Be Prepared for a Man-Made or Natural Emergency



Another important consideration for food choices is preparation. You may not be able to turn the knob on the stove and get gas for cooking. (When you have an electrical power shortage that is not due to major damage in your neighborhood, you may still be able to cook on your gas stove.) And, microwave ovens, toasters, toaster ovens, etc., need electricity to work. Get your mind back to camping in the woods. You may have to cook everything on your barbecue, in your fireplace, or on a camp stove. So you need to choose foods that can be cooked with one of these methods. If you have room for a very large firepit in your backyard, you don't have to worry about limiting the number of pans being used at one time so you have more meal choices, but you will have to get an appropriate grill. Get at least some of the foods you buy now in ready-to-eat form or that are already fully cooked. It takes less time and fuel to warm up a fully cooked canned ham than to cook one completely.


Your first thought may be to keep the freezer and refrigerator full at all times. That is good planning for the very beginning. When you lose electricity, eat the food in the refrigerator first. If there is room in the freezer, put in all the items from the refrigerator that will fit so they can last longer. Keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible will let them retain their temperatures longer. "TV" dinners may not be any good without an oven or a microwave, so they should not be the main thing in your freezer. Eat the freezer items when they are thawed, then go to the boxed foods and canned foods.

If you had three whole chickens in the freezer, they would be thawed at all at the same time. Put them all on the barbecue and cook them at the same time or one after the other on the same fire if your grill is too small. First, this makes the best use of your cooking fuel. Second, cooked chicken can stay edible much longer than raw chicken. Cooked chicken in a good freezer bag will stay edible in the freezer in a power outage for as long as it would have been in the refrigerator before you lost power. And, if you do have several water bottles in the freezer to save on electricity, put them into the refrigerator after you lose power so that the food inside it can stay cooler longer. Refrigeration is your main concern - the frozen foods will eventually thaw and also need refrigeration - so don't worry about keeping the frozen food frozen.

If winter comes before a disaster does, most of us will have good refrigeration from the outside air. Snowy areas can stock up on all the frozen foods and keep them in the snow or in a styrofoam cooler filled with snow. When using outdoor cooling or freezing methods, be sure your food is protected from being eaten by little animals and kept far from your home in bear country.

A lake, pond, or stream can be a good source of refrigeration. You can fill a metal picnic cooler with food and put the cooler in the water, making sure that either the cooler has a watertight seal so the foods keep dry inside or keep the top of the cooler above the water level. Unopened canned drinks can be kept icy cold submersed in a running stream.


What about mayonnaise? It can become a killer in a few hours if the refrigerator is no longer staying cold. Stock up on lots and lots of tiny jars of mayonnaise so you could use one for to make tuna sandwiches for one meal and have none left to spoil. (Don't reuse the empty mayonnaise bottles during an emergency - it would require a lot of water and soap to be sure that nothing is left inside to be harmful.) Mustard and ketchup don't need to be refrigerated. Most foods will stay edible much longer if you can find an area that won't get any direct sun.

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