How load shedding affects your food, and what you can do about it
Here’s how being without power can affect your plans for dinner
Let’s talk about load shedding. It’s a thing that creeps into every part of our lives and perhaps none so much as in the kitchen. Here’s what being without power for a few hours can do to the freshness and safety of your food.
Electricity is used to power two major forces in your kitchen – cooling and heating – so let’s look at each area and discuss what you can do to minimise the inconvenience of load shedding.
Refrigeration is one of the main forces we have on our side when it comes to preserving the freshness of food for as long as possible. Lower temperatures slow down the action of bacteria, or in very basic terms: staying cold stops the rot.
The colder your food is (for example, frozen at -18°C), the more stable it is and the longer you can store it. A deep freeze can keep food safe for many months at a time, but when there is a power interruption, these temperatures can fluctuate. As soon as the food heats up even a little bit, bacterial action will resume and fresh items such as dairy and meat can spoil very quickly.
So, what can you do?
- Keep your fridge and freezer closed for the duration of load shedding.
This is the most important action you can take to help preserve your food inside the fridge and freezer. Do not open the door! The interior cabinet is already insulated and surrounded by seals, so if you keep all the doors closed you can expect to maintain the interior temperature for at least 4–6 hours.
- Use a smaller cooler box for load shedding times.
If you find that you need to access chilled foods, such as milk for the kids, during load shedding, try to set up a temporary “fridge” inside a cooler box by using ice bricks. That way you can access what you need to (cheese, butter, fruit) during load shedding without opening the larger fridge.
- Install a solar fridge.
That’s right – fridges and freezers with solar panels are now a thing. Defy recently launched a solar hybrid range of cooling appliances, made for this very situation. Available in an upright fridge/freezer unit and a chest freezer, the unit is hooked up to a solar panel (included in the price) and can operate your cooler for up to 36 hours. Unfortunately, the solar panels are no good after dark, but this could be a great way to save money on electricity while having ice-cold drinks during load shedding.
Electricity still remains the main method for cooking, whether you are using an induction hob, microwave or fan oven. Here are some ways to beat load shedding when it comes to preparing meals.
- Cook over an open flame.
Weather-permitting, throwing together a braai for supper could be the easiest and most enjoyable way to dine when there is no electricity.
- Switch over to gas.
Cooking on gas is fast and much more affordable than electricity. Many families use a small single ring camping stove for boiling water and veggies during load shedding. A small cooker can be stored away easily when not in use, but remember to be extra careful if you have small children around.
- Eat dinner in another zone.
Depending on current lockdown regulations, you could visit family for dinner while there is load shedding at your house. Alternatively, you could support a local restaurant – just be sure to call ahead and ask about their power situation.
- Cook in advance
Loadshedding is not always announced in advance, so this method can be a bit tricky. If you have the time, a homemade chicken pie baked off in the afternoon can make an excellent dinner by candlelight.