When the power goes out, the first thing you should do is inquire from your local hydro utility as to how long they expect the power to be out. If it is expected to be out only for up to a few hours, there is no fear of losing or wasting that food.
Merely avoid opening the freezer door or do it quickly to retrieve what you need. When power is restored, check your freezer to ensure that it started up with no problem. Most freezers will resume operation without problem once power is restored.
As for extended power outages or when a freezer is unplugged during a long distance move, freezer foods will usually stay frozen for more than a day. How long depends on several factors, such as your home's temperature, whether foods are soft or hard frozen and how full the freezer is. It's not unusual for freezer foods to stay frozen for up to three days in a chest freezer that is three-quarters full.
A freezer that is mostly empty will not provide as much protection to keep foods frozen and the quality of insulation in the freezer walls, will also affect how long foods will stay frozen when the freezer is unplugged. But keep in mind that every time the door is opened, warm air is allowed in, causing foods to thaw more quickly.
When a power outage is expected to last several days or your freezer quits and you must wait to shop for a replacement, you'll need to seek another way to keep freezer food frozen. You might be able to store some in a family or friend's freezer, until power is restored or you buy a new unit.
A generator can come in handy during a power outage, to keep some essential appliances going. Keep in mind that generators have limitations as to what they can keep running, so you may have to make priority decisions as to heating, cooling and/or refrigerator or freezer hook-up. Gas-fueled generators should be operated outdoors only, connecting to an appliance via an appropriately-rated and UL certified extension cord.
If storing freezer foods elsewhere is not an option, you will have to decide which foods should be cooked/processed first in order to reduce food waste as much as possible. Frozen fruits could be processed into jams, jellies or preserves and home canned to enjoy later. Though texture and color is not always the best when vegetables have been frozen before canning, this may also be a viable option. Cook meats, fish and poultry that cannot immediately be consumed. These can be either kept refrigerated for a couple of days, or be once again frozen, once they have been cooked.
Read More About Food Storage and Freezers:
Freezing Food and Freezer Food Safety
Safe Food Storage and Reducing Waste
Freezer 101 - All About Freezers
Bread Storage Options
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more on food safety
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