June 28, 2017

Preparedness Tip: Keeping Food Cold Without Electricity

In the event of a power outage, here are a some things you can do to help keep your food cold, if not frozen;

  • During times when there is power, the fuller your fridge or freezer is, the longer the temperature will stay cold and the less the motor will have to run to keep it cold.
  •  If your freezer isn’t full, you can add frozen containers to fill the empty space. Any container will do, but 2-liter bottles are shaped well for stacking. (In writing this, I have a chest freezer in mind, but it should work for a fridge based freezer as well.)
  • When there is a loss of power, a full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately two days, a half full freezer for a day and a fridge for roughly four hours, if they remain closed.
  • If there is a power loss another good idea is to write down the contents of the fridge and freezer and post it on the outside. When someone is hungry, they can browse the list with the door closed, keeping the cold where it belongs.
  • If you have a generator, you can connect the fridge and freezer to it and run the generator once or twice a day, for an hour or so and that should be enough to keep things cold.
  • If the outage is going to be longer in duration, it is important to keep meat, poultry, fish and eggs refrigerated at 40 Fahrenheit and frozen things at 0 Fahrenheit. These would be good things to cook and eat first.
  • If you live in an area with snow, it’s not a good idea to place frozen food directly in the snow. The temperature isn’t controlled and things could thaw and refreeze. One possible solution might be to take a clean 30 gallon garbage can and bury it in snow, then place the food in it. If you bury it with snow nearly to the top and place the lid on it, this should keep things cold but probably not frozen, depending on the temperature outside.

If you have any other tips please add them to the comment section.
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  1. Chris Ray says:

    This is a great video a facebook fan shared

  2. Concerning the fridge/freezer situation, another tip I’ve heard about but never tried is wrapping the fridge and/or freezer in a blanket (or blankets depending on the size) and minimizing opening to help keep the inside colder longer. (The list of contents would help with this!!)

    • Chris Ray says:

      That’s a solid idea, much like the insulation my parents used to put around the water heater.
      Good call Rob

  3. Lots of ideas are right in front of our faces. I guess we just don’t see them easily because we’ve never been put in the position to “make do” or improvise like our ancestors did. We’re a “supermarket society” and not conditioned to think of storing food, developing a water supply, fuel for heat and cooking, etc…we’re conditioned to just go to the store when we need something. And such conditioning is hard to overcome.

    That’s the good thing about sites like this. People can exchange ideas and encourage each other to think outside the box. Like I mentioned, I’ve never tried that trick with the blankets but I have heard several people mention it before, just like what you said about the hot water heater. I’ve heard of that one too but never have tried it.

    What puzzles me is why Home Depot or Walmart or some other larger store doesn’t take advantage of the trend toward prepping in our society today. They could offer quality preparedness products like the ones we discuss at reasonable prices and make a fortune (another fortune that is). I remember not too long ago that Walmart was the place to go to buy canning supplies. Today, they still have jars and lids but the prices are high and there’s not a huge selection or supply. if there happened to be a run on these things, you’d be hard pressed to find any.

    Anyway, thanks for the article, Chris. Good info !!

    • Chris Ray says:

      Very good points Rob, we have lost touch with a lot of the skills from our past and pretty quickly too.

  4. Gino Schafer says:

    This article is useless. The “tips” here will work for a couple days only. THEN WHAT? How about some real information on keeping food cold for a week or more? How long have victims of hurricane Sandy been without power?

    • Not worthless, the truth is most black outs are short in duration. After a certain amount of time there is nothing you can do to keep food cold, unless you have access to ice and can use your fridge as an ice chest. 90% of Sandy victims have had their power restored.

    • suma oldguye says:

      yes I agree, but if you havnet prepared then its on you, you should at least have a small generator and batteries and a decent inverter, you must fend for yourself, there is no magic way to keep food cold, you can dig a deep hole toss in some ice and hope for the best having some isopropyl alcohol will evaporate very fast and cool things off when air flows over it, that may be of some use to cool drinks in cans
      but you have to have the hardware of some fashion, if you had a genny you could keep food cold with the generator, you can make a hydrogen generator wasily and cheaply for fuel, this is the best option but requires a brain to get it to work safely, the parts are dirt cheap and just need water to burn. you can find out how to make a simple one on youtube, I have made several and it works great, so unless you get off your behind and get busy you may find yourself in trouble, do the work now while you have all the power and supplies to do so, you must be proactive no one is going to save you, they will be busy saving themselves….got it?

      • Chris Ray says:

        Oh I think the majority of people reading this blog and others like it, are not afraid of the work, or think someone will give them a hand. Most are people who want to be prepared and are looking for ways to do so.

        • suma oldguye says:

          well you are most likely correct, however time is shorter than you think, best get the lead out, time is for doing, I would not wait much longer to get things in order, dark times are coming to us, just look around it madness and corruption in astounding ways, its gaining speed and cant be contained much longer can it? something has to give way, the run away out of control powers that be have lost all moral compass and are instituting hollywood like moves in plain view, no atrocity is out of bounds, and the fat lazy ones just watch the tube and eat mcburger gunk, and blame the republicans lol like any of that makes a difference any more. crazy times indeed, prepare in private but do it today, never know what monday will bring you, watch for the emabssys to close worldwide then times up

    • How about using ancient technology. I believe they are called zeer pots. You get a couple of terra cotta pots, one larger than the other. Block the bottom hole put the smaller pot inside and fill in the gap with sand. Wet the sand and place a wet cloth on top. This will keep food cold indefinitely because you just keep wetting the sand. See below link:


      • Chris Ray says:

        I have heard of zeer pots, but have never made one. I have researched them a bit and they should work well to keep things cooler.

    • Here are a couple of solutions beyond eating everything from your fridge/freezer.
      Have 1 or 2 large good quality 5 day (or longer) coolers. Keep gallon jugs of water in your freezer for ice blocks (keeps freezer colder when you have power too). If it is 30 or below food will stay safely in the cooler for a long time. Make sure it is secure to prevent animals from getting in it. If it is hot/warm you have about 5 – 10 days (depending on cooler). Keep the cooler in the coolest place you have.
      Also consider canning or drying some of the food. A gas stove will often work during a power outage. You can connect it to propane bottles if need be. You can also can over a fire. All you need for drying is sun/heat and dry air. Always make sure you know what you’re doing when canning or drying. The ball blue book is a good guide.

  5. Jumping Jack Flush says:

    Why not build a simple electrical storage system to help when the power goes off. One can build a nice two battery system for around $150 to $200.

    First, get one or two sealed deep cycle batteries from your local battery store – make sure they are sealed.

    Second, visit Harbor Freight, either in your city or online and purchase the following:

    a. one 1500 watt charger/inverter or larger if you desire.
    b. 4 6 gauge battery cables
    c. 2 or 4 battery connectors for the cables – depending on the number of batteries you purchase
    d. One or two extension cords – 12 gauge.

    To set this simple system up:

    a. connect the batteries in series – the Negative on the first battery connects to the positive on the second battery, the positive second battery connects to the negative on the first battery.
    b. attach the 1500 watt inverter to the second battery using the positive and negative leads supplied by the charger/inverter.
    c. plug the charger/inverter into the wall AC outlet with the supplied AC cord.

    Now, when the lights go off simply plug your desired appliance into the inverter using the one or both of your extension cords, as long as the appliance(s) is not over 1500 watts it will operate fine. Without recharging the batteries in this system an appliance should be able to operate for several days. When the power comes back on, the inverter/charger will recharge the batteries to full again.


    Adding a 250 watt solar panel to place outside in direct sunlight gains 250 watts per hour in recharging. Solar panels have come down in price and are not that expensive anymore.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Sounds like a great project for the do-it-yourself’ers

    • suma oldguye says:

      solar is great, but spendy, you need a solar charger breakers wire, fuses, elec boxes, at least 4 6 v batteries, and if you want to run computers you will need a pure sine wave inverter to do so, harbor freight wont get you there, you will need around 3500 bucks to get a system that will actually be useful, dont believe the hype on how simple and easy it is to rig a solar powered system, if you do it wrong it can end in fire and death lol, very high amperage your deal ing with here, it isnt for those who dont understand all aspects of it, good solar equipment is expensive, harbor feight can get you some lights but wont run a fridge all night o one or two batteries, wont happen, a good inverter is 500, a good charger is 550, panels are 500 each for decent ones, copper wire is 2-3$ a foot, you need DC breakers and fuses, deep cycle batteries, and the know how to hook it up with out burning your house down in the process, you dont jsut stick solar panels on the roof and plug stuff into it! ha! 3500.00 will get you a usable system, if you go for the grid tie type when the power goes out so does yours!, must have batteries to be of any use in a power outage, research it before you spend a nickle, not easy as some would suggest

      • Chris Ray says:

        I think $3,500 is a bit low. I have heard experts say that it can take 20+ years for a solar system to pay for itself. By that time parts start needing to be replaced.

        • suma oldguye says:

          I am an expert at designing and installing stand alone systems for off grid homes, you can do it for 3500.00, ebay has good deals on panels, thats really the best place to save money, the other stuff has to be top notch, panels are the least of it really. one does not build a system off grid to save money you build it as your sole electrical source, to be free of the companies and the failures, if you buy it to save dollars each month its a waste really, cuz a generator is better for the occasional outtage. a lot of smart guys will use fork lift batteries and heavy equipment batteries vs deep cycle batteries for a longer life system with lots more power, anyway the best way is to get cheap panels and good hardware to harvest them with. but panels may not go down in price the way a lot of guys think, the materials used to make them are getting hard to come by thanks in large part to china, so if ya gotta ask how much you probably shouldnt use solar.

        • suma oldguye says:

          the current admin. in wash. has already stated that the cost of elec will go much much higher in the coming years, so get prepared now, and make darn sure you do it to code or else they may try and make you remove it as unsafe, there is a code for installing them too, dont do it if you cant do it right or you may be throwing that money out the window. this is important cuz when they raise the price they are going to go after the the stand alone systems first thing for violations, you can bet on it.

          • Bryan Sweesy says:

            Since we were initially discussing short/extended power outages, I thought I would throw in my .02 I purchased a Solar Powered Generator/Battery System (depends on your outlook). And I spent less than $1500.00. It is quiet, emits zero emissions and is portable. I tested it out on my fridge in the garage from full power and a warm fridge, it cooled the fridge in 6 hours froze Ice in 9 on a single charge. I wanted to see how long it would last without electricity and or Solar panels connected. I was very satisfied. Take a look for yourselves.
            http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/138/ (mine was on sale at SOS in Southern California)

            For whole home, I suppose keep in touch with suma oldguye.

          • Good info. Do you think if you had panels connected it cold power the fridge full time?

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