Eating healthy when the power is out

Plan ahead to use food that is already on-hand and avoid spending excess money when the power is out.

Wind, rain and tornados are all part of the next few months in Michigan’s weather forecasts. Planning ahead can eliminate some of the stress faced when the power goes out; how are we going to eat for the next few hours, or days! It also becomes expensive to eat out more than one or two times a week. Following these tips may give you ideas on stretching your food resources and offering your family healthy meals during this difficult time.

During an emergency you can eat healthy. Take into consideration MyPlate as you look through your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer to find foods you need for meal preparation and that are good in health. Believe it or not, preparing balanced meals may be easier than you thought if you have some of these items on hand. Keep in mind that opened food that cannot be kept cold should be tossed at the end of the meal. Incorporate perishable food (from the fridge and freezer) at the beginning of the emergency if possible. Michigan State University Extension suggests:

Grains:

  • Bread
  • Crackers (graham, whole grain)
  • Unrefrigerated tortillas
  • Ready to eat cereals
  • Canned pasta and rice
  • Breakfast/granola bars and plain cookies

Vegetables:

  • Vegetable juices
  • Canned vegetables
  • Tomato sauce and salsa
  • Ready-to-serve soup
  • Canned vegetable salads (three bean, potato, etc.)

Fruits:

  • Dried fruit, canned fruit
  • Bottled 100 percent fruit juice

Dairy:

  • Dry milk and box milk
  • Evaporated milk
  • Canned pudding
  • Canned cheeses
  • Instant breakfast mixes

Meat and beans:

  • Jerky
  • Canned beans (pinto, kidney, pork and beans)
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned meats (tuna, salmon, chicken)

Without a stove you can create bean burritos, using beans and tortillas. Cereal is easy with or without using canned or reconstituted milk. Filling in with fruit, pudding and other staples will complete a meal. Parfaits can be made using dry fruit, pudding and cereal. Tuna salad could be made using the canned meat served on crackers or as a sandwich. Take some time to inventory your food on hand and make a list of what you would create if you were in a power outage situation.

Other equipment to have on hand includes a hand operated can opener, plastic utensils, disposable plates and napkins, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer and garbage bags for trash.

It is very important to keep in mind that food safety is very important during an emergency. MSU Extension recommends avoiding leftovers, as you will have no way to store them once you have opened canned goods. All foods should be stored in a cool, dry place. To ensure that emergency foods are at top quality, store them with your everyday foods. Remember to replace them as you use them. If water is limited, use disposable utensils that won’t need to be washed. If you live with someone who is immune-compromised (infants, pregnant women, elderly, persons receiving chemo or diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, transplant recipients, diabetics or people with multiple sclerosis) it is important NOT to keep leftover food.

To learn more about being better prepared or taking steps to start a preparedness plan visit FEMA’s Ready website or the CDC and American Red Cross site, both of these will offer you more information and checklists to prepare for an emergency. By taking a few steps now you will save yourself stress and be able to provide nutritious meals and snacks to your family during an emergency.

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