The power has just gone out. You find the flashlight and light some candles. You realize its dinner time and the kids are hungry, now what? Going out to dinner might not be an option if the power is out in the whole city. Crackers and a jar of peanut butter might be okay for one night, but what if the power outage lasts for longer than that? Power outages can happen at any time. They could last a few hours or even a few days.
Order of Operations It is important to start by using what is in your refrigerator first. When the power goes out, the fridge will be able to keep food cool for 24-48 hours. Don’t open your fridge more than you absolutely have to. Know what you are looking for, open and close the fridge quickly and efficiently. If the power is still out, eat what is in the freezer next. Food will remain frozen for 2-3 days as long as the door stays shut.
Alternate Cooking Methods Our ancestors have used fire to cook food for millions of years. Learn from their ingenuity and adjust your own cooking methods.
Fire Starters Fire has come a long way in the last several years. Products like EasyFire make building and maintaining a fire as easy as ever. Using nontoxic inert minerals, paraffin wax, and recycled wood, you can create more than enough heat to safely cook any meal. Use a firepit, fireplace, or other safe, ventilated container to maintain an easy fire.
Cooking Outdoors A functional and fun trend is the backyard firepit. This is a great area for cooking during a blackout. Take a note from the Boy Scouts of America and make a good old fashioned tin foil dinner. A tin foil dinner can contain just about anything. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and fill it with meat and potatoes. Add a few herbs and some salt and pepper. Roll the edges of the foil together and toss it in the fire for a while. Bury the tin foil dinner in a bed of hot coals so it cooks all the way through. Check to see if it is done, if not roll it back up and put it back on the fire until everything is tender and cooked.
Barbeques, grills, and camp stoves are ideal for the 4th of July, they are also the most obvious ways to cook during a power outage. Since they run on propane or charcoal they won’t be affected by the blackout. DO NOT grill indoors on a charcoal or gas grill. It will produce lethal carbon monoxide.
Emergency Stove Candle or Stove-in-a-Can stoves use wax hydrocarbon fuel. Chafing dishes use the same principle to keep food warm. You’ve probably seen the blue flames under trays at parties or other catered events. These little cans are great for heating up food during an emergency. They won’t be able to cook a full course meal, but they are able to heat up a can of beans just fine.
Use Your Food Storage People sometimes protect their emergency food storage, assuming that a bigger emergency is around the corner. In reality, events like blackouts are exactly when you should use your food storage. It provides convenient, easy meal prep. For instance, MREs have built-in MRE heaters to cook without needing any other cooking method. If you have more freeze-dried food, that’s almost as easy. Freeze-dried meals only require hot water to produce a full, delicious meal.
Use Your Car Your car engine gets hot enough to heat food. Simply wrap your food in several layers of aluminum foil, open your hood and place the foil on the engine. Close the hood and turn on your car. (PLEASE make sure your garage door is open so you have plenty of ventilation.) Cook your food until the internal temperature is safe (usually 160 degrees for meat). You may need to flip the foil back and forth to ensure even cooking.
Alternative Cooking Methods
- Backyard BBQ
- Camp Stove
- Chafing Dish
- Sterno Stove
- Self-heating MREs
- Just-add-water freeze-dried-foods
Do you have any advice for cooking without power? We’d love to hear from you.