Homeaid How to Clean Out Your Fridge and Freezer After a Power Outage

How to Clean Out Your Fridge and Freezer After a Power Outage

Comments : 2 Posted in : aid, announcements, cleaning, emergency, food, guide, healthy, help, power outage, storm, Uncategorized on by : Jeanette Rueb

Image of local windstorm damage from the Democrat and Chronicle


Alright, everybody. This week’s post is going to be a little bit different…

Depending on where you’re from and what news sources you follow, you may or may not have heard that the Upstate New York area was hit hard by a windstorm that set some new records for this area. Hurricane-force winds (81 mph were recorded) battered the area, causing widespread damage to homes, trees, power lines, and countless properties. 150,000 homes were left without power, and now, 24 hours after the storm, many still don’t have power.

My apartment complex is one of them, so here I am, writing from my parents’ basement. It’s a nice basement. They have heat and power here.

This week, since many people in my area are going to be sifting through their fridges and freezers, deciding what to keep and what to toss, I’m going to do my part to be helpful by making it a little easier to find out what’s safe to keep and what needs to go based on how long the power has been out.

The first rule of power outages is this: Always keep the fridge and freezer closed unless it’s absolutely necessary to open them.

This keeps whatever cold air is already in there from being replaced with room temperature air, keeping your food chilled longer. Other than that, it all mostly comes down to time.

That being said, let’s break it down:

  • Has the power been out for more than 4 hours?
    • No –> Your food should be fine and you should have nothing to worry about. 🙂
    • Yes –> Check the temperature of your fridge. If it’s over 40 degrees F (4.5 degrees C) and likely has been for more than 2 hours, throw out any of the following:
      • Poultry
      • Milk
      • Soft cheeses
      • Creamy salad dressings
      • Meat (even if it was frozen and just thawing out)
      • Gravy or broth
      • Stuffing
      • Pizza
      • Soy meat substitutes
      • Eggs
      • Fish (and fish sauce)
      • Open spaghetti sauce 
      • Canned dough (cut n bake cookies, canned bread, ready rolls, etc.)
      • Leftovers
      • Cooked rice, pasta, or potatoes
      • Fresh pasta
      • Cheesecake
      • Salads made with mayo
      • Any pies or pastries filled with anything other than fruit
      • Pre-washed, packaged salads
      • Cooked vegetables
      • Soups and stews
      • Tofu
      • Vegetable juice
      • Garlic in oil or a jar
      • Casseroles
      • Anything with “keep refrigerated” on the label
  • What foods are safe to keep above 40 degrees F for longer than 2 hours?
    • Hard cheeses (cheddar, colby, parmesan, swiss, romano, provolone)
    • Grated parmesan or romano
    • Processed cheese (like Kraft Singles, for example)
    • Butter or margarine
    • Fruit juices (even if opened)
    • Canned fruit (even if opened)
    • Fresh fruit (NOT if it has been cut)
    • Opened mayo, tarter sauce, or horseradish (unless it’s been above 50 degrees F/10 degrees C for more than 8 hours, then toss it)
    • Peanut butter (if for some reason you keep it in your fridge…?)
    • Canned preserves
    • Mustard, ketchup, relish, taco sauce
    • Pickles and olives
    • Worcestershire, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, and hoisin sauce
    • Baked goods and breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles, etc.)
    • Fresh/raw herbs, mushrooms, spices, vegetables
  • What freezer foods are safe to keep?
    • According to foodsafety.gov, as long as food still has ice crystals on it, it may be safe to refreeze. It may not taste as good, but most foods can be partially thawed and refrozen and will still be okay to eat. The following foods can be refrozen if ice crystals are still present:
      • All meats and meat substitutes (seafood texture will change)
      • Milk (texture may change)
      • Shelled eggs and egg products
      • All cheeses and cheesecakes
      • Casseroles
      • Fruits and vegetables, whole or juiced
      • All breads and pastries
      • Pastas, entrees, flours, pastries, and breakfast breads
    • The following food can not be refrozen, even if ice crystals are present and must be thrown out:
      • Ice cream and frozen yogurts (sorry guys)
    • If the food in your freezer has completely thawed and been held above 40 degrees F (4.5 C) for more than 2 hours, you need to throw it out, with a few exceptions:
      • Frozen fruits and juices can be completely thawed and refrozen, but must be thrown out if they become slimy, moldy (duh), or develop a yeasty smell while thawed
      • Frozen vegetables and juices can be thawed and refrozen as long as they were not thawed and held at 40 degrees (4.5 C) for more than 6 hours
      • Bread, rolls, muffins, and cakes not filled with custard can be refrozen
      • Pie crusts and dough can be refrozen, but they lose a lot in the way of quality
      • Flour, nuts, and cornmeal can be refrozen
      • Bagels, pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast breads can be refrozen
      • Hard cheeses (see above for examples) can be refrozen after being completely thawed
Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently sort through your fridge/freezer, knowing what to keep and what to toss. That way, you can keep you and your family healthy and safe after the power goes out. Always know where your emergency supplies are (water, food, flashlights, batteries, blankets, candles, and matches), and keep a crank or battery-powered radio on hand so you can stay abreast of weather alerts.
Bookmark this page for easy access later, and be sure to share with your friends — you’ll never know when you might need it!


2 thoughts

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