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How to save your food when the fridge breaks

Act fast to prevent your food from going bad.

As soon as your fridge stops cooling to around 37 degrees F (2.8 degrees C), it's time to take action to prevent spoiled food. 

Here's how to get through the disaster quickly, until you can get your old fridge repaired or switched out for a new fridge.

Make two piles

First, you need to decide which foods are top priority to keep cold and which ones are safe to leave on the counter until you have a running fridge.

Foods that don't need to be kept cold include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Most cooking oils, with the exception of nut oils
  • Herbs
  • Potatoes
  • Most fruits and vegetables
  • Bread
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Ketchup, mustard and hot sauce

Foods that you need to keep 37 degrees F or lower to prevent bacteria growth and spoilage include:

  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, whipped cream, sour cream)
  • Eggs
  • Leftovers and meats (cooked or uncooked)

Store food safely

Now that you have food in two separate piles, it's time to store the foods that need to be chilled.

Grab a food cooler (or ice chest) and put a layer of frozen foods in the bottom. Then put a layer of foods from the fridge on top of that layer. Top it off with another layer of frozen foods. The frozen foods will keep everything cold while you run to the store to get a bag of ice and a fridge thermometer.

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Remove the ice from the bag and nestle it around the food items in the cooler. Don't just set the bag on top and call it good! Distributing the ice will keep all of the food a more consistent temperature.

To be sure that your food isn't getting too warm, keep a fridge thermometer inside the cooler.

Pro tip: If you don't have a food cooler, use your freezer, if you can. It's insulated and will keep your food cold as long as you keep the door shut and keep a fresh supply of ice in it. To prevent melting ice from turning your freezer into a pond, put ice in bowls and place them around the foods.

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