Here’s how to ready for living without heat and electricity for several days. I hope this checklist can help you if your power goes out during a winter storm. The food safety tips work at any time of the year.
When I first wrote this, snow was falling and an ice storm was on the way. I live in a “low priority” neighborhood, so when we lose electricity in a big storm, we need to be prepared.
Food safety — keep perishables out of the danger zone between 40˚ and 140˚F
- Perishable food that’s been in the danger zone for over four hours may cause food poisoning.
- Put a day’s worth of perishable food in a cooler with ice so you don’t have to open the door of the refrigerator or freezer after you lose power. A container of frozen hummus will help keep other food cold. Take this cooler with you if you need to evacuate.
- Plan a way to keep yourself from opening the refrigerator or freezer without thinking. Put a towel over the handle, tape it shut, or whatever works for your appliance.
- Print out the FDA guidelines for safe food handling. You may remember them now, but printing them out will help you take the right action after days of stress.
Buy core necessities
Stay stocked up on these essentials if possible.
- Prescription drugs and other medicines.
- Paper products (toilet paper, etc.).
- Batteries for your flashlights and emergency radio.
- A manual can opener.
- A food thermometer.
- Gas for your car (at least a half tank to minimize skidding and to allow you to evacuate if needed).
- Your idea of the essentials of civilization: contact lens solution, birth control, caffeine.
- Paper plates, plastic cutlery, and paper towels in case you are without power for several days. I work my way through the daily cutlery and then the party ware, keeping used items in big plastic containers until the dishwasher works again.
Make sure you have enough easy-to-eat food to get you through to normal
Before the storm hits, stock up on:
- Peanut butter, other nut butters, or sunflower seed butter.
- Fruit and vegetables you can eat as-is: bananas, apples, pears, carrots, and broccoli.
- Dried fruit.
- Canned beans, tomatoes, vegetables, and juices if you don’t have time to cook or if you think the situation may drag on past your ability to cook. Make sure you have a manual can opener.
- For more ideas, see my post on gathering a week’s worth of food for a summer storm.
If you can, prepare other food so it’s easy to eat
I have lots of dried beans, uncooked grains, and baking ingredients, but they won’t help much if I can’t heat them. Here’s how I got ready for the storm, with the activities need the longest lead time first.
- Cook dried beans and vegetables in a slow cooker if you have time or on the stove if you don’t. If you are using tomatoes, add them after the beans are tender. We adore Cuban Black Beans, but you can cook pretty much any sort of beans and veg you have using my master recipe for how to cook beans.
- Make bread, especially if you have a bread machine. The aroma of baking bread will help soothe your family’s pre-storm jitters.
- Bake a dessert and tuck in some sweet potatoes or white potatoes to cook at the same time. Good recipes include Apple-Walnut Crumble and Chocolate Brownies.
- Make a pot of rice or quinoa.
- Clean lettuce for salad.
- Rinse vegetables and fruit to be eaten as-is.
- Brew enough tea or coffee for at least one day without power. Grind enough whole-bean coffee for the duration.
Inspect your refrigerator and freezer
- What food would you really hate to lose if you lost power? Why not eat it today? We had pesto for lunch and will have strawberry shortcake for dinner. I had the last of the peach butter that Barbara gave me for Christmas on my toast this morning.
- Throw out any food that is spoiled and take the trash out while you can still get to the trash can.
- If you have time and the first question didn’t turn up any wonderful finds, then make Stoup, a stew-soup that puts your scraps to use.
- If you have time, fill the empty spaces in your freezer or refrigerator with containers of water pre-chilled outside or put into the fridge well in advance of losing power. (I use plastic jugs that held distilled water.) They will help keep the temperature low when the refrigerator is no longer running.
Relax and enjoy!
If you do lose power, take a deep breath. Enjoy the glimpse of times not so far in the past. Check in on neighbors and others who might need help. If the storm continues, share what you have. Some of my favorite neighborhood memories come from our group cookouts after Hurricane Fran hit. This time, maybe a neighbor with a generator will give me hot coffee in exchange for some pesto and cake!
How do you prepare for storms? What experiences might others learn from?
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