No Power? Here's How to Keep Your Food Cold

Taking steps now can prevent food loss when the power goes out

What to Know

  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed throughout a power outage to keep perishable foods cold
  • Turn down the temperature dials all the way now; fill freezer with water jugs or dry ice
  • PG&E will not offer reimbursement for food losses because the power outages are planned for public safety reasons

With some 800,000 PG&E customers losing power this week, many families might be worried about losing hundreds of dollars worth of groceries as their refrigerators and freezers go quiet.

The good news: if you take a few simple steps now, you might be able to keep that food cold, even without electricity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes several recommendations for saving frozen and refrigerated food:

  • Keep the doors closed. Every time you open your refrigerator during a blackout, precious cold air will escape — and it will be replaced by warmer room-temperature air.
  • A half-stocked freezer will keep food frozen for 24 hours. Remember to place meat and poultry on one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices. 
  • A Fully-stocked freezer will keep food frozen for 48 hours. Need to fill some space? Just add water — in jugs or bottles. Keep in mind, ice expands as it freezes, so leave some extra space in the container.
  • Turn the thermostat controls down to the lowest temperature settings. This can help everything stay colder, longer.
  • Pack dry ice in your freezer. Many grocery stores sell this, and its temperature is more than 100° below freezing!
  • Keep a few days' worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling
Another note: you won't be able to get reimbursed for any food spoilage resulting from the planned power outages. PG&E told us: "We do not reimburse customers for losses, as power will be shut off for safety when gusty winds and dry conditions, combined with a heightened fire risk, threaten a portion of the electric system."
Save this helpful guide from the USDA to your phone to stay on top of food safety during and after a blackout:
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