Use These Foods First During A Disaster


At the beginning of an emergency, one in which the electricity has failed…

Before you start breaking into your emergency food storage of rice-and-beans,
FIRST use these foods…

…foods from your REFRIGERATOR and FREEZER, before they spoil and go to waste.

BUT! There are caveats to that advice:

If the emergency is one in which you expect the power to come back on within about 4-hours, then it’s not a big deal. This might be something like a thunder-and-lightning storm which knocks out power in your area – which typically gets repaired fairly quickly.

On the other hand, if the emergency is more of a major disaster — something like a hurricane, tornado, or winter storm which has torn out swaths of the electrical grid, or a disaster of similar or worse consequences whereby you expect the grid to be down for some time…

…then YES, consume your refrigerated and frozen foods FIRST — before they waste.


Food Safety


For the Refrigerated section:

If the power is out for less than 4 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. If you expect that the power will come back on soon enough, then while the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

The refrigerator will generally keep food safely cold inside the fridge for about 4 hours if it is unopened while the power is out. Perhaps longer depending on the fridge and environmental conditions.

Foods are generally safe for 4 hours after removing them from refrigeration.
Before that time, eat them. After that time, discard them.


For the Freezer section:

A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours when the power is out.
A full freezer will generally hold food safely for 48 hours.

You can extend the storage time of food left in a freezer during a power outage by preemptively filling empty spaces with jugs of water to freeze at least 24-48 hours before any power outage. Fill clean plastic containers or jugs with water and freeze them. Food will generally keep in a well-insulated, well-filled, closed freezer for 2 to 3 days.

Frozen foods are generally good for 4 hours after they begin to thaw.
Before that time, eat them. After that time, discard them.


Refrigerator and Freezer Temperature

Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer no matter how long the power has been out. It is a good idea to dedicate a thermometer for the fridge and freezer to always know they are at a safe temperature.

For the fridge, always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F.

For the freezer, while the temperature of freezing is 32 °F, it is recommended to keep frozen food at or below 0 °F.

Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of food right before you cook or eat it.
Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.


  1. When we had a massive plough wind come through & take down trees & power lines for miles around, some people were out of power for over a week in summer. Our niece borrowed our generator @ 6 days. She had piled quilts on her deep freeze & never opened it. She was still mostly frozen when the generator arrived. Just an idea to help protect what you’ve got. Also in winter if you have freezing temps. Put it outside. I know those living in an apartment with no balcony may not be able to but think a car trunk may be able to hold quite a bit. Could you some how hang a pillow case or other bag out a window to keep it cold. Can anyone think of other outdoor storage places for apartment tenants.

    1. canadagal

      YUP, in winter/freezing temp put it outside – car / boxes / garden shed / Rubbermaid containers / etc will help protect fr critters..but
      put it outside

      I was stunned, during recent emergency in Toronto and up to East Coast, to hear frequent and continuing news reports of news interviewing countless persons lamenting how they had lost their entire freezers due to loss of electricity.

      me and others could only go WTF?…put it outside.

      1. You are exactly right. People are ‘conditioned’ and don’t always recognize the obvious. Maybe one person who reads this will be enlightened – making the advice worthwhile ;)

        Even using a 3-season back porch during the winter months may be cold enough to support refrigeration (or freezer) temperatures. Often an attached garage is cool enough too.

        1. yes, good point about the back porch and people being conditioned.

          all through this news coverage of these folks in Toronto etc, I would see periodic interviews/reports of those poor folks had no heat at all in house, yet still lost all their freezer goods due to lack of electricity.

          in those conditions, I gotta think, that even stacking it in a window would be adequate…

          maybe they really had nothing much in the freezer, maybe it was mostly old goods they didn’t want to eat,
          — did occur to me they might be making these comments looking for a reason for a gov’t handout.

      2. Oh, thanks–nice use for those totes I used moving that are stacked in the attic.
        I also have both freezers packed tightly with frozen jugs and other jugs of water; can be used for the refrigerator AND water when thawed.

        1. JayJay,

          yup, I bet most folks have something like that (totes), boxes, etc..

          something else just occurred to me. nowdays many folks have those relatively small chest freezers. while they may be too heavy loaded to actually move outside (in the freezing weather), they could be unloaded, then reloaded outside. empty, they are not very heavy, and even someone without much muscle could likely drag them out on a veranda/deck/step.

          1. Or those ice chests used at parties, those beer/ice tubs, picnic coolers.

          2. yup yup. once one starts thinking about it, there are so many options.

    2. I moved from western OK to just south of Chitown years back.It was during July.Of coarse it was at or above thru OK and Missu.The temp gauge on the old truck I was driving would all but red line at the top of the hills going thru mizzu.Then would go to normal at the bottom.My deep freeze was also @ half full.I just filled the frezzer with all our blankets and quilts.Believe it or not but over 48 hours later when I unloaded the suff in the frezzer was still frozen hard.

  2. Last april we had an ice storm come though our area ( so dakota ) and we lost all power for 4 days. the temperature in the house dropped to 45 to 50 degrees and stayed there. but we were lucky, the only thing we lost from the refigerator was a bucket of ice cream and a few bags of apple slices and nothing from the deep freeze. the ice cream was running out on the floor and apples slices were soft. Needles to say we had apple pie and apple crunch for a qute a few days. Everything else from the frig and deep freeze was ok.

  3. Having knowledge of Hurricane Sandy coming (thanks to this website) I had 4 1-gal ziplock bags fill with water…. which later turned into 4 blocks of ice. The power was out for 12 days. The ice kept the food in the freezer edible for 3 days. The food in the freezer started melting from the top down. I ended up losing $250 worth of food. Since then, I have a freezer on an another power grid in a different location as a back up. I also have too large igloo type ice chest to keep food in as a backup.

    The one thing I learned is to buy canned meat because after 4 days there will be no fresh meat- I now buy- Hormel Smoked Ham, Spam, Tuna, Swanson white meat chicken breast and Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Chicken Pot Pie.

    1. I’m glad the preemptive ice blocks helped you somewhat. I agree with you regarding the benefits of storing canned meats. So many of us only think of meats in terms of buying fresh and/or freezing for later. That’s fine until the electricity stops flowing…

      Like you said – having some good coolers is a real asset too. Some of them are better (and worse) than others, so generally it’s better to buy quality in this regard – giving you extra ‘ice’ time…

    2. I lined the bottom of my 14cu.ft chest frrezer with the deer park 2.5 gallon containers. makes a nice bed of solid ice that will keep things cold for a very long time. Plus it is important to have as little empty space as possible in a freezer. The increased density will help to keep the freezer from cycling on/off constantly.

  4. That’s great how you’ve increased your storage – glad to hear it. That’s what it’s about… starting with the basics and moving on up from there. When I first began a serious mindset of preparedness, I began with a 72-hour kit for the vehicle. It was a fun project to contemplate and put together. I’ve not stopped since then…

  5. When we lost power in the winter we would pack the freezer with snow if it was available.

  6. Throw a blanket or two over your freezer after the power goes out. Don’t open your freezer of fridge unless absolutely necessary. Unless you are burning fuel for heat, seal all windows and doors. Kick Mother in Law to the curb.

  7. Putting it outside in Texas normally wouldn’t be an option, we have mild winters (usually), except for the last few days while it is freezing. The sun comes out and it warms things up. I like the blankets idea!

    One day it’s in the 20s, next day it gets up to 60 degrees…….insane.

  8. Having grown up in Miami, I learned at an early age not to rely on frozen foods for long term emergencies.

    Ken, this is a really great blog in my humble opinion. The articles are short, easy to read, yet packed with useful insights. You always seem to have good pictures to go along with the topic and the Blog don’t attract some of the Morons, found on some of the other blogs, (besides me).

    I’ve been reading the Big Three prepping sites for 6+ years (SHTF, Rawles, Creedmore) and have gleamed more from you in a few short months than from all of them. Well done

    1. @Ghost, You’re definitely correct not to rely on frozen foods for emergencies. The only way you might get away with that if you have an alternative energy source/system beyond just a generator (which could potentially run out of fuel in a long term SHTF).

      Thank you very much for the appreciative words.

  9. You can use your car as a generator to intermittently power household appliances such as your refrigerator, TV, cellphone, lights, ect. I bought a $40 high wattage auto power invertor off of Amazon. One set of cables clips onto your car battery and the other looks just like a power plug. You just plug in whatever you want to power. Cover your fridge with blankets for insulation. A couple of times a day, take off the blankets and plug in the fridge to the invertor. Idle your car for 30 minutes or so to get the fridge good and cold again. Works well, as long as you have gasoline.

  10. I’m impressed with the comments to this topic, some very excellent tips. Two of them stand out, #1 using Ziploc bags filled with water and frozen and kept in the freezer. I’ve read of using a salt solution so that when it thaws the temperature will plunge, never tried that. #2 plugging into an inverter connected to your running vehicle’s battery.

    An obvious major factor in how long food will last is it’s environment; temperature and humidity. Location also is a factor in that. A freezer kept in the basement in a northern climate is going to have radically different performance than one kept in the garage in a southern climate. (Most homes in the north have basements, most homes in the south do not). Winter is a different story, a non-issue in the north.

    If a power outage is anticipated, which usually wouldn’t be more than a day or two at most, it is too late to freeze jugs of water. You should anticipate that now and freeze water now. Another method of doing that besides the previously mentioned Ziploc bag idea is to freeze bottled water and fill in the nooks and crannies of your freezer with them. They will not burst.

    Four hours of a power outage in our northern climate will make virtually no difference in our freezer. This past week we took out a 3lb pack of chicken breast from the freezer and kept it in the refrigerator to thaw out. It took 4 days. Judging from that I would estimate that by occasionally running power to the freezer by the aforementioned vehicle-inverter charging method (2 hours a day) in our basement freezer at 68d F room temp in the summer, it would be a week before I was concerned and had to take action to deal with it, such as canning via a propane stove, salting, sun-drying, grilling/cooking and smoking.

    I would not blanket a freezer or refrigerator until the motor has completely cooled off, and would make certain that it was not covered when the power returned. Room temperature of course is important, but humidity also; placing wetted blankets over the freezer will aid in cooling if the air is dry enough to allow for evaporation. Cover them first with plastic drop cloth.

    If there are items in the freezer or fridge that one will use over the next several days, quick grab them all at once and put them in a cooler so the doors won’t be opening several times.

    I think the main thing is to not panic, frozen meat takes a long time to thaw out and won’t go bad immediately. This might be a summer to know how to survive a power outage.

    1. Chevy,
      I read of a man doing a test using salt water frozen in the freezer to keep an ice chest for cold drinks and a crew in summer. the salted iced water kept 2x as long as regular blocks of ice in same jugs..It does take significantly longer to freeze, because temps must be very cold to freeze/solid.
      If in an area of hurricane/routine bad weather….and using for part of my water backup… I would make sure to carefully mark what bottles had salt/so as not to accidentally get one to drink..People should also remember a full freezer uses less energy.. I have to find the areas it is safe to add insulation on my new freezer.- in emergency..would wait to cover warmer areas-til they have chilled down…. only certain parts get warm?

  11. Just Sayin” yes, mark saltwater bags. Might be a good idea to not even try that one.
    Older freezers and refrigerators had their cooling coils in back (dust collectors) but newer ones have them inside the case on top and it is advised to not put anything there.

    I have vacuum sealed bags of ice that lay flat under the totes. They are tailored to fit our coolers also, on the bottom, for when we go camping. But frozen water bottles are by far the easiest means of doing that.

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