USDA Warning: Your Yard Is Not a Freezer, So Don’t Put Your Food Outside If You Lose Power

Millions of Texans have been without electricity since a winter storm compromised the state’s power grid last week. One of the many issues to come out of this disaster is food waste. As freezers go days without power, Texas residents are watching the food they desperately need thaw and go bad. The USDA has a piece of advice for people currently dealing with this situation: Resist the temptation to use your yard as a freezer. Though it may “feel” freezing outside, the open world is very different from the controlled conditions of a refrigerator. Heat from direct sunlight can thaw frozen food even when it’s below 32º F. Temperature changes are hard to predict, so your food may freeze, thaw, and freeze again over the course of a day. That leaves it vulnerable to foodborne pathogens. A more obvious danger is that leaving your food outside exposes it to weather, insects and wildlife. Just because you shouldn’t bury your frozen pizza in the snow doesn’t mean you can't take advantage of the freezing weather during a blackout. Instead of putting food outside, try transferring some of that cold into your freezer. Fill buckets or other containers with water and let them freeze outside. You can use this homemade ice to keep your freezer chilly even if the power has been out for several days.