How to tell if your food is safe to eat after power outages, how to stay hydrated without water

We know a lot of you are going through a rough time because of problems with the water supply, or maybe your water is turned off because of a busted pipe, but we’re here to help make sure your food is safe to eat if your power went out.

We talked to Christina Jax, a dietitian with Lifesum App, for suggestions and also about how stay hydrated during this trying time. Obviously, safe drinking water is crucial. If you still have it, you may want to store some, just in case you either lose your water supply or electricity, as rolling blackouts continue in the Greater Houston area.

"If you can fill up water jugs, turn off your water supply so that your pipes don’t bust, then put them outside to cool other foods. If water isn't safe to drink to hydrate yourself, other hydrating foods could be canned soups or juices. It’s not a time to worry yourself if you should have a sweetened beverage! Just stay hydrated. If you're running out of power and your pantry is getting wiped out, turn to nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, granola bars, and fortified cereals, even if you don't have milk to put on it," says Jax.


Hundreds of thousands of Houstonians have been dealing with little or no electricity this week. So if you've had to store your food outdoors in the cold, here are some ideas about how to make sure it's safe to eat. 

"There's one way - the smell test. We all know that one. Look to make sure nothing has gotten moldy. A general rule is use a food thermometer. Perishables need to stay 35 degrees and below. Anything that has been in the garage with fluctuating temperatures more than three to five days, you’re running risk of a food-borne illness. If you decide to eat it, especially meats and dairies, please be cautious. Use these tips, but also cook it at 165 degrees to kill any bacteria that may have grown during that time," Jax suggested. 

Nutritionists say if you've been storing your frozen food outside, it should be safe to refreeze, if ice crystals are still on the food. Seafood is typically one of the first foods to thaw and ground beef is likely to be one of the first to spoil, so you may want to eat those first.


Nutritionists say, if any of your perishable food was stored above 40 degrees for more than two hours, then it should be tossed out, so that you don't suffer a food-borne illness from it. If you’ve been storing refrigerated food in the garage and frozen food outside during the power outages, it's crucial to know what you should eat first, as the temperatures begin to warm up. 

"You guys are in crisis right now. I'm in Minnesota, so I understand. When our power goes out, we make sure to eat fresh produce, dairy, and eggs first. If frozen foods are no longer an option, a gas stove or propane stove can help. You can cook rice, canned vegetables and beans, then use condiments and seasonings to make them more interesting. These are nutrient-dense foods and complete proteins with fiber and micronutrients, to help keep your immune system up," said Jax.

If you're working with a hodge-podge of groceries because you haven't been able to get to a store all week, Jax says her app called "Lifesum" might help. 

"For anyone who says, oh my gosh, what do I do, they could try the app. It tracks food, but in crisis, Lifesum can help you make meals if you’re asking how to make it tasty. Then once crisis is over, it could also help you eat nutritiously when you grab pantry staples," explains Christina.

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