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Surviving without electricity

Tropical Storm Lee just went through and we were without power for 30 hours. Not a lot compared to what others have been through, but it's the most I've had to endure since childhood when I thought 3 days without electricity was exciting. I remember my mother melting snow/ice on the gas stove and also cooking for our large family--plus some reform school girls whose bus got stuck in the snow. (But once the volunteer firefighters who came out to rescue the girls got stuck too, my mom was not happy with the "shenanigans" going on.)

But nowadays, a gas stove is no use when the electricity's out because you can't start it. Sitting in the dark unable to do anything at all without electricity and thinking of the food going bad in the refrigerator/freezer had me wondering what in the world the average suburban/city homeowner could do without electricty. We do have a gas grill that I assume would have worked, but we never tried it, seeing that it never stopped raining the entire time.

All we ate at home was cereal with milk then later on raisin bread with peanut butter and bananas. Wished there was a way to boil water as that would have opened up a few more options.

Just wondering if you have any ideas/thoughts/suggestions. We do not live on a farm or in the woods, so telling me to dig a cellar or build a fire will not be helpful. Raising cattle, pigs, chickens, and planting an orchard are also not options.

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  1. When I was without power for 3 days because of the '03 blackout I was still able to use my gas range. I just lit it with a match. Couldn't you have done the same? It really wasn't that much of a hardship. I just shopped daily for anything that could spoil.

    5 Replies
    1. re: melo7

      Well...now you've all got me wondering. We just assumed it wouldn't work because it's got an electric starter and all the controls are electronic. I don't know how I'd test it now. Unplug it?

      1. re: Thanks4Food

        If your stove is like mine you'll need to turn it all the way to one direction or the other to initiate the electric starter. Just turn your gas on low and place a lit long match or something else that keeps your hands away from the gas and it should light right up. DO NOT HAVE THE GAS ON HIGH if you are using a short match.

        1. re: melo7

          When I don't want to bother finding a long match, I light a piece of spaghetti. Works everytime :=)

        2. re: Thanks4Food

          Ignition may be electric, but controls are manual. After all, you don't want gas to flood the house if power fails.

          Get one of lighters with a long neck. Even if it doesn't have fuel, they have usually have an ignition device that you can use to start the fire.

      2. First question...why can't you light your gas stove the old fashion way with a match?
        Do you have a garage that you can move the gas grill into?
        camping stove? torch? fireplace I guess is out...how about candles? if you have enough candles you could put them together and rig a small pot to make the water boil. or maybe a galvanized bucket to make a fire in?
        Cheese, crackers, cans of soup?

        4 Replies
        1. re: ROCKLES

          The gas grill is fixed to the patio. If I had a camping stove and all that kind of equipment, I wouldn't have posted. And I'm not about to risk burning my house down by putting candles together and rigging a pot over them. Yikes.

            1. re: ROCKLES

              The first link is for using a diffuser for scented oil. The second is more along the right lines, but the candles are discontinued.

              1. re: Thanks4Food

                I think I hit the wrong link then, it was showing a tea light? candle/s heating water
                thought it was kinda cool idea, was trying to find you a safe way to use the candles. me I would just bunch them in a can and put a grill on top. Just tryin : )

        2. Dumb question: Why can't you light a gas stove without electricity?

          11 Replies
          1. re: inaplasticcup

            My MIL was without electricity for three days. She has a gas stove that normally lights with an electric spark. No electric spark.

            I just used a match to light it instead.

            1. re: DPGood

              That's what I usually do. I was wondering if there were other kinds of gas stoves that wouldn't even release the gas without electricity.

              1. re: DPGood

                I am definitely going to try this out, thank. Just never thought we could. There's some sort of "lock" feature to the stove top that's supposed to be for child safety--but I think it happens too when there's a power outage. That's why we didn't even try.

                1. re: DPGood

                  Just spoke to my husband who reiterated the point about the stovetop locking feature--that's why he didn't think to try. But we can see how there might be a possibility getting the top to light. What we don't know is how would we get the oven to light since there is no knob, just electronic buttons for temperature. Any ideas? I suppose I could contact the manufacturer and see if I can get a response from them.

                  1. re: Thanks4Food

                    I don't think you can use the gas oven because the temperature controls are electronic. The cooktop burners, however, are just controlled by the amount of gas feeding through them, so if you can light the burner you can use it.

                    1. re: Niki in Dayton

                      And a strand of spaghetti can be lit with lighter for length from gas.

                      We've lost power in snow and from Irene. Since we heat with a pellet stove, we've found out we probably should get a generator for that and our refrigeration, and water pump. I spent much time in the 'blizzard' last winter bringing in snow to melt and flush with for the 3 days we were powerless. The house never got below 59, and I was comfortable in sweats, and DH in sweats & jeans with long underwear.
                      We threw an extra quilt on the waterbed to preserve the heat in it, and that worked very well.
                      We were campers, so we really had no problems that didn't get solved. The heat would have been ok too, if 'SOMEONE' hadn't poopooed the amount of snow we were forecast to get and brought in the kerosene heater from the shed. It took him 3 days to dig thru the 30" of snow 250 feet back to the shed. And he had so dig paths for the dogs. And he is 70 yrs old.

                      1. re: Nanzi

                        It sounds like you have a well with an electric pump? My brother has a house in the country with a well. That is why he also has a gas powered generator. The house is wired so the generator plugs into the electric control box and he shuts everything down except the well pump, freezer, refrigerator, electric stove, and furnace. I don'tt know if he has tried to run all of that on the 5 kilowatt generator or not.

                        1. re: John E.

                          When you try to run more than the generator can handle, it's circuit breaker blows. Our small generator really doesn't like trying to run the microwave but does fine running the frig, freezer, some lights and the well pump all at the same time.

                          1. re: dfrostnh

                            Mine in Florida is 5500 watts, and runs a lot of stuff - window unit AC, fridge, microwave, lights in 3 rooms, TV, stereo, computer. You can add up your needs and determine a size. Allow a 20% margin for the momentary add'l demand when compressors and pumps kick on. And remember to exercise it a few times a year, and cycle gas at least every year.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              We, frugal New Englanders, are making do with a small, second-hand generator but thanks for the advice. Our usual power outages are in winter when we don't have a problem cooking or heating thanks to a wood stove and wood furnace. DH is a master electrician and has installed big, fancy automatic systems for OTHER people.

              2. ... not having at least enough food to live that long, comfortably and eating fun stuff, seems unimaginable to me. we'd be eating matzah, pickles, olives, plenty of salads...
                Keep some water in jugs, and get some good redibles.
                Or just build yourself a beer can stove.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Chowrin

                  And you don't need an electric can opener to open pickles, olives.
                  Here's some things to keep on hand for no electricity:
                  bread and crackers
                  honey and jam
                  jarred roasted red bell peppers and hearts-of-palm
                  3-bean salad, jarred beets
                  cheese is always better at room temperature
                  nuts
                  dried fruits
                  and so on

                  1. re: Rella

                    Look, I know perfectly well what I could buy that doesn't need cooking. That's not what I'm talking about: what I meant by my post is what if we had to go long-term without electricity. What if there was a major failure to the power grid?

                    1. re: Thanks4Food

                      For "long-term without electricty,"

                      for heat, I installed a ventless gas heater.

                      and also

                      I purchased a generator to generate electricity.

                      Hope this helps.

                      1. re: Rella

                        We also used old fashioned Sterno to at least heat (not really cook) foods when we were out of electric for a coupla days. Worked fine.

                      2. re: Thanks4Food

                        beer can stove. It's cheap, easy and effective. Use with couscous, pasta, anything that just needs a good boil.

                          1. re: Thanks4Food

                            Funny you should say "major power failure to the power grid". This just happened last night in the SW - parts of So. Cal, Arizona, Mexico. Thousands w/o electricty maybe 30 hours. It's the heat that'll kill ya out here. It was 107 in my town - Santa Clarita. Palm Desert/Indio and Arizona folk- 112! Forget about cooking food. How about not having any air con for this length of time in 107 degrees!

                            Keep camping equipment in your in house storage. Becomes very useful in situations like this. No electricity in the forest!

                            1. re: Thanks4Food

                              Years ago, I bought a portable butane stove for camping & eating out at picnic areas, with my kids. It was very easy to use (the butane comes in canisters).

                              Sort of like this one:
                              http://www.amazon.com/Stansport-Porta...
                              except mine had two burners.

                              I have an electric stove - now that you posted this, I think it would be good to get one just in case...

                              I also understand that we can't always predict when a major power failure might happen - running to the store (even w/predicted hurricanes, as with this last one) isn't the best thing to do (along with the zillions of others doing that).

                              During this last hurricane I was lucky that I'm in the Boston area, in a place that wasn't hit (many of our communities had flooding, etc), for many reasons - for one thing, it hit when I was out of food, and out of my food money (read: all money, lol). I just was going on a wing & a prayer, as I couldn't stock up like others were doing.

                              Made me think of those worse off than I was/am, and being in a crisis situation. Can't even imagine...

                        1. We have used a tiny propane camp stove, something back packers would use.
                          For light, in addition to my battery book light and my husband's nifty hat with the built in little lights, it's possible to rig up a lamp with a bulb from an RV store and a car battery. My husband is kept busy thinking up stuff like this and being able to read keeps me quiet.
                          You can also buy MREs at some army stores. They come with "heaters" a chemical wand that you activate (one time use). I would check out stores that carry camping supplies. Back in the 50-60s, we got little sterno cans in emergency kits.
                          And make sure you have a place where things with gas and flames can be safely used. You can google some advice about this. When I googled MREs, there's some info on Heater Meals which are shelf stable, ready to eat, that have their own heaters/chemical pouch.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: dfrostnh

                            Whatever happened to sterno anyway? It's a lot safer then horsing around with gas!

                            1. re: Berheenia

                              it's poisonous. use a beer can stove, at least that stuff isn't quite as bad (runs on deicer from the auto store)

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                Sterno is poisonous if you drink it. And then in large quantities. There was a bluesman whose pretty much died of his addiction to drinking a certain cooking fuel....

                                http://www.answers.com/topic/canned-h...

                              2. re: Berheenia

                                Sterno never went anywhere. It is still widely avaiable. It is basically a gel and alcohol mixed together, napalm in a can.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  I do have it in my emergency bin. Bought a few packages in the camping section at WalMart.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    Aw, I love the smell of sterno in the morning...

                                    1. re: threedogs

                                      Yup, nasty stuff, but if it's the smell vs. coffee, coffee wins any time.

                              3. I used to live in a remote-ish area and the power often went out for 24-48 hours, once it was out for 4 days. I had a woodstove and could keep warm but as far as food goes it was basically eating out of cans in the dark and lots of cereal. If the outage had lasted longer than my supplies, I would have gone hungry.

                                1. Thanks4Food, I too think you can use a gas stove without electricity -- experiment carefully with a match. On the stovetop, I think the only thing electricity does is provide a spark to ignite the gas for the burners. (That used to be done by a pilot light.) So you can simply use a flame to light the burners yourself. The oven is a different story -- mine gets electronic "instructions" to turn on, reach a certain temp, and this requires electricity. I wouldn't try to light my oven using a match (long or short). But the burners on top shouldn't be a problem.
                                  It's funny, just this morning I was looking at generators on the John Deere site -- one had a Subaru motor, the lesser had a Honda motor. And there's always Sterno!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Just noticed your post, Blue Room. I think you're right: I don't think the oven is a possibility, but we should have tried the top. I'd like to unplug the stove and try, but my husband doesn't seem so keen about it.

                                    1. re: Thanks4Food

                                      Well, Thanks4Food, I think you were wise. Without electricity, you couldn't search the internet for info, and taking a chance w/gas is not something I'd toy with. We forget just how much a danger there can be with it...

                                      I keep remembering how I finally convinced my mom to stop smoking - what I didn't know was that she was sneaking down to the cellar for a quick smoke - until the day we found out we had a gas leak!!! Boy - that cured her of EVER taking another cigarette, lol.

                                      I think I inherited her very wise, cautious attitude about gas!.

                                  2. Just to clarify: I'm looking for ideas on how to actually cook at home without electricity. If you've got a gas range that doesn't need electricity at all for the top or the oven itself, I'd like know what kind it is.

                                    I'd also like ideas on how to preserve your food without electricity. We have often thought of getting an extra freezer to keep in the garage, but now we think it might be better NOT to make large batches as I like to do.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: Thanks4Food

                                      I also saw an article on making a solar oven...they used foil inside a box etc. However if you dont have any sun, I guess that wont help much. Meats can be preserved with salt, eggs and cheese can be kept out for many days without refrigeration.
                                      i saw on t.v. that everyone should keep ice in baggys in the freezer, then you can store in a cooler any food that might go bad during a power outage. Hope I helped.

                                      1. re: ROCKLES

                                        My husband did go out and buy lots of ice and we were able to save almost all our food. My mind just keeps going to "what if this became permanent?" I suppose we could go back to the old ice chests/boxes people used to have.

                                        I've told my husband I want to stop buying so much (I send him to the store for one thing and he comes back with 3 bags) and just have what we need for a week. And that way we'd have more room to keep bags of ice in the freezer as you say.

                                      2. re: Thanks4Food

                                        I used to dry a lot of food - I had a pretty expensive (for me) electric food dehydrator (which I later sold for almost what I paid for it). Recently I found instructions on how to make your own (since it's basically only a light bulb w/a fan). Alton Brown has instructions if you do a search, but this is the one I want my son to put together for me:

                                        http://www.k-clements.fsnet.co.uk/deh...

                                        Looks simple, & it's inexpensive. I never dried meats (but it can be done - think beef jerky) but fruits and veggies dry up beautifully, and keep for a long time. Best thing is, you can use it on a regular basis & rotate your food so none gets spoiled.

                                        1. re: threedogs

                                          I'm going to look into that, thanks for the tip.

                                          1. re: Thanks4Food

                                            I've dried BUNCHES of food simply in a very low oven, cracked open to allow moisture to escape. Even did 75% of our food for the Appalachian Trail hike from the oven. Dehydrators are nice, may be faster, but not mandatory.

                                              1. re: pine time

                                                Ah, yes, I did read that online awhile ago! This isn't a consideration for me, due to "Emma, the insane border collie rescue who manages to get all foods not locked down."

                                                I discovered her ability to open the oven (if it's cracked open even in the slightest) when I was found a solution to my soft biscotti (I wanted crisp ones, difficult when one lives w/ocean humidity). Boy, was she happy that day...

                                          2. re: Thanks4Food

                                            I bring a large cooler to a store with a fish dept. Because all of the bagged ice cubes are sold out. This gives me an extra few days as my frozen food slowly defrosts. Wound up drinking a 3 pint container of ice cream. When power was restored cooked 4 corned beefs that had thawed. The frozen hot dogs that went on ice are now referred to a s rescue dogs. Cooked steaks on outdoor gas grill. All indoor cooking is electric here.

                                          3. We have a scheduled power cut 10-13.00 everyday, though it doesn't always happen. In addition there are often other unscheduled cuts during the day and night, plus on my street voltage problems mean that lights/fans/fridges,etc. can all fail to function properly even when the power is on.

                                            What do people here do? Generators are an expensive way of dealing with powercuts if you can afford it. A back up battery system is good for the rest of us - generally is wired to to lights, ceiling fans and perhaps one plug for charging phones.

                                            Fridges are reasonably new things here anyway. Personally I shop everyday and don't keep much around for long. Especially when it's humid as well as hot, stuff will go off ultra quickly.

                                            The common stove set up is somewhat similar to what people in other countries use to go camping - stove (which is basically portable) and gas cylinder. A "clicker" is used to light the stove, no electricity needed.

                                            When there's no power and it's hot and dark and you have to cook, it sucks. But you just have to pull out a big emergency light and sweat it out. Because although some people can afford to go out to a nice restaurant with a generator if they don't want to stay at home, a large number of people can't.

                                            1. I think a fondu pot heated by Sterno would get hot enough to heat up canned soup, ravioli, pork and beans and other canned stuff. I hope I never have to find out for sure.

                                              When I was a kid a three day blizzard hit us pretty hard. My father was stuck in his car somewhere on I-90. My oldest brother was stuck at a teammate's house across town. Early in the storm before things got too bad my brother hiked to a friends house down the road. They all got stranded and I was home with just my mother. She was coping ok, even when the power went out that night. She had roasted a turkey roll (a terrible thing to do to a turkey) so we had one hot meal. I was a 13 year old and thought it was exciting. I think we just went to bed with extra sleeping bags. I really don't remember it getting too cold but it must have because the power was out long enough so we left a faucet at a fast drip so the pipes would not freeze.

                                              1. All you need do is PLAN ahead. Lord, I can't even remotely imagine living for days on cold cereal & fruit. Good grief. You don't need to "dig a cellar" or "build a fire" to survive very nicely when the electricity goes out. Nor do you need to start raising your own livestock. Again - good grief. Where the heck are you getting this stuff from????

                                                We have an inexpensive 2-burner propane Coleman camp stove (since we also go camping), & 2 large Coleman coolers. The very few times we've been without power for several days time, those 2 burners & those 2 coolers enable us to enjoy pretty much anything we'd like - omelets, scrambled eggs with bacon/sausage/ham/whatever; instant coffee/tea/cocoa; canned chili; canned soup; sauteed chicken dishes; any & all pasta dishes; etc., etc., etc.

                                                While being without electricity certainly puts us at other disadvantages, dining well isn't one of them.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Breezychow

                                                  Breezychow, I agree with you. We lost power for three and a half days last week in Vermont from Hurricane Irene. We cooked on our propane camp stove outside on the patio, boiled water for pasta and made mixed grill on our charcoal grill using the defrosted steaks, pork loin and Italian sausage. What we didn't eat we refrigerated after the power went on and finished eating it later in the week. We bought ice for our coolers and stored the fridge items like milk, eggs and whatever else need to be kept cold.

                                                  1. re: Breezychow

                                                    It was an attempt to express humor while letting people know I'm not interested in extreme solutions. Sorry to get you so worked up over it.

                                                  2. wait, am I the only one who wants to hear more about the "reform school" girls?!!! Seriously, no power and a gas stove? That's luxury living. Gas grill in the rain? That's no hardship either...try living without power AND running water for a few days. You'll realize mighty fast that every drop of water you use has to be hauled, therefore a serious ratcheting back of cooking, as washing pans, dishes and silverware takes a backseat to drinking, washing and flushing. And with 5 gals of water weighing 40+ pounds, sandwiches on paperplates seem very practical. You'll be living day to day out of a cooler, and developing strong shoulders and lower back muscles. Sheesh, Americans have gotten soft!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                      You remind me of my initial thoughts on this topic. If we lost electricity at our house, depending on the time of year, of course we would want to be home to manage the situation. However if the question is merely about surviving without electricity, I certainly would rather be at our hunting cabin in the woods in northern Minnesota (as long as it is not at the peak of the hot, humid summer) because we already have no electricity or running water up there.

                                                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                        I wondered why no one seemed interested in that story...

                                                        A. We still don't know the gas stove would work because of the lock feature it has. B. It wasn't just rain--it was a tropical storm with trees down all over. My husband and I are perfectly capable of going outside in a rain to grill some burgers, but not in this storm. But C. I was very, very grateful for the running water and thanked God for it every time we used it.

                                                      2. I'm in San Diego county, and we just had a blackout from 3:30 p.m. Thursday (with 97 degree temps) and got power back at 2 a.m. today. Only 9-ish hours, but I was shocked to hear on the wind-up radio that people were lined up at stores that had generators to buy food and water. They had NO food at home? Couldn't turn on the faucet for a drink? We live in earthquake country--shocked that people were so helpless with only a 9 hour outage.

                                                        24 Replies
                                                        1. re: pine time

                                                          I think human nature is mostly the reason for what you heard. Here in Minnesota, or the Twin Cities at least, when more than a few inches of snow are forecast the people go nuts buying, milk, bread, toilet paper, cigarettes, and alcohol. I've lived in the Twin Cities for over 20 years and I have not experienced a single blizzard. We've had snowstorms, we've had some wind, but not enough to get worjed up over. The closest thing to a blizzard was last December when the Mefrodome roof was damaged and had to be lowered. (They collapsed it intentionally).

                                                          1. re: pine time

                                                            I'm in SD too and when I went online and they first said power might not be back until Saturday I went to 2 local stores to try and find ice--one closed the other out of ice. That's mainly what people in my area were looking for, ice, so they wouldn't lose their refrigerated food if the outage went a couple of days. As to cooking, our Blue Star can be lit with a match so we actually had a great meal--starring the frozen scallops we were afraid would thaw if the power stayed off. Ours was back on right after candlelight dinners with neighbors that ended at 11.

                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                              I have TONS & TONS & TONS of freezer gell packs that I save unfrozen. When extreme weather is predicted, I jam as many of them as I can into our freezer. If we do lose power, not only do they help keep things in the freezer frozen, but I have more than enough extras to stick into our Coleman coolers to keep fridge things cold if necessary.

                                                              "Thanks4food" may think that being without electricity is a subject for humor, & I wish her well if it happens to her again. Cold cereal & all.

                                                              1. re: Breezychow

                                                                I think this power outage gave everyone in the area a chance to see how prepared they were. Since it was light out, we were able to find the candles and flashlights, but discovered all we had for a flame were some half empty bic lighters. So some boxes of matches are now on our shopping list and we've consolidated the other lighting supplies into a single basket on top of the frig--easy to find even in the dark. I plan to add some plastic containers of water to the freezer instead of gell packs and hope that will do the trick in the future.

                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                  Do you have a battery powered radio? If you have a landline, do you have a phone that doesn't need electricity? ( ie. a regular, old phone, not cordless).

                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                    I have a "crank" radio and flashlight combo as well as a regular, not cordless, old phone. We also have a USB port in the car that can allow for charging cell phones. We have both food and water stored. PS I now get gas when the car is half empty, I used to only do it when it was almost empty.

                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                      We also have the "crank" radio & flashlights, but we used our old-fashioned battery radio for updates during the blackout. We're also in the "boil your water" area of San Diego, so luckily we had 8 gallons of bottled water in the emergency bin--thought it would be for earthquake use, but good to have on hand for this situation, too. We also were evacuated during the 2007 fires, so we equipped both the house and both cars with supplies, even bought the pouches of water for backpacks in the cars and also keep at least 1/2 tank of gas in both vehicles. We also keep 1 old suitcase packed with basic clothes/supplies for another emergency evac, if needed--hard to think straight when you get that reverse 911 call at 2 a.m. saying get out now. You never know what can happen, and we can always rotate supplies to keep things fresh and available.

                                                                  2. re: escondido123

                                                                    We hardly ever use the icemaker ice except to fill the ice chest for shopping, and all of the extra ice goes in the freezer for days of power outage - every generator can use a little help.

                                                                    We keep water, too. - again, every generator can use a little help.

                                                                    Our lanterns are battery and kept in places we can find in the dark.

                                                                    John, we have a battery powered radio with the weather channels, such a good idea.

                                                                  3. re: Breezychow

                                                                    This is kind of a random addition to the thread, but I wonder if you could put some bags of ice in the dishwasher and keep food cold in there if the power was out? Was struck with that thought the other day when I noticed how warm it still was in the dishwasher many hours after a load had finished.

                                                                    1. re: gmm

                                                                      I don't know, but you made me thing of another, even more random addition to this thread.

                                                                      I recently saw something on tv about how some chef was preparing pâté in his dishwasher! Apparently, when he first opened (as I remember), he didn't have his oven yet - so on a lark, he tried putting the pâté (fully sealed in jars) in the dishwasher. It worked, so he continued doing it that way.

                                                                      Of course, this has nothing at all to do with what you asked... but I agree - I've noticed how long dishes stay warm after washing them, so I bet the insulation is very good.

                                                                      One of us should be the Alton Brown & try it out! (I'm in the process of doing several washes with mine, so I can't).

                                                                      1. re: threedogs

                                                                        This is way off track too, but speaking of dishwashers, I remember how cool I thought it was to read years and years ago in Yankee Magazine how some folks cooked a whole salmon in their dishwasher. Yankee did a whole spread on it with photos. I couldn't wait to have my own place with a dishwasher so I could try that. Now that I do have my own place, I wouldn't dream of puting a salmon in my dishwasher!

                                                                        1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                                          hahaha - with the price of salmon today, I wouldn't dream of it, either.. actually, even if it was cheap, I wouldn't..

                                                                        2. re: gmm

                                                                          It might work to put ice in a dishwasher to keep food cold, but most dishwashers are within about three feet of a refrigerator and I know they are well insulated and the food that needs to be kept cold is already inside ; )

                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                            You're absolutely right John E. I guess it wouldn't make any sense to move from fridge during a power outage. Was thinking of the time my parents had an upright freezer that had died, and they were scrambling to find enough space to keep the food cold. The freezer itself had probably konked out earlier in the day and by the time they realized it, everything had started to thaw and the inside of the freezer was turning into a wet mess and everything had to be moved out. They had three large coolers crammed with ice and food and still had to throw a lot out.

                                                                            1. re: gmm

                                                                              Their freezer must have been broken for a while because if a freezer is close to being full and the electricity goes out, if you do not open the door the food will remain frozen for a couple of days. It will certainly remain cold enough so that it can be refrozen. If food thaws and is still ok to eat it is still ok to refreeze although the quality might suffer.

                                                                              If we need to wash a whole lot of potatoes at one time, say twenty pounds to take on a fishing trip (I had a cousin who was crazy about making french fries in the propane turkey fryer) so I washed them in the dishwasher without soap. If you do this, be sure to take them out before the drying cycle starts. If they get hot like that, they will start to spoil rather quickly. Before one of the trips I told my son to put the potatoes into grocery sacks. My intention was the large paper bags. He put them into the plastic bags before they were dry and tied them real tight. I didn't pay any attention until the next day. I don't know if there is anything that smells worse than rotting potatoes. (Of course there is, but they do have a bad odor).

                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                Well, thank you John E., you have saved me lots of work! I go to a farm stand where I've been getting lots of locally grown potatoes. They are covered in dirt (yay! real dirt!!) and on the damp side, so I need to wash them right away. This week I was sick (still am) with a virus or cold... I neglected them for more than a day (since I go by bus, I use a suitcase on wheels to transport my food purchases) but was lucky they didn't turn moldy this time.

                                                                                Believe me, with the way I was feeling, it really took dedication to wash all of them. Now I know an easier way! (Plus, my dishwasher has a feature where I can turn off the hot drying cycle).

                                                                                1. re: threedogs

                                                                                  Only wash the potatoes if you are going to eat them soon. If you are not going to eat them right away, leave the dirt on them and store them in a cool, dry place (not close to your onions). Any root vegetable will last longer without being washed.

                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                    Well, these have always been very damp when I get them, so I don't have any choice - I have to wash them (and yes, I dry thoroughly). Also know to keep them away from onions, too.

                                                                                    1. re: threedogs

                                                                                      I would put them in front of a fan and dry them and wash them later.

                                                                        3. re: Breezychow

                                                                          Breezychow, why do you say I think it's a subject for humor? I wouldn't have asked the questions if I hadn't seriously wanted some answers. I was only adding some humor about not wanting extreme suggestions. It seems no matter how I phrase a question, someone takes it wrong.

                                                                          1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                                            I agree, Thanks4Food. Some of these responses are harsh, IMHNSO.

                                                                            I'm very glad to come across your post - made me think about what I could do, even on a limited income, to ensure that we don't end up w/no food if a disaster should strike. We were very lucky (blessed!) that Irene didn't harm our area, but some in places very close to us were without electricity for up to a whole week.

                                                                            1. re: threedogs

                                                                              Thank you, ThreeDogs. I've been stewing about why some people always seem to take umbrage at whatever I say. Starting to get a complex and give up posting altogether. (And I'm still trying to figure out why BC was so offended by my cold cereal: it was morning and that's what we usually eat. I LIKE cold cereal. Is that a crime?) But then I return to coverage of the 9-11 memorials and realize I shouldn't let people get to me over such a minor thing.

                                                                              1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                                                Posting makes it difficult to understand attitude and intent. So I've decided to assume the best and go with that. Stewing about other posts will make you sit up in bed in the middle of the night, which is something I used to do.

                                                                    2. I just had a 1.5 day outage thanks to some hurricane (I think it was Irene) and to be perfectly honest, I barely noticed. I have always had a gas stove, so I just got that started with a match and I have plenty of candles, oil lamps and battery powered lanterns for light. BTW, I survived a 3 day outage using my fireplace and boiling pots of water for heat once in mid-December, so this recent outage was a breeze!!!!

                                                                      I think the important thing to do is notice what you missed during the last experience and figure out a way to replicate it for the next one. I can't do without my coffee, so I bought a percolator that works on the stove - problem solved. I always have a well-stocked pantry so coming up with food for a couple days using non-perishable food items is pretty easy.

                                                                      First thing I would do in your case is unplug your stove and make sure that you can light it without power. Once you have a heat source, it is just a matter of stocking your pantry well before the hordes clear the shelves at the supermarket. I would also make sure you had a full tank of gas and a wallet full of twenties (my personal plan B) in case you have to evacuate.

                                                                      1. The longest we've gone w/out electricity was 11 days in 2004. 3 humans and 15 dogs. We had two generators, but did not have our well pump set up to switch over, so we had no running water. We filled 3 bathtubs with water, which gave us just enough to manage with the dogs in our kennel (drinking water and cleaning). We kept the fridge going on a generator. We have a gas stove, but its electric starter locks it so no gas flows without electricity. We used our gas grill with side burner and got a fair amount of takeout food. We showered at a friend's house, 20 miles away. It was an adventure, but we survived.

                                                                        Our well pump is now wired to switch over to generator power, but we've never had to use it as such.

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: onrushpam

                                                                          Are you in the Tampa area? It is stories like yours that prompted me to buy a good sized generator when I bought a home in Manatee County in 2005.

                                                                          1. re: onrushpam

                                                                            I'm in a small subdivision of about 70 homes. Just one family, I think, had a generator--and it made such a racket you could hear it all over the community all day/all night. We thanked heaven we didn't live next to them--except that we'd ask if we could put our food in their fridge. I wondered if one that could keep a fridge going (as opposed to the entire house) would be quieter.

                                                                            1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                                              I hear you, and my neighbors hear me. Generators make noise. I have offered to my 3 neighbors within shoutin' distance, all the advantages generators provide. Freezer space, and rock and roll that attenuates the more vital compressor sounds. A little Bob Seger?

                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                We live in the middle of nowhere in the FL Panhandle (actually just over the line in S. GA). No worries about bothering neighbors with generators. But, we are also always the last in the area to get back on the grid. Usually, we figure out everybody around us (1/4 mile away) has electric, then we call again and ask them to please come fix ours! They come and trim a bunch of trees on the pine tree farm next door and we eventually get our power back.

                                                                                We frequently go without power for a few hours up to a day. That barely blips us. But, I dread the next long-term one! Hope it never comes.

                                                                              2. re: Thanks4Food

                                                                                If they use the generator only when there is an emergency and the power is out, I don't see a problem with them running their generator.

                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                  My power in Manatee County FL has been out for only 47 minutes in the six years since I bought my generator. But it went out while Breakfast at Tiffany's was airing on TBS. I considered that to be an emergency. Hey, Audrey Hepburn at her best, always enrapturing. I was interrupted a while later by my neighbor alerting me that the power was back on, and I could turn the noisy generator off. He's a good fella, saving my gas.

                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                    The only electricity we have at our place in northern Minnesota is from a generator. Years ago when there were only 2 or 3 kids with us at deer camp we actually had time to watch movies after supper. If someone had suggested Breakfast at Tiffany's they would have been shunned ; ) We mostly watched movies like Jeremiah Johnson or Saving Private Ryan.

                                                                                    We solved the noise problem by building a doghouse for the generator with the open end facing the woods.

                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                      Reading over the postings of the last few days, I want to tell you that I'm glad I did because we have an old and sturdy and fabulous and large dog house that the previous owner left for us.

                                                                                      We just bought a 8250 w. generator, and even though we have no neighbors to disturb, I don't like the noise myself. Finally the dog house will be used for something other than to put tires into.

                                                                                      I think perhaps the smaller older generator might be put to good use for just one thing -- I'm thinking: the water pump.

                                                                                      With our heavy rains we had to replace a sump pump, and also finally got our driveway redone from all the washouts.

                                                                                      Mother Nature.

                                                                            2. We have an electric stove so are in trouble during an outage and we once had a long one. My solution is to have three (standard gas grill size) propane tanks and have them filled at start of hurricane season. Using the gas grill gets old fast and is wasteful for heating coffee or soup so....... I have a two burner gas stove that we hook up to a propane tank for beans, vegetables, stews and soups and hot tea and coffee.
                                                                              If you see someone chucking an old gas grill take a knife and cut off the propane tank hose and fitting. You use this to attach the tank to the gas stove. My two burner gas stove was made in Colombia. This is how it is done in poor countries if you can afford propane

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: zzDan

                                                                                Your two-burner stove, Is that like a Coleman camping stove or something like that, or something completely different?

                                                                                1. re: DPGood

                                                                                  Not a camping stove but like this>>> http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000N4MXYO/r...

                                                                                  and this>>>> http://www.harborfreight.com/dual-bur...

                                                                                  Mine is like the Harbor Freight one. You can see where you stick the rubber gas line onto from tank to cook stove.

                                                                              2. One of the safer portable stoves to use inside is a butane hotplate that uses aerosol size canisters. They are quite popular in Asia for table side cooking, and have interlocks to prevent use when the canister is not properly installed. Asian groceries are the cheapest place to buy both stove and fuel. In store food demos usually use that type of stove (as opposed to an electric skillet or hot plate).

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                  That's the kind I had years ago. Great item to have!

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    Great idea! I really want to look into all these suggestions. When we had tornadoes in the Spring, I made a list of emergency items to get--but then let it slide. I'm determined to finally do something this time.

                                                                                  2. I have been compiling a list of supplies to buy in case I am faced with another power outage. TS Lee devastated our area. We still have roads that are closed. We were out of power almost two days or so.

                                                                                    I definitely need to do something because I have an electric stove, a well, with no hand pump so I had no water and no electricity. I have learned to keep jugs of water on hand though. Not only was the power out, but the flooding was all around us, so we couldn't physically go anywhere either for two days.

                                                                                    I am definitely researching some kind of propane stove or camping stove for the future. I am getting a big storage box and going to put all the items in there in one central location. Where I live, we really should have a generator. I wish I could afford one.

                                                                                    My freezer is packed, and everything stayed frozen, so that was good. It really sucked with no power. I suppose I'm spoiled. First thing I did was take a shower then I made chocolate chip cookies. It was comforting. Lol

                                                                                    1. If you can afford it and live in an area prone to hurricanes, I recommend spending the $5000 for the full blown back up generator big enough to run your whole house including the air conditioning.

                                                                                      Have it installed with the circuitry to automatically come on and disconnect the house from the neighborhood power. Your generator is a hazard to electrical workers working to restore power without that circuitry.

                                                                                      Considering how much a motel room is and the freezer full of meat, it isn't a bad investment if you have it to invest. You will need to store extra fuel for that generator too.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                        If someone in a hurricane area is willing to spend the money on a large, back up generator as you described they should make it a propane generator with at least a couple hundred gallon tank. That way they are not messing around with gasoline (or diesel for that matter).

                                                                                      2. Just got power back in my MA neighborhood after 107 hours. The house was down to about 50 degrees by dint of 8 candles at a time (electric heat, no fireplace). My freezer was quite full, the refrigerator compartment about 2/3 full, much of it condiments, dressings, and winter produce.
                                                                                        I did not open it, not for a second, until power returned. At that point it was my first action, so I could look and sniff before things got colder again. To my great relief, it looks like everything is still okay. Ice cubes only partially melted. Week old half&half is sour but would be anyway. The chicken and stuffing I roasted last Wednesday smell okay and aren't slimy so I will have some for dinner and freeze the rest. The purchased crab spread, which was partially used, smelled and tasted fine when I had it on a sandwich a few hours ago. I'm sure that had this happened in warmer weather I'd be lugging garbage bags out to the bin, but the lesson here is that during coooler weather outages, if you keep the fridge closed, you're good for at least 4 days.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                          Your house at 50 degrees indicates good insulation. Our power was down to 56 degrees in 22 hours.

                                                                                          We closed off our fireplaces years ago, experiencing much loss of heat through the chimney. Heat rises :-))

                                                                                          One small thing we decided to do the next time the lights even flicker in a storm. Grab a cooler w/ice and put the necessary milk, (your crab spread) in it so we will not be tempted to open the refr for any reason at all.

                                                                                          Shenandoah Valley, VA

                                                                                          1. re: astam

                                                                                            What a great idea: I should print out the recipes and keep in a "No-Cook" folder for when/if the electricity goes out again.

                                                                                            And to Rella: that's a great idea too.

                                                                                            Some time ago, someone sent me a forwarded-forwarded-forwarded email with this suggestion about what to do when the lights go out: purchase a bunch of small solar-powered garden torches and then use them indoors in jars/vases with sand or marbles in them to help hold them upright. My only problem with that is, if it's a bad storm that has caused the power outage, you probably wouldn't have had enough sun to power them. But if your power it out for several days and the sun does come out, then it's a great idea.

                                                                                          2. I just spent 5 days without electricity. We did just fine. Actually, I was at our northern Minnesota property deer hunting. We do not have electricity or running water. We do have a generator that gets used occasionally. Mostly we use Coleman lanterns for light at this time of year.

                                                                                            1. When we once had a power failure what we missed most was a hot drink so I bought a teensy Sterno stove and cans of fuel in case we ever needed it again. Camping stores carry them.

                                                                                              If you have warning and lead time, do everything that takes electricity before you could possibly lose it: get cash from the ATM, fill the cars with gas, stock up on gas if you have a gasoline-powered generator, do the laundry, run the dishwasher often so you're not stuck with a dishwasher full of moldy plates, grind coffee beans if you use a grinder, take a shower and shampoo your hair if your water has to be pumped or heated by electricity, and maybe even bake a supply of cake, cookies, brownies, whatever.

                                                                                              1. If your heat goes off and you are cold at night, this trick will definitely get you warm in bed. Take a soft blanket and put it UNDER the covers right on top of you and wrap it around you UNDER the covers. This keeps body heat close.