» Before we talk about how long your meal prep will stay fresh after the power goes out, let's talk about steps you can take before this happens that will help your meal prep last longer.
» You should always keep a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F or below. The freezer should be at 0°F or below. You can prepare for emergencies or natural disasters by freezing containers of water and gel packs to help keep your food at 40°F or below. Always have a cooler and frozen gel packs handy in case you have to remove your food from the refrigerator to keep it cold. You can even buy dry ice or ice blocks to keep your food cold in the refrigerator, if you think the power will be out for a long time.
» Once the storm hits, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. The CDC states that, if the doors stay closed, food will stay safe for up to four hours in a refrigerator and 48 hours in a full freezer. Divide this number in half if your freezer is only half full. Heat will be able to penetrate more loosely packed items. Remember, if the power has been out for over four hours, and a cooler and ice are available, put refrigerated perishable foods in the cooler. To keep them at 40°F or below, add ice or a cold source like frozen gel packs.
» Once the dust has settled, do not test if food is safe to eat by trying it! A good phrase to keep in mind is: when in doubt throw it out. First, get rid of anything perishable from your refrigerator if the power has been out for more than four hours, such as meat, fish, cut fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, and leftovers. If you haven’t saved those foods with ice, you want to throw them away with anything that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.