Simplify Your Family's Emergency Preparedness

The Best Tips for Power Outage Food Safety

woman throwing out rotten food from refrigerator after a power outage.

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When it comes to disaster emergencies, one that we should all be prepared for is a power outage. They can be planned or unplanned, but either way they will disrupt your daily life. And one thing that will be top of mind is power outage food safety.


So, let’s talk about it. In this post I’ll share how you can prepare ahead of time, tips to keep food safe without power and tips for what to do with your food after the power comes back on. I’ll also link to a few of my favorite resources to help you out.

How to prepare in advance for food safety during power outages

Just like everything else emergency preparedness, there are plenty of things you can do before the threat of power going out is a concern. Here are some simple things to start thinking about and take action on:


Talking about all of this before a power outage occurs will be a huge benefit to everyone in your house. And it will take one thing off your mental load at an otherwise stressful time. 

fridge thermometer on side of refrigerator to test inside temperature.

Tips for keeping food safe without power

You know what’s not cool? Doing a huge CostCo haul just hours before a storm rolls through and knocks down power lines for who knows how long. Or maybe you live in a city where planned power outages happen on occasion to help the local power grid out.  Either way, you don’t want to have to throw away all that food! Ugh, not cool.


These are the top tips from experts on how to tackle power outage food safety and do your best to keep things from spoiling.

X of masking tape on refrigerator handles during a power outage.

How long is food safe during a power outage?

Here are some key pieces of information everyone should be aware of:

Food Safety Tips for AFTER a power outage

Trust me, this is not the thing you want to take your chances on. Make sure you’re aware of when it’s time to make peace with the idea of tossing out food.


  1. Do NOT taste the food after a prolonged power outage. If you’re in doubt, toss it. Perishable food not kept at safe temperatures can cause severe illness. This is not just your mild upset tummy, anyone who has experienced food poisoning will agree.
  2. Discard perishables (sad, I know) after 4 hours without power or a VERY cold source. This includes: meat, fish, cut fruits and veggies, eggs, milk and leftovers.
  3. Toss any food that has an unusual color, odor or texture (but also realize this is not your only litmus test – some foods that are actually spoiled won’t experience any of these).
  4. Check the food temperature. If it’s above 40 degrees F, toss it.
  5. Check your appliance thermometer to see if it’s at or below 40 degrees F. If you don’t have one of these thermometers, see #4.
  6. Generally speaking, if it has ice crystals it’s still good.

Let me repeat…do not take your chances. I know it stinks to throw out all that food, but it really is the safest thing to do to avoid illness.

Safety Tips when using dry ice for keeping food safe during power outages

Maybe you’ve used dry ice before, maybe not. But since I mentioned it as an option for helping to keep food cold, let’s review some important tips:


  • Don’t touch dry ice with your bare hands.
  • Don’t taste or put dry ice in your mouth.
  • Make sure you have good ventilation when transporting dry ice and don’t inhale the vapors.
  • Don’t put dry ice directly on food or glass shelves.
  • Don’t use it in an operating freezer.

Got it? Good. Let’s just be smart with the dry ice.

Additonal resources for power outage food safety

Hopefully, you’re feeling more confident about how to keep your food safe during power outages. Here are a couple other good resources for finding information about specific foods and what temperatures they’re safe at/how long they’ll stay good:


  1. This Home Food Storage chart from University of Nebraska-Lincoln is really comprehensive.
  2. Check out this table from the USDA about when to throw out specific foods.
  3. Make sure you’re on my email list by signing up for This or That at the bottom of this post. I’ve got an awesome printable chart coming soon and my email VIPs will be the first to know about it!

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