What Foods Do You Throw Away After You Lose Power?

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As I write this, we are camped out at my mom’s house because we have been without power at our house for the last 5 days. It’s been a pleasant several days, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel anxious about the uncertainty of whether schools will be open and when our power would return.

It’s a strange feeling being away from our home where our daily lives happen...not to mention the dread that I feel about all of the food in my refrigerator and freezer that I will have to throw away. But, there is always a silver lining, and this time has been sort of a vacation from the mundane worries and daily routines. 


Spring really will come one day soon, and it will stick around for more than a day at a time like it did in the last 2 weeks! And we will be able to let the kids run around instead of having them cooped up inside with their screens.


Given that many of you are still dealing with power outages or are dealing with the aftermath of downed trees, property damage and having lost electricity, I thought I would share some tips about ways we can clean up the refrigerator together. I’ll be doing this once we return home, possibly after this next batch of weather headed our way.





Here are some tips that can help you figure out what you can keep and what you need to toss. Remember, your health should be your top priority, and you can always get more food to fill your fridge (one can hope).


Another important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t taste the food to determine whether it’s safe to eat because taste or appearance of the food may not be an indication of safety.


What Foods Should You Throw Out?

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  1. According to Foodsafety.gov, generally speaking, the food that has been in your refrigerator with the door closed less than 4 hours, should be safe. However, if your refrigerator is above 40 F for more than 2 hours, you must throw away any meat, poultry, fish, eggs and any leftover cooked food.
  2. All soft cheeses will need to be thrown away, like brie, Camembert, queso blanco and feta. However, hard cheeses are safe to keep like cheddar, colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone and Romano. The reason for this? There is less moisture in hard cheeses and therefore less possibility that bacteria will grow. 
  3. It won’t come as a shock to you that you should throw away all dairy foods like milk, yogurt and non-dairy milks. However, butter and margarine are the exception and you can keep those even if your refrigerator has been out of commission for days.

    Why, you wonder? It’s logical to be skeptical because butter is made from cream (milk), which needs refrigeration. But, the difference between butter and milk is that the primary component of butter is fat (we knew this, but it’s actually like 80% fat! Ack! No wonder it tastes so good!) Since butter has a high fat concentration and very little liquid, it’s not an environment that bacteria are likely to grow.
  4. The whole fruits or vegetables you keep in the refrigerator, they are most likely safe unless they are already cut up, in which case they're likely to have gone bad. If you have garlic that comes in the jar, sadly, that doesn’t keep and you’ll have to toss it. And absolutely throw away any vegetable salad that has mayonnaise in it.
  5. This is a perfect time to weed out the condiments and jarred items that you have been storing for a while. It’s easy to forget about the jars of mayonnaise, jams and mustard that occupy space in the recesses and doors of your fridge.
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If you’re wondering about what kinds of things you can cook with the foods that are still good when your power returns, here are some ideas...

On one of our trips back home to collect stuff, I grabbed some red lentils, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and chicken broth (all safely shelf-stable) and made our favorite Lebanese Red Lentil Soup. I also grabbed some brown bananas and made some banana fritters for breakfast from the stuff in the pantry, plus one of the eggs in my mom's fridge. 


I’m hoping that things return to normal very soon, and that we remember to be grateful for the blessings that are heat, electricity and warm beverages!! Stay safe, friends!




food safety



westchester NY