Amaya Rain

Wife. Mother. Crazy woman.

Get ready.

So, as a cruel joke of the universe, someone on Organized Home decided to post today about hurricane preparedness ala the pantry. Cruel, cruel women. Here I am stressing about grocery shopping, and now they have me thinking about preparedness as well. I mean, it’s okay, because the shopping I intend to do also involves a good bit of emergency preparedness, but still. Cruel Joke.

So, as someone who grew up in the midst of hurricane country, I have had a game plan for several years. Some of it is what I learned growing up, some what I learned not to do growing up, some is experience after coming through Hurricane Andrew (check your history books), and some is just sheer paranoia about being prepared for a family of 5, when we used to be a family of two.

Store what you eat, and eat what you store.

There is no more important rule than this. I detest tuna. Everyone hates tuna except my husband, who isn’t allowed to eat it when I’m around. So why would I keep some in my pantry? Because some list says I should have some, along with beef jerky, tinned chicken, sardines… someone shoot me. Because I’d much prefer hanging out in the neighbors’ yards eating up their dandelions than eating that junk.

But how will you get your protein? At times, my husband likes to eat beef soups, so we keep those on hand. My oldest, and her friends, have this weird obsession with Hormel chili on hot dogs, so we keep extras of chili. We tend to keep Velveeta on hand because we like to have it on hand when we get in the mood to make a chili cheese dip. The list goes on. I do admit, protein sources are lower in quanity in our home, but they are there. And if I keep 4 or 5 cans of coup, 12 cans of Hormel, a couple pounds of Velveeta, and a huge thing of peanut butter from Sam’s Club on hand, we’re not doing too bad. If we ate beans, we’d be definitely set, but none of us do. Notice that all of these need either no cooking, or just a couple of minutes of heat. Oh yeah, as far as that peanut butter, we buy it in the huge things, then just refill a jar as we go. When one tub is finished, we buy another, so there’s always at least one full one and some part of another one on hand at all times.

Most of our veggies are bought fresh or frozen. We really aren’t fans of canned veggies, so, again, we have an issue. However, I buy Niblettes corn by the case at Sam’s, and never, ever run low. We usually have a large can or two of yams, and various veggies that get bought for some reason or another. I generally buy veggies enough for at least a week (usually two) for the family, plus we always have potatoes and onions by the bushel (okay, maybe not that many, but a lot). So without any rationing or changing our buying habits, we have at the very least a week’s worth of fresh vegetables on hand, plus whatever extra is in the pantry, which is probably a good couple of weeks’ worth.

And let’s not forget, tomatoes are veggies and fruit. To that end, I probably have a month’s worth of tomatoes and tomato products on hand at all times.

Speaking of fruits, they are plentiful in this house. All the kids love them. We usually buy enough bananas for a week (just about everyone eats one a day). Then we have various other fresh fruit that keeps for a while – apples, oranges, whatever is in season, really – always around. Add to that numerous forms of canned fruit (we buy fruit canned in natural juices only) and applesauce, and we could survive just on fruit for at least 2 weeks.

Carbs are never in short supply in this house, happily for me, sadly for my waist. At any time, the least we will have in the house is a box of Ritz, a box of saltines, a couple of boxes of graham crackers, 5 pounds of pasta (a minimum of a box/bag of each shape we use regularly), 10 pounds of rice (Southern family, it’s a must), a bag of flour, a bag of corn meal, a canister of old fashioned oats, a box or two of quick/instant oats, a couple of boxes of grits, a box or two of cream of wheat… I think you get the picture.

Now we get to miscellaneous items. Cereal bars, jams, jellies, sugars, relishes/pickles, jarred peppers, convenience foods such as rice or pasta mixes, pudding mixes, jello, dry milk, junk food… the list goes on and on. These rotate in importance so I don’t really count them as part of any emergency meal plan. I do, however, count butter, even though it is refrigerated (more on fridge food later).

A shelf of a pantry is generally devoted to “meals”. For instance, I have a bag of pasta, a couple of cans of Hunt’s Traditional Spaghetti Sauce and a can of tomato paste together on a shelf. That way, if I’m in a hurry, I don’t have to think, it’s all right there, I can grab it and go. If I forget to add an onion, it’s no big deal, because it’s edible on its own. I’ll also keep rice, cream of mushroom soup and lipton onion soup mix together, because I make meatloaf gravy with that, so it’s all together when I want meatloaf. That translates into “I don’t have to think about it” portable meals if we have to evacuate somewhere. Although, with hurricanes, there is a bit more prep time… I’m thinking if there’s a need to evacuate for tonadoes or an environmental issue here (we live near a major waterway, interstate, and railway. Have to think of this stuff).

Baby things! With the twins, I hit hurricane season full tilt. I was unable to breastfeed past 3 months, so when storm time approached, I was terrifed that I wouldn’t be able to feed them if something happened. So we always had at least a month’s worth of formula on hand, in addition to a month’s worth of diapers, disposable bottle liners, etc.

I’ve always kept bottled water on hand. When I belong to a delivery service, I keep several more bottles than I need so that I always have at least a weeks’ worth of drinking water on hand. For a hurricane, cleaning water and such usually comes from filling the bathtub or other containers last minute. There is also always a bottle of bleach nearby that is rotated out every couple of years.

But what about the fridge and freezer? Here’s some hints from me:

  • When you know a storm is possibly coming, check out your freezer. I’ve been known to take out small, easily defrosted items like chicken cutlets, thin-cut chops, etc., and go ahead and cook them in the days leading up to the storm. They’ll be the first to defrost and go bad if we lose electricity, so why not eat them first!
  • Rearrange the freezer so that space is maximized, everything is packed together as well as possible. Now is not the time to worry about if you can find your leftover chili a few weeks from now.
  • Fill to 2/3 empty milk jugs or soda bottles with water, and put in the freezer if you have big empty spaces. Otherwise, 2/3 fill sturdy zipper bags with water and stuff them in the in-between spaces. Also, find all those old blue jugs that you put in lunchboxes and such. They defrost at a slower rate than water, and will help keep the temperature down.
  • Turn it on the coldest setting possible. Have someone press your door as tightly as it will seal, and duct tape the thing shut. Do not open it for at least 12 hours, preferably 24, before you think the possiblity of losing power will arrive (which can be up to a day or two before the storm, depending on the feeder bands).
  • Check your refrigerator. Take out your butter (real butter). It won’t go bad on the counter. I promise. Also remove any and all drinks and put them into ice chests. Plan on not opening the fridge until electricity is back on, or until you know that everything in it will be going bad (then you want to clean it out ASAP so it won’t start rotting).
  • You may want to use frozen water jugs in the fridge as well. If you turn it on its coldest settings, move as much as you can to the coldest parts of the fridge, and add these huge blocks of ice, you’re likely to save everything in there.
  • MAYO! For pantry purposes, although I’m usually all about bulk buying, buy small bottles during the summer if you live in a storm-prone area. You have to refrigerate it once it’s open, but until then and for several hours, you’re okay… so you can open one jar, give everyone on your block mayo for their sandwich for lunch and dinner, and still have some left over.

Okay. That was huge. I’m going to bed now, and dream paranoid dreams about price tags coming to get me in the grocery (not that anyone uses price tags anymore in a grocery store)…

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February 13, 2007 Posted by | Common Sense, emergency preparation, hurricane preparedness | Leave a comment