Hey 2020, are you mad at us? First a pandemic, now not one, but TWO hurricanes headed our way. I've lived in south Louisiana all my life, so this is not my first storm-related rodeo. And now that I've passed the mid-century mark, these swirling storms no longer invoke that hurricane-party excitement. I'm definitely in that hunker-down, plan-for-the-worst/hope-for-the-best stage of adulthood.
Hurricanes bring many challenges, and loss of electricity tops my list. With a power loss as a possibility, here's how I'm prepping today:
1. Clean out the fridge. Toss expired items, keeping in mind the impact on the trash bins. I cleaned all the glass jars to repurpose so as to not fill up the garbage cans. Push your dairy to the coldest spot at the bottom and back of the fridge. The doors are the warmest place in the fridge, so reserve that space for butter, hard cheeses, vinegar-based condiments and even bread. Those items don't need refrigeration at all, so they are safe on the door. If you have leftovers, eat those first because in a power outage, refrigerated prepared are among the most perishable.
2. Prep what you can. While you're cleaning the fridge, peel and chop vegetables. Those bags of celery and carrots? Wash, peel and cut them for a quick grab-and-go snack. Wash and dry greens for salads. Chop onions to use in a meal or freeze them in zip top bags. Plan to bake refrigerated biscuits and cinnamon rolls before the power goes out. If you have a pie crust, use fresh or frozen fruit to bake a pie now. And then thank me later!
3. Organize the Freezer. A full freezer retains cold temps better than an empty freezer. However, be sure it's not packed to the gills and blocking vents. Think through your plan. Making Sloppy Joe's? Move the ground beef up front. What about that pan of lasagna? Plan to eat that as well. Fish and shrimp in the freezer? Those are what I cook first, as a matter of fact, Betty's Shrimp Stew is at the top of my list. Push those roasts, briskets and whole chickens to the back of the freezer. Power may be up and running before you get to those. What can be re-frozen? Generally, if ice crystals are present and the item feels very cold to the touch, it can be re-frozen. Most of those prepared items (like that lasagna) cannot be re-frozen. Print out this list from foodsafety.gov for a trusted, comprehensive list.
4. Adopt this thinking: Fridge=Now. Freezer=Next. Pantry=Last/As Needed. Eat leftovers today and plan for meals using what's in the fridge first. Your fridge is good to you for only 4 hours after a power outage. Your freezer can hold temps for up to 48 hours. Your pantry is there for you for the long haul. Turn to your pantry in an extended outage or grab items to enhance those fridge and freezer meals. For lots of comprehensive info, check out this valuable info and chart from foodsafety.gov
5. Close. The. Door. Hey, you guys! No standing with the fridge or freezer open pondering your next sandwich. Remember, in an outage, your fridge will warm after 4 hours. Your freezer will buy you 48 hours. So plan out your meals and open the door wisely!
7. When in doubt, throw it out. Keep in mind that your nose knows. We are equipped with a primal ability to suss out questionable food. If you're hesitating or having to go in for a second or third sniff, something is probably up. No food is worth risking food borne illness. These illnesses are especially risky for children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing mothers and immune compromised individuals.