During a power outage, your first priority is safety—for you, your family members and your pets. Usually there’s a bigger force at play, like a windstorm capable of knocking a tree over onto a powerline or an ice storm that causes electrical problems.
Your mind probably doesn’t jump right to the thawing food in the refrigerator and freezer, but the last thing you want once the lights come back on is to pull the doors open and find a total mess. If the power outage lasts more than a few hours, it will turn into a grocery graveyard.
All’s not lost! There are a few tricks you can try to protect your perishable food during a power outage. And if you can’t, some homeowners insurance policies actually cover the cost of food spoilage after a deductible. Keep reading to learn more.
Salvaging your perishable food items
With warning before a natural disaster, you can stock up on non-perishable food items and use up the last of your meat, dairy and leftovers. But sometimes the power goes out in the blink of an eye. The key then is to keep perishable foods under 40 degrees Fahrenheit
, because rising above this temperature for two or more hours makes them unsafe to consume.
As tempting as it is, resist the urge to open and close refrigerator and freezer doors multiple times to check on the contents. Each time you open the door, your appliance loses some of its stored coolness. Foodsafety.gov recommends taking two quick actions to help preserve cold food: grouping freezer foods together (because they help each other maintain a low temperature) and placing a tray under any products that could drip onto others and ruin them, like meat products.
If the power outage continues for several hours and you’re safely able to obtain ice, you can use it to cool food in coolers while you wait for your appliances to kick back in.
It’s hard to see a grocery bill go down the drain after a disaster, but it’s simply not worth the risk of getting foodborne illness. If you believe your food may have gone above the safe temperature threshold for too long, throw it away.
Homeowners may also be worried their power went out while they were away. But how can they tell? Even if the food looks fine now, it could have thawed and refrozen. Try the ice cube trick: Put an ice cube in a sealed bag or container. If it holds shape, your freezer has been on. If it’s melted, you know your power went out for an undisclosed amount of time.
Check your homeowners insurance
The Insurance Information Institute reminds us it’s always worth checking your homeowners insurance policy, as some carriers may include food-spoilage coverage ranging from $250 to $500 after events like hurricanes. It’s also worth noting you can often add an endorsement to your policy for specific coverage against the cost of spoiled food.
Have a plan before a power outage occurs to protect your perishables, and make sure you fully understand your homeowners insurance coverage before you need it. Want to explore your policy options? Compare free quotes today with CoverHound!