Big Picknic Cooler - © Walmart

Your Food When The Power Goes Off…

Great question. Just after 6 p.m. last Friday evening, a pair of tornadoes and a scattering of microbursts hit Canada’s National Capital Region (Greater Ottawa; where I live) destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and leaving 142,000 addresses without electricity…

Generator -© Global Power EquipmentYour best friend in a blackout: A portable Generator can keep your fridge running
during a power failure, light some lights, run a Coffee maker
or power a standard 1,500 watt induction cooker…

Of course, the lack of power left me (ahem) powerless to post over the weekend. We’ll just write off the weekend as a loss and start over, fresh this morning.

About an hour after the blackout started, we got word, via the car radio, that a disaster had befallen our city and power might be out for several days. My first thought, of course, was: what about the food in the fridges and freezer?

The first thing you do when confronted by a power disruption that’s going to be prolonged is move your chilled and frozen food to safe quarters.

What do you do?

If you live here in the Great White North, and it’s winter, you can just put your food in grocery bags and stick it in outside, in the car.

But, if the weather is warm or you live in the Sunny South, you’ll want to get ice wherever you can and break out the camping coolers.

Alas, these days, most of the family camping gear is stowed, unused for ages, in Mom and Dad’s garage. So you have to make do with what you’ve got on hand. I turned several corrugated cardboard boxes into makeshift coolers by lining their bottoms with about 2 in. / 5 cm of folded towels. Next, pile in the food, packing it tightly, leaving room for a layer of ice at the top. Re-package the ice you got from the service station or convenience store in large heavy-duty double-zip-closure freezer bags and cover he top of the food mass with about 2 in. / 5 cm of ice. Finish off by covering the ice with another layer of towels, close the boxes and tape them shut to avoid warm air infiltration. You’re good for 48 hours.

What you gonna eat?

One of the boxes I transformed into a cooler was filled with foods I wanted to eat over the duration of the blackout. Those would be items that usually live in the fridge, like unfrozen Meat, Cheese, Veggies and so on. For this ‘fridge’ box, I packed ice around the sides with the food mass in the middle. Ice and a towel went on top as before. Because this box was going to be accessed several times over the term of the emergency, I did not seal the top.

How you gonna cook?

Overnight lows the past few days, here, have been in the

fridge temperature’ zone 3-4 C. That was convenient. We and others in the neighbourhood took out charcoal and gas grills out of mothballs and nothing that needed to be cooked was denied the fire. One family a few doors up from us has a gas stove which allows you to bypass the automatic start features and light burners manually, like a commercial restaurant range.

We were able to plug in our 1,500 watt induction cooker to a neighbour’s emergency generator for as long as it took to prepare anything we what we wanted to cook. Others in the neighbourhood used it, too. At one point three families had Coffee Makers plugged into the thing. Thanks to Susan and Jack for sharing the voltage!

What happened…

By the end of the blackout, just before 5:30 p.m. the following Sunday, The freezer boxes were still cold and only one bag of my home-made Tomato Sauce had started to soften. No casualties.

The fridge box, of course, was emptied slowly over the dark weekend and, having consumed the most sensitive products (like raw Meats) early in the game, we suffered only a few losses, including the Milk and some left-overs from a ‘Wings and Things’ (Finger Foods and Dips) supper the day before the power failure. I was looking forward to resuscitating those tonight, for an encore performance. But you don’t fool around with leftovers, especially when the power is out.

We were fortunate to be outside the destruction zone where the heavy weather hit. And our usual supermarket had generators going, which kept their lights on and their freezers and coolers running. Trouble was, by 2 hours after the blackout hit, their shelves were pretty bare! So we had to get creative about the back-up supplies we bought. Erin thought we needed to pamper ourselves with a few guilty pleasures, what with the privations were were forced to endure in the blackout. The Chips and Dips aisle was still not too depleted, as was the Bottled Beverages aisle, and she picked up some Naan Bread and Tortillas, as well. Thus, we passed the empty hours playing Scrabble and Monopoly, reading, and munching on snacks…

The lights finally came back on half way through the tie-breaking fifth game of our Sunday afternoon Scrabble tournament. We finished the game rather than jumping up and attending to things that needed attention, now that the power was back up. Erin, Mother, and I all said it felt a little funny to have lights after two days of dawn-to-dusk living.

Cracking open the freezer boxes, we found Smoked Salmon, and I whipped up Croissantes with Salmon and Herbed Cream Cheese for supper with a side of Hummus and Garlic-dressed Tortilla Chips. Low on Veggies, but high on satisfaction – and not a bad show considering what we’d just been though!

~ Maggie J.