Coping with a Power Outage as a Vegan

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Picture this – A freezer stocked with containers of homemade
vegan entrées, soups, and side dishes. It also holds bags of frozen vegetables,
several pints of frozen desserts purchased on sale, and a half dozen packages
of strawberries from last summer’s trip to the you-pick farm. Sounds like
you’re in a good place, right?

     Now imagine
waking up at 1 AM and realizing that the house is dark and getting cold. The
power is out for an indefinite amount of time. What can you do to increase the
odds that you won’t have to pitch everything in your freezer?

     If your freezer
is full, odds are better that foods will stay frozen than if the freezer only
has a few things in it. If you are concerned about the possibility of a power
loss – say, the forecast is for high winds later in the week – and your freezer
is only partially full, you can fill containers with water and put them in the
freezer. Once frozen, they’ll help keep the food in the freezer cold if the
power goes out. You can take the water-filled containers out when you need more
room for food in the freezer.

     According to the
FDA, a full freezer will keep food cold enough in a power
outage for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half
full) if the door remains closed. The FDA suggests buying dry ice, if possible,
which will keep food cold for a few days. When the power goes on, the food in
the freezer can be eaten (or refrozen) if the food still has ice crystals or if
the freezer temperature has remained at or below 40 degrees F. “If at any point
the food was above 40o F for 2 hours or more (or 1 hour if
temperatures are above 90o F) — discard it,“ says the FDA.

     If the power
outage is in the winter and the outdoor temperature is consistently below 40
F and if animal scavengers are not a problem, some foods can be kept
cold by placing them outside in an ice chest. Try to keep them out of the sun
to help keep the food at a low enough temperature.

     Remember, if the
food is thawed, it’s not worth the risk of getting sick – discard it.


FDA. Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods.

For more information see: Disaster
Planning for Vegetarians