.

There is a rule that they ask first but that rule is often overlooked, especially if there is a treat in the freezer downstairs and my wife is upstairs.  This apparently happened just a couple of weeks ago.  The grandkids got into the freezer and didn’t close the door all the way.

Had this happened upstairs, no big deal.  We would have quickly seen to open door and made sure it was closed tightly.  But since we don’t access the downstairs freezer that often, it ended up going several days with the door open.

Needless to say, everything thawed out.  What a mess!  We ended up having to throw away much of the contents which was especially painful seeing that so much good meat was now not edible.  It was an experience I don’t want to repeat and the grandkids have been sternly reminded to ask first so we know when they’re accessing the freezer.

This got me to thinking about a grid-down scenario.  In light of the recent hurricane Florence on the east coast and the extended power outages that resulted, it makes a lot of sense to “war game” such scenario’s to make sure we are well prepared to weather the storm and make the most of an extended power outage.

Here are eight steps to consider as you evaluate your preparedness level for a power outage.

Hopefully, as the power goes out, you look to your food pantry and know you are well stocked. You have canned goods, dry goods and hopefully a significant amount of long-term food storage stored away.  So how do you plan to cook or heat those items?

Food Preparations during Power Outages

Step 1: What about items in the freezer?

First things first.  Eat the ice cream.  No seriously, don't actually open your freezer until you feel it's starting to melt.  It will take some time before items in your freezer thaw and keeping the door shut will extend this time.  If there is snow outside, great!  The world is your ice box!

Step 2: What items will go bad first without a refrigerator?

Take a mental review of items in your fridge that will go bad quickly without being cold; milk, bread, delicate veggies, etc. This will change with your climate and season, in some regions bread on the counter will be fine for a week. My wife will often keep the bread in the refrigerator in the summer to extend its shelf life, it would spoil quickly otherwise. Eat this food first before it goes bad.

Step 3: How is your current cooking device powered?

If you have a gas stove top or wood stove, then you will have heating methods already. However, if you use an electric stove top, crockpot or oven then you will be out of luck. Without a generator for power, you will have to find other ways to cook and prepare your meals.

Step 4: Can you cook or heat meals outside?

A summer thunder storm rolls in and knocks the power out. As the storm clouds clear, it's dinner time and a great time for a BBQ. You could try cooking meals on a grill outside or cook over a real fire. There are also solar ovens that provide the means to cook food without power outside.  If you live in a place where this is not possible, or don't want to draw attention to your food, you may have to cook inside.

Step 5: Can you cook meals inside?

A small portable camp stove with one burner could heat foods without power.  You must crack the window open and have a battery operated detector to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from camp stoves. If you chose to invest in a camp stove, be sure to store the fuel canisters as well.

Step 6: What do you have pots to cook your meals in?

Now that you are switching from a stove top to a fire, are you pots durable enough to take the direct contact with fire. Cheap pots from the thrift store could be a simple way to have extra pots in case one gets burned beyond use over the fire. The other option is investing in cast iron pots and pans that won't get damaged under high heat.

Step 7: When you planned your food storage, did you include foods that need to be cooked or just heated?

Canned and pre-cooked foods that just need to be heated will require much less fuel than items like pasta that needs to be cooked in boiling water. Reducing the need for actually cooking food will make your fuel source last longer. Make sure you include in your food storage sufficient foods that just need to be heated rather than cooked.

Step 8: What items in your food storage don't require heating at all?

Stock up on protein bars, crackers, jam, peanut butter, jerky, nuts, jellybeans and other items that can be eaten straight from the package. These items eliminate the need for cooking entirely and the need for cooking fuel. In general these items also don't need to be refrigerated and won't go back sitting in your pantry waiting for a power outage

Steps to Take Today

1)  Evaluate your food storage and consider how you plan to cook each item.
2)  Invest in the skills to cook over a fire, fireplace, or grill.
3)  Invest in a small camp stove for indoor cooking if needed. (Don't forget the fuel!)

In Conclusion

Cooking during a power outage can be difficult for those living in apartments without gas stoves, fireplaces, fire pits or gas grills. A simple camp stove can solve your food preparation problem. Focus on foods that require heating, not cooking, bonus if they can be eaten raw. Sleep well, knowing you family is prepared to handle food preparation in the event of a power outage.