What to Feed Your Family When the Power Is Out

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There’s always a run on grocery stores in advance of a hurricane or blizzard—and with good reason. If you won’t be able to leave your house for a few days or if the power is out for longer than a couple of hours, what to feed your family becomes a major concern. The food experts at Consumer Reports have some tips for weathering the next storm safely and nutritiously.

Fill the Pantry

Shop for staples to have on hand during the storm season when the weather is still clear. “Pick up an extra few packages of nonperishables you use regularly when you do your normal grocery shopping,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food lab. That way, you won’t have to run to store just before a storm. Rotate the items occasionally so your stock is fresh. Good options include low-sodium canned beans, vegetables, fruit (packed in fruit juice), breakfast cereal, peanut butter, pouches of fully cooked whole grains, nuts, whole-wheat crackers, snack bars, and shelf-stable milk or plant milk (the kind sold in aseptic boxes in the grocery aisle). “Don’t forget that you’ll need a manual can opener if the power goes out too,” Siegel says. 

Take Stock of Your Fridge and Freezer

When a storm is predicted, see what ingredients and leftovers you have and plan to use them up first. “The food in your refrigerator and freezer doesn’t go bad immediately,” says Sana Mujahid, Ph.D., manager of food-safety research and testing at CR. If you keep the doors closed, a refrigerator will maintain a safe temperature—below 40° F—for about 4 hours, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). (Use a refrigerator thermometer to be sure.) A full freezer will stay cold for 48 hours—24 hours if it’s half full. “To load up a freezer, fill containers with water and freeze them,” Mujahid says. 

Know Which Foods Will Last

Bread, butter, fresh fruit and vegetables, jelly, and hard cheeses (such as cheddar) will keep at room temperature, so if you have them in your fridge don’t be afraid to eat them even if the power has been out for longer than 4 hours. (For information on other foods, see the list FSIS has compiled.) Apples, avocados, citrus fruit, carrots, celery, cucumbers, grapes, green beans, peppers, snap peas, and tomatoes are fresh foods that can be eaten raw and will be good for days unrefrigerated, so consider picking up some of these ahead of a storm….

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