Should Food Be Stored Outdoors in Winter or in the Snow?

Thermometer in winter snow
Thermometer in winter snow.

With cold winter temperatures, one might be tempted to store food outdoors or in the snow.  This may also be true if one experiences a power outage due to a winter storm.  While storing food outside or in the snow may work in a pinch, long term storage is not advised. 

Although it may seem like a good idea to use our giant outdoor “walk-in freezer” to store food, there are two main reasons why the cold or snow may not necessarily protect it safely.  For one, the outside temperature can vary by the hour even if snow is falling thereby not protecting refrigerated or frozen food properly. Further, frozen food can thaw when exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold.  Food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. Secondly, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals which may harbor bacteria or disease.  (Food that comes in contact with animals should never be consumed.)

Should the reason to take food outdoors or put in the snow be due to a power outage, the USDA suggests taking advantage of the cold weather to make ice by filling buckets or cans with water to freeze outdoors. The ice can be used to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers. If one needs to temporarily store food outdoors, check the outdoor temperature and monitor the temperature and state of the food frequently. Food should also be stored in impermeable covered plastic containers and placed in a location that won’t be disturbed.

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs should be stored at or below 40ºF and frozen food at or below 0ºF. While this is hard to maintain during power outages, the USDA says keeping your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible can help your food stay at the necessary temperature for up to four hours and longer in a cold room. If the doors stay closed, a full freezer can maintain temperature for up to 48 hours.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Chili – What is it?

Chili is a favorite soup or stew but no one seems to agree on what chili should be. There are as many ways to make chili as there are people who make it.    Some like it hot, some like it mild, some like it on top of a baked potato or mound of spaghetti, some say beans, others say NO beans.  However you like it, chili, served with a side of cornbread, cinnamon roll, oyster crackers, sour cream, cheese, or plain, is an American comfort food. Every cook has a secret ingredient or combination of ingredients; it’s a dish that lends itself to creativity.  A search for a chili recipe will turn up all kinds of combinations.  To that end, chili even has its own national celebration day( fourth Thursday in February) and its own week (first week in October).

While little information was found on the origin of Chili Day, it appears to have had a long history.  On the other hand, the origin of chili is credited to a mixture of chili peppers and meat known as chili con carne, Spanish for chili with meat.

In today’s world, there is no agreement on what chili should be or look like.  Many recipes use a combination of  tomatoes, beans or no beans, chili peppers and/or peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin but the variations are endless and even include vegetarian and vegan varieties.  Despite popular belief, chili does not come from Mexico. Recipes have certainly been influenced by Mexican culture, but also incorporate elements from Native American and Spanish culinary traditions. Many historians believe chili originated in Texas where all three of these cultures intersected. Cowboys and the American frontier settlers made chili from a chili brick cooked in a pot of boiling water along the trail or in the frontier home for a hearty meal.  The brick consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, pounded together and dried giving the mixture a long shelf life. Chili was a popular food offering at the Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago where the San Antonio Chili Stand introduced Texas-style chili con carne to attendees.  Prior to World War II the popularity of chili lead to small, family-run chili parlors (also known as chili joints) popping up throughout the US with Texas leading the way.  Each parlor had its own claim to fame featuring a secret recipe or ingredient.

Chili adapts easily to quantity cookery making it a great food for crowds.  It also makes a great centerpiece for entertainment or as a fund raiser in the form of a chili cook-off.   Cook-off participants prepare their carefully-guarded and best chili concoctions to battle for judges’ or visitors’ approval to declare their recipe a winner!  While many chili cook-offs are a local event with prizes and recognition, it may also be a sanctioned contest leading to international fame with large prizes.

There are many ways that people enjoy the great taste of chili—soup, burgers, dogs, fries, just to name a few.  There are also regional ways to enjoy chili.  Cincinnati Chili is a favorite of many Ohioans.  Chili is spooned over pasta, usually spaghetti, and topped with shredded cheese, kidney beans, crushed crackers, and onions.  In New Mexico, one would commonly enjoy a bowl of Green Chili Stew or Chili Verde made with cubes of pork, Hatch chilies, tomatillos and other seasonings; it may be served over rice or corn tortillas or not.  St Louis also has a chili favorite known as the St Louis Slinger—a dish made with a ground beef patty, hash browns, and eggs covered with chili and topped with cheese and onions.  If one starts with a basic chili and adds a generous dose of Cajun seasoning and Louisiana hot sauce, one has an unforgettable New Orleans-style chili. Finally, there is the no-beans, no tomatoes Texas Red made with chunks of beef, beef suet, a variety of peppers, and seasonings.

Because chili ingredients vary so much, it is not possible to give exact nutritional information.  When meat, beans, peppers, onions, and tomatoes form the base of the soup, nutritional benefits may include vitamins A and C, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.  Whatever the nutritional value, style, or recipe, chili is definitely an American classic and favorite to be enjoyed in various styles.

Updated 9-14-2023 mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

Here in the upper Midwest plumbers have been busy with the recent cold snap. When the temperature plummets, the risk of pipes freezing goes up. In fact frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands of dollars in water damage for the home or business owner, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.  Pipes that freeze most frequently are those in unheated interior spaces such as basement, attics, and garages.  But pipes that run through your cabinets or that are against an exterior wall are also at risk. Here’s some advice from the American Red Cross on how to prevent your pipes from freezing as well as how to thaw them if they do.


During the cold weather months, take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and water running. Some may conflict with your desire to conserve water and heat, but the extra expense is nothing compared to a hefty repair bill.  Here’s what to do.

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe-even at a trickle-helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.
  • If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 ⁰ F.
  • For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas.


If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you probably have a frozen pipe.  Likely places for frozen pipes include those against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.  If the water is still running, you can take the following steps but if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber. Plumbing professionals not only possess the expertise to identify and address frozen pipe issues promptly but can also provide invaluable services like Leak Detection Services in Reno, NV and beyond. By leveraging advanced technology and specialized equipment, these services enable early detection of leaks and potential pipe damage, helping homeowners mitigate risks and ensure the integrity of their plumbing systems.

Moreover, beyond the immediate concern of frozen pipes, homeowners can benefit from the comprehensive services offered by a Minneapolis plumber. From routine maintenance to emergency repairs and innovative leak detection technologies, these professionals serve as trusted guardians of residential plumbing systems. Whether it’s ensuring efficient water usage or safeguarding against potential leaks and water damage, their expertise offers peace of mind, allowing homeowners to navigate the seasons with confidence and comfort. So, when faced with plumbing challenges, from frozen pipes to elusive leaks, entrusting the job to a plumber ensures not just a quick fix but a lasting solution tailored to the unique needs of the city’s residents.

While thawing a frozen pipe can be a DIY project, it’s important to remember that it can also be dangerous and cause further damage to your pipes if not done correctly. For a safe and effective solution, it’s recommended to seek the help of expert plumbing services. They can offer affordable plumbing solutions, including specialized tools and equipment to properly thaw your frozen pipes without causing any damage. Moreover, they can also assess your plumbing system to identify any underlying issues that may have caused the frozen pipes in the first place, ensuring that the problem doesn’t reoccur in the future.

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, chances are others are frozen too.
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen section is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

If you need supplemental heat, you can add a space heater to a room where pipes may be at risk.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Winter Window Condensation

humidityDo you have problems in the winter with dry skin and nasal passages?  Is there condensation forming on your windows?  In the winter when our houses are sealed tight the humidity level can lead to winter moisture problems.  According to Ken Hellevang, an agricultural engineer with the North Dakota State University Extension Service,” a relative humidity of 30 to 40 percent is considered optimum during the winter”.

“Window condensation is one way to tell if the humidity level is off in your house.  If the inside temperature is 70 degrees and the relative humidity is 35 percent, moisture condenses on single-pane windows at 30 degrees”, Hellevang says.  “With double-pane windows, condensations will form at temperatures below zero.  With three layers of glass, condensation will not form until outdoor temperatures are about 40 degrees below zero”, he says.

Condensation will form at higher temperatures if air leakage cools the window surface.  If you have cracks in the windows they should be fixed or at least taped to help seal the air leakage.  Use weather stripping or caulk any areas around windows and doors where there are noticeable leaks.  Even installing plastic thermal covering on windows will reduce air leakage which will commonly contribute to condensation problems.

In addition to sealing cracks and using weather stripping to prevent air leakage, addressing any damage to the glass itself is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and moisture-free indoor environment. Cracked or broken glass not only compromises the insulation of your windows but also provides pathways for moisture to infiltrate your home. This is where professional glass repair services play a vital role. Whether it’s a small chip or a shattered pane, addressing the issue promptly is essential to prevent further damage and maintain the integrity of your windows.

For residents in Tacoma dealing with glass-related issues, accessing reliable Emergency Glass Repair Services in Tacoma can provide peace of mind. These services offer prompt and efficient solutions to address any glass-related emergencies, ensuring that your home remains secure and protected against the elements. By entrusting your window repair needs to experienced professionals, you can effectively mitigate the risk of condensation and other moisture-related problems, allowing you to enjoy a comfortable and well-maintained living space year-round.

A few practical tips to help you stay warm and eliminate mold formation include:

  • Open the drapes on sunny days. This will let in the warmth during the day. Closing them at night will help to retain the heat. Make sure that it is not a tight seal to allow for air circulation which will help keep mold from forming on your windows.
  • Make sure that your furniture is away from the heat registers to allow for air circulation in your house. Also keep some space between the walls and the furniture for air circulation. If the walls are not insulated well the temperature difference between outside and inside can cause moisture to develop and could cause mold to grow on the walls.
  • Closed closet doors can also be a problem . If you start to notice mold growth on outside walls leave the closet doors open to allow for heat to enter and air to circulate.

Watching your homes humidity will keep your house comfortable, help you save energy and keep mold from growing and causing health and structure problems.  Remember changes made to improve your homes energy efficiency will also have a positive impact.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Winter Survival Kit for Your Car

Now that winter has arrived, it is time to be sure your car is equipped for travel. The Iowa State Patrol suggests keeping these items in your car in case you are stranded.

  1. Warm winter clothing (gloves, coat, boots)
  2. Warm blankets or sleeping bags
  3. Flashlight (check to be sure the batteries are fresh)
  4. First aid kit
  5. Red flag, Send Help sign, or something to attract attention
  6. Sack of dry sand or cat litter
  7. Booster cables
  8. Cell phone and car charger
  9. High energy food (candy bars, beef jerky)

Remember to plan ahead when traveling long distances this winter. Watch the weather reports and check on road conditions along your planned route. Iowa and Minnesota have websites with updated road conditions. Save these as favorites on your cell phone for easy access or download the 511 app for your state from your app store. Let friends or relatives know your destination and when you are expected to arrive. If you are delayed, let them know that you are still safe.

Another valuable tool for enhancing safety during winter travel is installing a dashcam in your car. Dashcams offer a firsthand account of any incidents on the road, providing invaluable footage for insurance claims or legal purposes. Websites like offer valuable insights into top-notch dashcams worthy of consideration. These platforms don’t just review every dashcam released but focus on highlighting those deemed exceptional and deserving of recognition.

By incorporating a dashcam into your vehicle setup, you not only capture important footage but also add an extra layer of protection and peace of mind during your winter journeys.

In addition to investing in a dashcam for enhanced safety during winter travel, Tesla owners can further elevate their driving experience with a range of tesla y accessories. Websites like Tlyard offer a plethora of options to customize and enhance various aspects of your Tesla. From upgrading the steering wheel and central control screen to installing taillights and carbon fiber products, these accessories not only add functionality but also contribute to the aesthetic appeal of your vehicle. By choosing accessories tailored specifically for Tesla Y models, drivers can make their cars not only safer and more enjoyable to drive but also better equipped to withstand the rigors of winter travel.

While enhancing Tesla Y models with various accessories can undoubtedly elevate the driving experience, those seeking alternative options might find solace in exploring the offerings at Swanswaygarages, a notable dealership known for its diverse range of vehicles. Among their offerings, prospective buyers can discover a selection of byd cars for sale uk, presenting an environmentally friendly and technologically advanced alternative. With BYD’s reputation for innovation in electric vehicles, customers can explore models tailored to their preferences, whether prioritizing sustainability, efficiency, or cutting-edge features.

Drive at a safe speed for the weather conditions and maintain a safe following distance. Speed and following distance should be adjusted for current weather. Drive defensively and wear your seat belts. Make sure children are properly buckled into their safety seats.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Deicers Safe for Plants

slippery sidewalksJanuary in Iowa usually brings a certain amount of cold weather and snow. Snow can be good, acting as an insulating blanket for plants and eventually watering those same plants when the temperatures thaw. This snow on sidewalks, driveways and streets however,  can cause a huge headache for anyone trying to get around. To prevent accidents to motorists and pedestrians, it is common to use deicing compounds to melt the ice and snow. These chemicals certainly improve travel conditions, but they can be harmful to automobiles, concrete surfaces and plants.

The most commonly used deicing salts include: Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride and Calcium Magnesium Acetate. Limited use of any of these products should cause little or no injury to plants. Problems appear when any of the products are used excessively.

Calcium Chloride  –  melts ice to -25 degrees F  –  not likely to harm plants unless used excessively

Sodium Chloride  –  melts ice to 12 degrees F  –  can damage soils, plants and metals   –   least expensive material

Potassium Chloride  –  can cause serious plant injury when washed or splashed on foliage; can also cause root damage to plants

Calcium Magnesium Acetate  –  melts ice to 20 degrees F  –  has little effect on plant growth or concrete surfaces  –  a newer product

To minimize damage, it is important to use any of these products according to the directions on the package. Always remove as much of the snow and ice as possible before adding the deicing chemicals. When spring arrives, heavily water areas where salt accumulates, focusing on any plants that may have been in the path of these chemicals.  For additional information, check out De-Icers and Plant Health by PennState Extension.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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