I hope you have at least scanned through the previous post, as we are discussing being prepared for any emergency, but especially power outages. You never know when they can strike, but with a little pre-thinking, they can be much less stressful.
And we’ll talk about finding room for these even in a small apartment next time. I promise that you have more room than you know. We are certainly not talking ‘fall-out’ shelter here! Besides, if you put good, useful items aside, you can be equally as ready for a ‘guest emergency’.
I stress that I am not trying to be an alarmist, nor encourage you to be a food hoarder. Many people listen to those who would play on their fears and be pressured into making unnecessary and expensive purchases; don’t do it. Buy only a few extras at a time that you will use anyway and rotate them by using them before they have stayed untouched beyond their usefulness. Sure, you can buy MRE’s,(military ‘meals-ready-to-eat’), that will last for years, but, are you ever really going to eat them? I doubt that straits will ever get that dire for you,(let’s hope not.) If you buy food that you would never ordinarily use, (thinking that, if things were bad enough, you will use them), then you will end up throwing them away. It is terrible to waste not only money but food,(I find it particularly so with meat and animal products.)
Anyone on any budget can put away a few things at a time and be ready for trouble.
Buy what you and your family like; that is essential. If things are stressful, choking down unfamiliar and unliked food only makes matters worse. (In other words, if your kids like Spaghettios, put several cans away.)
Remember to keep all foods in as cool and dry an area as possible; no attics or garages. They must not freeze or be exposed to excessive heat.
Try to keep a number of protein-based cans or packages, plus fruits and vegetables. Ready-to-eat soups are good, and a good choice for vegans, as they will have their protein ready in them. Nuts and peanuts, shelled, roasted or in butters, are also good protein choices for anyone. I will caution you to keep them in their original containers and original seals and as with all the foods, keep an eye on the expiration dates and enjoy them before they get too old. You want to buy replacements and eat what is close to expiring, which is another good reason to stagger your purchases. You won’t find all of your stored foods needing to be eaten or replaced all at one time; that is inconvenient and can be expensive.
Processed meat products should be kept only if the people in your household like them.(Don’t load up on Spam if no one has ever tried it or can’t stand it.) Watch out for fat content in them, too. My choices lean toward canned chicken and tuna, although I have corned beef as well as deviled ham and roast beef spread.(OK, so it’s a little on the fatty side; they are only a couple of cans, honest!)
As for fruit and vegetables, unlike most of my shopping advice, I will tell you to buy small or even individual serving-sizes. They are usually more expensive, but in a power outage, you will have no way of preserving ‘left-overs’. Even if the weather is cold enough to put unused potions outside, you will want to conserve the warmth you have indoors by not opening doors and windows more than you need to.( More of heating options in an upcoming post.) Pick up a couple of boxes of zipper-close bags, small and larger, and put them aside; you’ll need them.(More upcoming on such necessities.) Raisins and dried fruit are some of my favorites and kids usually like them. They are good and they keep, unopened, for years.
The hardest part of preparing is trying to find a good source of carbohydrates; nearly all will become stale if kept for any time, so your best bet is to use what is in your cabinet to supplement your emergency rations and to rely on canned corn and beans.
(If your kids like cereal, look for a small box with a late expiration date.) DO NOT try to rely on dried beans, rice or legumes! I know people who did just that and found themselves unable to use them for two reasons:
1.Even though beans seem to store almost forever, they don’t. They continue to dry and become nearly impossible to cook, even in a slow-cooker.[See my post: “You Know Beans” in the August 2012 archives.]
2.And even if the beans or legumes are split, or the rice is ‘instant’, it will take boiling water and a heat source, both of which may be scarce.[Do not try to store par-boiled or “converted” rice; it spoils easily and is prone to become ‘buggy’.]
Keep at least a couple of bottles of, (or a number of boxed), fruit juice, fruit/vegetable juice and milk products. Milk, either dairy, rice, soy or almond, come in aseptic cardboard boxes that will last well over a year, (maybe more), on your shelf. Powdered milk goes stale and will use your water reserves. Water is a must and the only bottled water I have found whose containers do not degrade is Deer Park; I keep their ‘pods’. If you try to bottle your own water, you will find,(as I did), that it may very well grow mold inside the cap, making it unusable and unsafe. Even if your water remains on, it may have been shortly interrupted by the power outage and when this happens, it may be unsafe for a while or it can pull up rust and sediment that has collected at the bottom of the water mains,(mainlines), to where ‘boil water’ advisories may be in effect. (If sediment and rust are in your water, you may not even be able to use your “Pur”,”Britta” or other filters. Strain though cheesecloth or even a laundered, bleached white cotton cloth, such as a thin towel, a white sheet, pillow case or white tee shirt; a cloth diaper is perfect.) If you keep an extra bottle of chlorine bleach, (regular, unscented), you can follow direction on the bottle to kill nearly ever germ and bacteria that may have collected in the water. Read the labels; some of the ‘bargain brands’ are diluted to one-quarter strength or less. Many of the ‘name brands’ and some ‘store brands’ are now highly concentrated and available in much smaller containers which are more easily put away. Chlorine in the bleach dissipates leaving a bit of salt behind when exposed to air, so if you treat your water with it,(as you municipality does in your water supply), and let it sit open to the air, the water will be safe to drink. You may want to store away a favorite powdered drink mix to make it taste better, such as fruit-flavored, lemonade or instant tea.
If you foresee a storm, or other emergency, you might want to do what many used to do; fill your bathtub. If nothing else, if your water supply gets interrupted you can have some cleaning water and water to flush the toilet, as most work on gravity.(You’ll thank me later.)
If you have your own, learn to turn the water intake to your water heater. You will have that water to work with, but if whatever supplies your heat remains,(such as propane or natural gas), or comes back on,(electricity), and your tank is empty, it will break or perhaps explode or cause a fire. If you can’t turn the water supply to it off, simply do not empty your water heater. Tape or cover the hot water taps in every sink or tub as a reminder.
Next time we will talk about other necessities and, importantly, finding room to store them.