5 Ways to Keep Your Food From Spoiling During a Power Outage

These power outage food safety tips keep food from spoiling when you're left in the dark.

It never fails: You make a big grocery run, fill up the fridge and that’s when the power goes out. Or you stock up before a storm just to lose power. While you can’t plan for a power outage, you can be prepared and take steps to keep your food safe. Here are five power outage food safety tips to keep food from spoiling when you’re left in the dark.

Keep Ice on Hand

Having extra water on hand is a big part of emergency preparedness, and having a supply of ice will come in handy when the power goes out. If there’s room in your freezer, fill some containers and water bottles and freeze them so they’ll be ready to help keep food cold during a power outage. Just remember, water will expand as it freezes so be sure not to overfill any containers or bottles.

Move Food to the Bottom and Group Together

When it comes to power outage food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says you should group all your frozen food together. Since heat rises, keep food grouped together in the lower portion of your freezer to help keep it frozen for as long as possible.

Keep Doors Closed

Once you move items to the freezer and group food together, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. The Food and Drug Administration says a refrigerator will stay cold for up to four hours, while a freezer will keep its temperature for 48 hours if it is full, 24 hours if it is half-full.

Use Coolers for Power Outage Food Safety

The American Red Cross recommends using coolers if the power outage is expected to go beyond a day. Pack refrigerated food such as milk, meats, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers into your cooler surrounded by ice. Keep it at a temperature of 40 degrees F for as long as possible.

Don’t Keep Food Outside

While you may be tempted to keep cold and frozen foods outside if the power goes out in the winter, the website foodsafety.gov recommends otherwise. “Even when there is still snow and ice, outside temperatures can vary, causing chilled food to enter the ‘danger zone’ of warmer than 40 degrees F and cooler than 140 degrees F and frozen food to begin thawing. Moreover, exposed food can be exposed to animals and unsanitary conditions.” Another concern is how to heat your house during a winter power outage.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.