One of the best ways to impede the progress of food-spoiling bacteria is to freeze your survival food. This doesn’t kill the bacteria like heat does, but it slows it down to a near standstill.
A downside to a freezer can be its significant contribution to the monthly electric bill, so it pays to take a few steps to keep your freezer running as efficiently as possible.
- First, keep it in the basement or someplace cool so that it doesn’t have to work as hard in the summer. The carport or garage is not a good location choice for this reason.
- Second, keep it full of food. The less empty air there is to cool inside your freezer, the lower your electric bill will be. But keep in mind that a freezer that is packed too full won’t be as efficient because the air won’t circulate as easily.
- Third, keep several bags of ice and two-liter soda bottles filled with water in your freezer so there will be less empty air to cool. The soda bottles would also help your food stay frozen longer in a power outage, at which time they will provide a valuable source of clean drinking water.
In a power outage, a full freezer will keep food cool for up to two days, but only if it is left unopened.
You can extend the amount of time your frozen food will stay frozen by keeping the freezer door shut as much as possible and only opening it when you absolutely have to.
You can also wrap blankets around the freezer and around the refrigerator as additional insulation, using tape or ropes to hold the blankets in place.
If the power outage occurs in the winter, you can put the food in coolers and set it outside, as long as the outside temperature is below freezing. It is a good idea to have several large camping-type ice chests around the house, since they have a variety of uses.
Your refrigerator will probably not be a big issue after the power has been out for a week or more, because you won’t be able to buy anything to put in it. The refrigerated section of the stores will be empty.
Once the power comes back on, you can refreeze food that is less than 40 degrees, or still has ice crystals in it.
If there are no ice crystals, the food will have to be cooked and eaten.
Do not refreeze food that has thawed.
Fish and seafood tends to spoil very quickly, so they may be unsalvageable when other items can be refrozen.
If it looks like the power is going to be out for several days, you need to start cooking or dehydrating the foods in your refrigerator and freezer, because you will probably lose it to spoilage if you don’t.
If your cooking stove is electric, you will have to use your camp stove, grill, or dehydrator. Never use your grill indoors for safety reasons.
None of this will be as big of a problem if you have a working survival generator and the fuel to operate it.
Simply plug your freezer into the generator and run it for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. That should prevent the frozen food from thawing.
The money you would save in ruined food alone would pay for a good generator. Even if you can’t run the generator long enough to keep the food frozen, it may delay the food’s spoilage, giving you time to figure out a solution before the food goes bad.
The main drawback to a generator is the scarcity of fuel when you need it the most.
An even better idea is a gas-operated refrigerator. It runs unaffected when the power is out, keeps food better, and will probably last longer than an electrical refrigerator.
Long term food storage
Whereas home canning products can have a shelf life of up to five years, frozen food will only last a year or so before freezer burn begins to take its toll.
One thing you can do to help prolong your food’s shelf life in the freezer is to wrap it properly. That is very important. If you know how to use white freezer paper to properly wrap meat, then by all means do so.
The best bet, however, is to make a small investment in a vacuum sealer like those made by Foodsaver.
These units greatly extend the shelf life and freshness of frozen food. The price has come down dramatically in recent years and they are now very affordable. These nifty machines suck all the air out of a tough clear plastic bag, and then seal the food air-tight for freshness.
The bags come in several sizes, or you can buy the plastic on a roll and create a bag as large or as small as you want using the bag cutter on the machine.
The bags are waterproof, so the packaged food can be micro waved, frozen, or boiled. You could write the date on the package with a Sharpie pen, put it in the freezer, and be finished.
Vacuum packing systems can be used for meats, vegetables, soups, nearly anything, and the freshness retained is remarkable.
Important to remember
You must develop some reminder system to use the prepper food in your freezer or it will ruin. We are grieved at the thought of how much money we have thrown out the door in the form of freezer-burned food before we developed a reminder system.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Post a list on the refrigerator door of the contents of your freezer, and the date that each item was frozen.
Do something, anything to keep that frozen food from being out of sight, out of mind until it is time to throw it out.
Upright vs chest
Another thing you could do to help delay freezer burn is to buy a chest-type freezer and not an upright one.
Chest-type electric food freezers are better because when opened, the cold air stays at the bottom with a minimum of temperature fluctuation and air circulation.
Upright freezers let all the cold air out every time you open the door, making the motor work harder and running up your electric bill.
The increased air circulation also brings humidity inside the freezer, which is bad for the contents because it promotes freezer burn. Every time that door is opened, the life of the food inside is decreased.
The problem with chest freezers is that Murphy’s Law invariably rules. Whatever you need always seems to be on the bottom of the freezer. Sometimes it is easier to just cook something else than have to dig out the item you are looking for, then put all that stuff back in the freezer. As time goes by the stuff on the bottom eventually ruins and is thrown out.
A lot of items mentioned in this blog, from flashlight batteries to cooking oil, have much longer storage lives when kept cold. Having a second refrigerator would be a good idea and would save you money over the long haul, simply by extending the shelf life of items and preventing spoilage.