What to Buy When Stocking up For a Big Storm

Stocking_the_Pantry_For A Storm

Stocking up for the Big Storm

When an impending storm is coming, you want to be sure that you have enough food and supplies to get by for at least one week.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  It’s important to plan ahead for the big storm.  See below for what to buy and ideas for how to prepare for hunkering down at home. 

In March 2009 I was living in the foothills of Colorado and we had a massive spring snowstorm that dumped 5 feet of snow over Genessee.  We lost power for three days and I had never felt more unprepared than during that storm.  I was pregnant with my third child, I had a toddler and a 4-year-old and we were cold and hungry. 

Panic quickly set in and I froze (literally), not knowing what to do.   Since then, I’ve adopted a boy scout motto – “always be prepared” and I am sharing with you my tips for weathering a storm and what to buy and make if you don’t have power, or are stuck at home for days because of a blizzard, ice storm or another natural event. 

First, just breathe.  It’s going to be ok and you will get through it.  Colorado weather comes and goes quickly, so you may be stuck at home for a few days, but you’ll get through. 

You want to make sure you have a well-stocked pantry.   You can make many meals from pantry staples, you just need to think outside the box and be creative.  It’s challenging when you use a lot of fresh meats and veggies to plan your meals, but many nutritious meals can be made from the pantry. 

Read 15 Meals You Can Make Using Pantry Staples

If possible – stock up on fresh fruits and veggies that have a long shelf life and that you can eat raw or use to create simple meals.

Longer-term fresh fruits that have a longer shelf life include apples, oranges, grapefruits, clementines, firm pears.

Longer shelf life vegetables that can also be eaten raw include bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, jicama, firm avocados.

Related reading: How To Store Vegetables to Keep Them Fresh Longer

Ways to Cook Food Without Power

Remember that you have several ways to still cook food without power.  A benefit of living in Colorado, so many of us camp, you can pretend you are camping in your home and pull out the camping supplies.

  • Use a gas or charcoal grill – just be sure you have propane and that the grill is accessible and not covered with snow
  • Mini-camping stove with propane – use outside of course, not in your home
  • Gas stove – if you have a gas stove – you will still have gas if the power goes out.  You will just need a lighter or matches.

If you have one of the above, you can boil water to make pasta, rice, grill, or saute meat, veggies, and make a complete meal. 

If you do not have one of the above – then you will need to get creative with fresh raw fruits, veggies, and pantry staples to get by until the power comes back on.  

Pantry items to stock up on for an extended stay at home

Think convenience foods that you can quickly heat and eat or combine together to eat cold if you don’t have power. 

  • peanut butter and jelly
  • low sodium canned beans
  • canned tomatoes
  • canned soups
  • canned tuna
  • canned chicken
  • tortillas
  • bread
  • pasta
  • rice
  • cereal, oats, instant oatmeal packets
  • evaporated milk or aseptic milk cartons
  • snacks – crackers, granola bars, pretzels
  • ramen noodles
  • broth
  • roasted red peppers, pepperoncini
  • condiments – mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, olive oil
  • paper plates
  • bottled water 
  • instant coffee
  • toilet paper

If you have babies at home – be sure to have enough diapers, wipes, and formula on hand at all times.  Be sure to also have enough feminine products on hand for all the women in your family. 

Refrigerator and Freezer Staples to Have on Hand:

You want to have a stocked refrigerator and freezer to be able to pull meals together if you are stuck at home.    It’s really best to plan ahead and plan your meals based on what you have on hand. 

  • meat – ground beef, chicken, hot dogs, frozen seafood, can be thawed and cooked on a grill
  • frozen pizzas – can be cooked on a grill
  • frozen veggies and fruits
  • eggs
  • cheese – hard cheeses like parmesan last longer without refrigeration
  • fresh vegetables that you can grill, like peppers, onions, and zucchini
  • fresh vegetables you can eat cold and raw – cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, Romaine

Emergency Supplies to Have on Hand for Cooking with No Power

This list of items is basic cooking supplies to have on hand if you lose power.    Assuming you have a grill, mini camping stove, or gas stove, you can cook a meal for your family.

  • mini camping stove
  • grill
  • propane
  • lighter and matches
  • flashlight
  • batteries
  • coffee percolator 
  • kettle to boil water on the grill or camping stove
  • bottled water

If the power goes out, you will want to find ways to entertain the family – be prepared with card games, board games, forts, dress-up parties, sledding, tubing, building a snowman – family bonding activities that don’t remind kids that the power is out.

Things to Make Before the Storm:

Making a few things ahead of time that you can use to quickly pull together meals or have ready to eat is the key to weathering the storm.  Also planning a few meals and even cooking them before the power goes out will save you in the long run. 

Tip 1: Have cooked pasta on hand in the refrigerator

Boil pasta – any shape and store it in a gallon size bag.  You can quickly pull together a pasta salad with pantry staples. But you need to have prepared pasta on hand to do so.  If you don’t have power – you won’t be able to boil water to make the pasta. 

Tuna Puttanesca

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Tip 2: Make overnight oats for quick breakfasts

Wake up to a nutritious and filling breakfast of oatmeal in the refrigerator that doesn’t need to be heated.   Simply combine oats, your choice of milk and fruit or toppings in mason jars and refrigerate overnight. 

Strawberry Overnight Oats With Greek Yogurt

Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats

Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats

Tip 3: Buy a Rotisserie Chicken

You can quickly pull together chicken fajitas, cold chicken sandwiches, make chicken salad with pantry staples, and add shredded chicken to pasta and rice dishes.

15 Ways to Use Roasted Chicken For Meal Prep


Tip 4: Bake some quick bread to have on hand

If the power goes out, you won’t be able to bake, but you can still enjoy healthier baked goods if you make them ahead of time. 

You can make banana bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, or carrot cake muffins to have a healthy, fiber-filled treat on hand to serve your family. 


Tip 5: Make a batch of tuna or chicken salad and some hard-boiled eggs to have ready for quick lunches or dinner in a pinch. 

See classic tuna salad recipe here. 

See  How to Cook Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs at High Altitude 3 Methods

Tip 6: Plan your meals ahead of time

If you know what you plan to eat, you can have the ingredients on hand, rather than scramble to pull together meals with half the ingredients.  If the power goes out – you’ll be ready. 

Remember, you can eat almost any food cold.  It may not be your favorite meal – but it certainly will be memorable.    In fact – cold salmon and cold roasted chicken on a sandwich with mayo are the best. 


What to Do With Frozen and Refrigerated Foods in the Event of Power Outage

It’s important to keep the freezer full.  You can fill empty milk gallons with water if you have space, or place full water bottles to fill the empty spaces and help keep things cold.   The water will freeze, helping keep the food cold.  

If the power goes out, you’ll want to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as long as possible.  According to the FDA:

  1. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
    • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
    • full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
  2. Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18 cubic foot, fully stocked freezer cold for two days.

If you have any other tips for weathering the storm, be sure to leave them in the comments below.  

This article was written for a Fox31 News Story that aired on March 11th.  See the story here

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