When there’s a power cut, one of the first things we worry about is the food in our refrigerators. Nowadays, we have come to rely very heavily on this appliance. Thanks to fridges, we can have a variety of foodstuffs within immediate reach. We can store leftovers and large quantities of produce for future use. They are also a welcome distraction from the monotony of work – don’t we tend to open them to check for snacks when we’re bored? Refrigerators provide refuge in more ways than one. Hence, we must know how to act when they break down or are cut off from electricity for long durations. This will enable us to minimise food wastage and also avoid health problems. Here’s what you should do when your fridge stops working.
5 easy ways to handle food when your fridge stops working:
1. Throw out perishable foods
Unfortunately, you cannot save the cut fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, milk, and leftovers in your fridge after four hours of no electricity. Note that milk products like yoghurt, dahi, buttermilk, cream, sour cream, etc. also come under this category. These perishable items require steady and sufficient cooling in order to be safe to eat. One way to salvage this situation is to consume as much of these foods as you can immediately after the power cut.
2. Use an alternate cooling source
If you have a cooler or a container with dry ice at hand, you can use them to store perishable items on a temporary basis. However, depending on prevailing weather conditions, you may still have to throw some of them out later. An important point to keep in mind is to maintain their temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4.44 degrees Celsius). If you manage to do so, you can refreeze them after your refrigerator is working again. This is also applicable to items stored in the freezer like processed snacks and certain meats. You can use a food or appliance thermometer to verify the temperature of foodstuffs and check for ice crystals on them.
3. Check and keep non-perishable items
Uncut fruits and vegetables, butter, specific types of hard cheeses, condiments, sealed liquids and bread are usually fine even if they haven’t received constant cooling. Jelly, mustard, peanut butter, olives, and pickles are generally safe whereas opened jars of other types of sauces (salad dressings, mayonnaise) should be discarded. However, all of this depends on outside temperatures and humidity conditions. Bacteria may begin to form on some of these items too, so inspect them closely before you eat them. If their texture, odour, or colour looks suspicious, don’t taste them. It is better to throw them out than risk infection.
(Also Read: How Long Can You Store Leftover Food: Details Inside)
4. Keep the fridge closed
Be very strategic about removing foods from the refrigerator after an electricity cut. Don’t keep opening the door to check on the items inside. Keeping it closed allows the interiors to remain cool for a longer period of time. In this way, if the appliance starts working before the four-hour window, the perishable items could still be saved. According to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping your freezer’s doors closed can keep the food inside safe for around 1-2 days (depending on how full the freezer is).
5. Prepare in advance
Sometimes refrigerators may stop working due to technical reasons over which we have no control. But if you live in an area prone to frequent power cuts, it is best to make arrangements beforehand. Consider investing in portable coolers and thermometers mentioned earlier. Remember that coolers can store only a limited quantity of food and you may need to add layers of ice or frozen packs (that will also take up space). Therefore, you must be smart in selecting which foods to keep in them. You may rush to save perishable or expensive items, but take into account the length of the power cut. Coolers are not a permanent solution.
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