Winter Storm Preparedness – Easily-Prepared Power Outage Foods –
We’re still in the middle of winter, folks. I’m sure you’ll want to pick up some of these convenient power outage foods on your next grocery trip. A power outage doesn’t stop your family’s need to eat. Meeting your food needs can be trickier during a power outage, but there are plenty of decent tasting food options that can be purchased for a reasonable price.
Those who have been following our series How to Avoid a Winter Power Outage by Being Prepared, are already aware of the need for
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Alternative Means of Cooking and Refrigeration for a Power Outage
We are fortunate that our alternative heat source at The House That Never Slumbers is a wood stove that also gives us a way to cook during a power outage. If your alternative heat source doesn’t provide you a means to cook as well, I suggest you invest in an inexpensive camping stove and fuel or some other product that will give you the capability of cooking during a power outage. You have a lot more food options if you have the ability to heat your meals. You also might find yourself with a need to boil water to sterilize it for drinking, so I wouldn’t want to be caught without any way of cooking.
You will also want to have a non-electric can opener on hand. I prefer one like this.
I don’t even own an electric can opener. I’ve never been a fan of the electric ones because they get all that gunk on them, and you can’t just run that whole electric appliance through the dishwasher. I spent the first decade of my adult life using hand can openers from the dollar store because I’m frugal like that. They would work well for a few months. Then that little cutter part gets bent, and they become more and more difficult to use. Eventually when opening a can of soup would leave me with a hand cramp, I would have to buy a new one for $1 and toss the old one. This went on for many years of my marriage.
Then I started running the concession stand at the local ballpark. The ballpark had this amazing crank can opener that opened the big nacho cheese cans with ease. Even though it cost many times more than my dollar store can openers, I did force my frugal self to buy one for the sake of my hand. It’s about 10 years old now and is starting to not work as well. I need to replace it, but I still consider it worth every penny. A crank can opener is a lot like a zero-turn mower. Once you try it, you will never want to go back to the old kind again. It’s just so much easier.
Do not wait until the last minute to stock your pantry with foods for a winter power outage. There are certain non-perishable foods you should be sure to have on hand all winter long. I’m not going to go through a list of all the usual non-perishable foods I have in my pantry at all times. I figure we all have a variety of baking goods, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, and so on in our cabinets. None of us would starve if forced to forage our cabinets for a couple of weeks. There are some specific items I like to specifically keep on hand because they lend themselves to easy-prepared power outage meals though.
If you have no way of cooking without electricity, you will need to be even more proactive about getting ready for any winter storm and the threat of a power outage. You could plan on eating cold meat sandwiches for the duration, but I’m guessing that gets old after a while. Always keep in mind your foods that need to stay refrigerated will only stay cold enough for a couple of days if you have no electricity to cool your fridge. Since our longterm power outages have always been during very cold temperatures, we’ve been able to move the more fragile contents of our fridge to large coolers and place them outside. Frozen items in your freezer will stay cold enough even longer if you don’t have to keep opening the freezer door, but even those items can be moved outside in freezing temperatures if your power’s out for several days.
You might also want to check out this post with ideas for foods you can keep on hand for a power outage during a time when the weather is warmer. We were evacuated from our condo for a hurricane on our trip for Fall Break. If we had been inland and stayed through the storm, many of the foods I’ve listed so far would not have been suitable.
I wrote 10 Emergency Foods You Must Stock for a Power Outage to better address the needs in warmer climates, but those foods will work well for either situation.
DO NOT Wait Until the Last Minute to Stock Up Food for a Power Outage!
You do not want to wait until you see the first snowflake to rush to the grocery store. This is always a bad idea! And you don’t need to buy twelve loaves of bread if you would only use two loaves in a normal week. We normally use about two loaves of bread a week. If a winter storm is predicted, I buy three loaves, so we have one extra. I figure during a storm that keeps us from being able to leave the house, we could need a bit more bread, since we would be eating every meal at home instead of the people who leave the house for work and school grabbing lunch while out, but that doesn’t mean we need twelve loaves of bread. Leave some bread for the other people. You are going to waste a lot of bread if you buy a dozen loaves when you normally use two loaves a week.
I normally get groceries on the weekend. The winter storm forecast that prompted this series of posts was a prediction of up to 22″ starting late on a Friday and continuing through Saturday. I was in town on Wednesday for one of my daughter’s basketball games and decided to stop to pick up a few groceries because I didn’t want to be in the store for the storm rush on Friday. Apparently, everyone else in Indiana had that same idea because there was already no reasonably-priced bread left on Wednesday. This is because people think they need twelve loaves for a potential power outage.
DO NOT Buy Stuff You Never Use
My parents don’t buy milk on a normal week, but if there’s a storm predicted, my dad will stop and pick up milk. I’ve never understood this. Why does the threat of a storm suddenly make him need milk? Don’t buy perishable groceries you won’t use just because there might be a storm. This is wasting your money and creating scarcity for people who actually do use milk but find an empty shelf before the storm because someone else felt the need to buy something they won’t even use. You do not have to lose your mind every time a storm is headed your way. Keep some simple non-perishable items in stock all winter and supplement those with just a few perishable items, and you’ll be all set to weather the storm.
My suggestions are not meant to be a conclusive list. I am only trying to give you an idea of the types of meals you can prepare and serve easily during a power outage. Your list will likely be different than mine because your family will have different tastes and different dietary needs.
Proactive Preparation for Emergency Situations
When we have a forecast that looks like there could be potential for a power outage, I try to prepare some basic food staples that would help us through the storm. I do have the potential to cook on the wood stove, but cleaning up after my cooking would not be nearly as easy without running water and a dishwasher, so I try to take care of the messier parts of meal preparation before the storm.
- I brown several pounds of burger. We always have a freezer full of beef and venison. I have a very large stockpot that can handle ten pounds of burger or more. I make sure I have at least five pounds of burger browned for a potential power outage. I can separate it into freezer bags and put some in the fridge and some in the freezer. Then I’m not dealing with pouring off grease with no running water. This makes it much easier to just add the burger to tomato juice for chili or add Manwich for sloppy joes.
- I often boil a whole chicken. This gives me broth ready for some kind of soup that could be simmered on the wood stove, and the shredded chicken can be put in the fridge for chicken tortillas, or I can make some chicken salad.
- If I don’t make chicken salad, I make a bowl of tuna salad to eat on sandwiches or with crackers.
- I boil at least a dozen eggs. I needed some of them for the chicken/tuna salad anyway. Boiled eggs are a great, filling snack for a power outage. If you want to get really fancy, you can make some deviled eggs, but you would need to eat those first if you’re having to put everything outside in coolers because they’re more delicate than the eggs still in their shells.
Some Other Options for Power Outage Foods
- Make up some pancake batter, and store it in a pourable container.
- Mix up eggs and toppings to make omelets or scramble.
- Boil a roast that can be reheated or shredded into BBQ.
- Have a variety or cornbread or muffin mixes ready in jars to cook in a cast iron skillet, or just bake them and store in containers.
Some Products I Keep on Hand That Don’t Involve Any Proactive Preparation
- Canned Hormel Chili, shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla shells – These items can be combined for an easy, tasty burrito.
- Canned soups
- Dry soup pouches – These are something new I’ve just started keeping on hand this winter. I hadn’t tasted just-add-water broccoli soup until we served it recently when I was helping in the hospitality room at a basketball tourney. It’s actually amazingly good. What we served was from Aldi. I wasn’t at Aldi when I was grabbing items for the storm, so I just bought what Walmart had. It was slightly more expensive than the Aldi version, but still around $3 for 8 servings. It has a long shelf-life and is definitely worth keeping on hand for winter storms. I also picked up a couple of other dry soup pouches at Meijer. We haven’t tried those yet. [Update: The dry soup pouches pictured above were all $3 at Big Lots. I didn’t realize Big Lots carried them, but there were even a few additional flavors that I didn’t buy yet.]
- Peanut butter and jelly – You could live on nothing but peanut butter and jelly if that’s all you had. It requires no refrigeration. It has a very long shelf-life. Maybe this is why some people buy twelve loaves of bread for a storm. Maybe peanut butter and jelly is their entire power outage food plan.
- Granola bars, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, crackers, Pop Tarts – These are snacks we keep on hand usually anyway.
- String cheese, yogurt, applesauce – Again these are snacks we often already have. I make yogurt every week in my Instant Pot using This Old Gal’s Greek Yogurt Recipe.
You do not have to be a professional chef to eat well during a winter power outage, but it does take a little more pre-planning than feeding your family with the luxury of electricity. Everyone in your family will be more pleasant if their bellies aren’t rumbling on top of the lack of common conveniences. Plan ahead to make your next winter power outage a fun adventure like camping instead of a frantic, unexpected test of your survival skills.
What are your favorite foods to have on hand during a power outage? Let us know in the comments.