I love Spring! I thoroughly enjoy the sound of thunder and a heavy rain falling on the windows. And, there have been some pretty incredible light displays happening these last few days around the Omaha Metro area. It makes me think of my growing up years and times on the farm when we might lose power for a few hours or maybe even a few days. Eventually, we invested in a generator and that helped get us through those times. However, there were times before the generator arrived that we were faced with the task of keeping our food supplies safe until power was restored.

Of course, you never want to taste the food to decide if it's safe. There could be enough botulism spores to cause a pretty severe case of food poisoning with just a small taste. The USDA recommends the following steps if you have an extended power outage and have food that you need to keep safe.

First, know where you can find dry ice or block ice in an emergency. Remember, supplies will be limited due to others in your area looking for the same items at the same time so have a few options ready. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.You may even want to freeze a few bags of water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers when you know bad weather is approaching.

Secondly, have several coolers on hand to keep your refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. And, be sure to stock up on ready-to-eat foods like nuts, fruit, bread, spreads, etc. Be sure to have a few days of food that do not require cooking or cooling. The size of your family will determine the amount you will want to have on hand.

Thirdly, when the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Your refrigerator will keep your food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it's only 1/2 full.) Usually, power can be restored in that amount of time. Be sure to place frozen meat and poultry on a tray so that if they do begin to thaw, their juices will not drip on other foods. 

Once the power has been restored, check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual order, color or texture or feels warm to the touch. Check for ice crystals. Food in your freezer that has partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. 

Most importantly, when in doubt, throw it out! 

Until Next Time...