grocerycolumnThe Monroe on a Budget column runs Tuesdays in The Monroe News. Here is this week’s installment.

By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget

Every time someone tries to talk me into buying a deep freezer to stockpile meat and other groceries, I shake my head.

I don’t want the hassle of trying to save a freezer full of food when any scenario involving an extended power outage means I am also likely on news reporter duty.

That happened Monday.

A high wind warning for Monroe County went into effect about 8:15 a.m. Shortly afterward, my co-worker Ray Kisonas learned that high winds were causing scattered power outages. Ray’s list of affected neighborhoods included one close to me, and I soon confirmed through the DTE Energy outage map that my house was off the grid.

The problem was by the time either my husband or I could get home to deal with the situation, our refrigerator would be off for four hours. The best I could hope for was saving only some of the food.

Based on the details in the U.S. Department of Agriculture publication, Keep Your Food Safe During Emergencies, this is what I decided to throw out, what to try to save and how to save it.

Perishable foods will stay safe in a refrigerator four hours.

I knew we would lose numerous refrigerator items, as the USDA says four hours is the limit for most perishable foods. For example, I dumped a gallon and a half of milk down the drain. Other items I tossed included a container of sour cream, a partial package of lunch meat and two cups of yogurt.

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Some items normally kept cold are fine.

I kept the dried fruit, mustard, ketchup, pickles and jelly, as suggested in the USDA “safe to eat” list for power outage situations.

I also left the pop and beer alone. There are people who say changing temperatures affect the taste of those beverages, but they were at least in a cool, dark place.

Freezer food is fine, to a point.

If you have a full freezer, according to the USDA, it can hold the temperature for about 48 hours. A half-full freezer will hold the temperature for about 24 hours.

The problem is I didn’t even have half a freezer worth of groceries. This outage happened between my shopping trips. Our inventory included a couple of pounds of chicken, one pound of ground beef, some burgers, some chicken patties, frozen veggies, shredded cheese and frozen dinners. They needed to be repacked into a smaller space in a hurry, and bagged ice in our picnic cooler was the best approach for handling that.

I also had half a carton of ice cream, but I decided that wasn’t worth the hassle of saving.

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In some cases, a homeowner or renters insurance policy will replace the value of groceries lost in a power outage, but if that isn’t an option, or the amount of food tossed isn’t worth filing a claim, I would not want to eat food that may be unsafe.

The USDA report says “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Find the USDA report at http://tinyurl.com/foodsafetyusda.

Readers may contact Paula Wethington at paula@monroenews.com or (734) 240-5745.

Follow up for the blog readers

I was asked, as this story made the rounds to family and friends, why I went to the trouble of repacking the freezer food as it should have been fine in the freezer for the time frame involved. We were off the grid for about 9 hours by the time it settled out.

I decided not to take that chance, since I didn’t know how long we would be without power.

DTE Energy didn’t have restoration times posted in the early stages of our outage, and at one point was posting a restoration time of more than 36 hours. That scenario was quite believable, as we had two weather-related outages back to back in summer 2008 that lasted nearly 48 hours each.

We don’t have a gas-powered generator, but at some point we will get one to help out with groceries and other power outage nuisances. We installed a backup sump pump two years ago, so at least that concern is taken care of.

If you like this post, subscribe to the Monroe on a Budget weekly newsletter; read my column every Tuesday in The Monroe News; or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

 

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget High winds on the morning of Monday April 14 resulted in the first “severe weather” power outages of the 2014 season for southeast Michigan. The outages weren’t as widespread in Monroe County as they were in metro Detroit, but they did affect a couple of thousand people […]

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated the link that I posted a couple of years ago about food safety at a power outage. Here’s the new link.  

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Are you looking for Tax Day freebies and promotions for Monroe County, Mich., and surrounding areas? I don’t forward second-hand information on my sales and deals roundups. I look for official announcements by the retailer or restaurant, and focus on businesses that actually are in the Monroe County area: Arby’s will host its fourth annual […]

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget I will start this post by saying there was a time when it was considered a horrible mistake to throw away photo negatives. You were supposed to save them in a box or file cabinet, marked with date and identifying details, so that you could make reprints […]

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget There are three times of year in which those who prefer pantry-style menu planning or cook from scratch at least on occasion can do very well at the supermarket. They are: just before Thanksgiving, just before Christmas and just before Easter. The timing is meant to get […]

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The Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair will take place April 23 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 14801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, Mich. More than 100 employers are expected to participate, with jobs available for veterans and military spouses of all ranks and levels of experience. The employment workshop is from 8:30 to 10:30 […]

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Michigan State University Extension will present the workshop, “How to Start a Successful Cottage Food Business in Michigan,” from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday April 22 at the MSU Extension Monroe County office, 963 S. Raisinville Rd., Monroe, Mich. Cottage Food items are meant to be prepared in a home kitchen and then “face to […]

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Kroger’s shopper card has a Community Rewards program through which you can designate reward points you earn to the participating school, charity or organization of your choice. The procedure is that those accounts reset on April 1. You, as the customer, have to update your charity designation every year. I have heard from more than […]

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An Identity Theft presentation by the Office of Michigan Attorney General will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday April 12 at Milan Public Library, 151 Wabash St., Milan, Mich. The topics include recognizing and avoiding identity theft, how thieves steal such information and what to do if you are a victim. The program is sponsored by […]

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The Monroe on a Budget column runs Tuesdays in The Monroe News. Here is this week’s installment. Did you realize you could spend as much as $30 on one pre-filled Easter gift basket this year? It’s true. Even though some retailers are selling filled baskets in the $5 to $10 range, those arrangements typically have […]

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The following is on page 5A of today’s edition of The Monroe News. The Michigan Activity Pass presented by the Li­brary Network has been renewed for a second year. The program is support­ed by federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Nearly 400 public librar­ies, including the Monroe County Library System, and […]

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget The idea of donating expired manufacturer coupons to military families living at the overseas bases is so well-known among today’s couponers that I’ve learned to expect this question every time I teach a grocery class or sit on someone else’s. As best I can can find out, […]

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If you’re a long-time reader of Monroe on a Budget, you’ll know that one of my annual public service projects involves providing disaster planning tips during Michigan Severe Weather Awareness Week. This year, my project was a Pinterest board on this theme. I’ve looked for the tips that are most applicable to tornado season, bypassing […]

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget When my daughter was in grade school during the 1990s, the American Girls magazine had a recurring paper doll series relating stories of the ancestors of “today’s girls.” The feature was a terrific way to relate the concept of the A.G. fictional dolls to family history. I […]

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By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget Easter egg decorating, which is of the most popular family activities at Easter, is also very budget-friendly. Eggs aren’t expensive to begin with, and are frequently on sale just before Easter. They’re also one of the WIC-friendly foods, a detail that low-income families with young children who […]

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By Paula Wethington My Monroe News column for Tuesday April 8 will give a show and tell as to three different stores where one can buy everything needed to assemble a complete Easter basket, bucket or gift bag for three people for a total of less than $30. What did I end up getting for […]

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Are you looking for non-candy treats for the Easter baskets? I usually include small trinkets total value no more than $5 a person in our candy baskets. While I haven’t finished shopping for 2014, this is what I purchased for Mom, Dad and adult daughter in 2013. The gel clings, Hot Wheel car and stickers […]

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The Thrivent Financial for Lutherans workshop, Social Security – Strategize to Maximize, will be presented at 10 a.m. Thursday April 10 at Francis Family YMCA, 2000 W. Dean Rd., Temperance, Mich. Day care will be available from the Y. This is a free workshop about navigating the choices in Social Security retirement benefits. Reservations are […]

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The Sixth Annual Mobile Food Pantry at Munson Park, 2700 N. Custer Rd., Monroe, Mich., will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday April 12. This event will be held immediately after the Seventh Annual Monroe Community Easter Egg Hunt, which starts at 11 a.m. The Monroe Community Opportunity Program, Gleaners Community Food Bank […]

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