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How to Feed A Family with No Electricity

How to Feed A Family with No Electricity

As is evidenced by the less than kind weather we have been having lately with Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Irene and Lee before that, living with weather related catastrophe is becoming the new normal for everyone (not just those who historically live in Tornado Alley and the like). And this means that power cuts, interruptions, and outages are the new normal as well. While most of us could live with moderate comfort during temporary outages, having no electrical power could greatly hamper an individual’s, or family’s, ability to cook and eat. While we may not be able to power our smart phones or run the heat, we still need to eat, and one could only live so many days on cereal and room temperature soy milk.

Living in New York, I gathered up as much food as I could in preparation of the coming storm, and made as many muffins, breads, and egg-things as I thought anyone would care to eat in the coming days. But even in my most resourceful moments, I needed a bit of direction as how to keep us fed in the event of no electrical power for days on end. I took to the internet and found recipes and tips (some better than others and some more practical than others). Making rice and beans (having canned beans on hand is always a good option) makes for a good go-to meal, if kept cook (always be aware of food contamination, as rice and beans left at room temperature are susceptible to bacteria growth). Making a vegetable and pasta salad is also a particularly good option (without mayonnaise). I boiled nearly a dozen eggs and used them for a collection of salads, and sandwiches, and of course, most fresh fruits and vegetables (as we all know) can be enjoyed raw.

Be sure to keep foods stored cold enough to safely enjoy without fear of spoilage or contamination. One way of doing this is freezing a bunch of water in plastic containers and then, once the power goes, distributing these throughout your fridge and freezer (this could also be achieved with store-bought freezer packs), and be sure to keep the fridge and freezer closed as much as possible.

Any other tips you may have to share with fellow Care2 readers on the subject of eating well without power? What works, and what decidedly doesn’t?

Read more: All recipes, Blogs, Caregiving, Family, Food, Home, Household Hints, Parenting at the Crossroads, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Smart Shopping, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
1:35AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

I'm pretty good at setting up an open fire pit. Anything that can go on a stick or spit will do just fine, or even foil dinners. Potato & onion, anyone? Roasted in a fire? YUMMY

1:38PM PST on Nov 15, 2012

How can anybody read this advice if..........?

11:26AM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Well I'm down if people still know how to cook around the fire.

6:52AM PST on Nov 10, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

10:01AM PST on Nov 7, 2012

With ice storms and the like, we're used to extended power shortage, up here in Québec. I find that most freezers made after 1990 will keep the food from thawing for almost 48 hours IF NOBODY OPENS THE DOOR. So, as soon as the power goes out, I duck-tape the door to the freezer shut, just to remind my family and me that we shouldn't peek inside. After 48 hours or so, if (gods forbid) the power is still out and the temperature is below freezing point, I move the food outdoors, in a sturdy box with a tight closing lid that's animal-proof.
Trust me, here, these things very rarely happen when the temperature is ABOVE freezing point.
What do we eat in the mean time? Nuts, cheese, fruits and veggies, and canned food that still tastes good cold. We also have a gas stove but we save it for when we're really tired of cold foods (power shortages can last up to 2 weeks!), and make sure we've got good ventilation, if used indoors.
Hang in there, brothers and sisters!

10:03AM PST on Nov 6, 2012

Good and needed work. In this case tomatoes are such an excellent both fruit and vegetable! Thank you for sharing, wishes!

12:30AM PST on Nov 5, 2012


6:04PM PST on Nov 4, 2012

My mom always has impressed upon me the need for an "earthquake preparedness" kit, so I have cans of sterno that can heat up small amounts of canned soup etc, and cans of stuff that can be eaten cold, like fruit or baked beans (I mean stuff that doesn't taste too bad if you have to eat it cold!)

5:12PM PST on Nov 4, 2012


12:56PM PST on Nov 4, 2012

A gas stove solves almost all of these problems. You just have to buy canned ingredients and cook them.
We have power outages due to snow storms over here, and this way we can eat and keep ourselves warm (with hot-water bottles).

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