By Jan Norris
The dog days of summer inevitably signal hurricane season in earnest. We’ve been lucky so far, but it’s definitely time to get your house ready for a storm, and that includes your kitchen.
Now’s the time to clean out the freezer and whittle down the big meats and quantities of fish that you really hate to lose. Cook them up, and then start buying only what you need for a few weeks at a time. Resist “bargain buys” that could leave you out money if the power goes out and you lose the freezer contents. Note that while most homeowner policies cover freezer content loss, unless you have other significant damage, it’s likely not equal to your deductible.
A better plan is to start making ice blocks — stock the freezer shelves with well-cleaned milk and juice jugs filled with water. These can be used in coolers after the storm, and provide drinking water as well. You also can buy frozen vegetables without sauce. Plain peas, broccoli, green beans, spinach and carrots will keep once thawed (and kept cold) for a couple of days in the cooler, and provide nutrients missing from fresh vegetables, at least for a few days. They’re pre-cooked and taste OK thawed. Remember: Plain only, no sauce.
Before cleaning, take stock of the pantry and don’t forget to photograph everything in your kitchen, opening drawers and doors so you can prove loss in case of flood or wind damage. Have a hurricane “kitchen emergency equipment” kit — a 30-gallon sealable tub is good for this. In it, consider packing these things:
Large box of matches, sealed in a plastic bag
Portable cookstove (or 1-burner electric hot plate)
Cans of propane gas
Propane-powered camping light. Don’t attempt to cook in the dark.
Bottle of waterless hand-sanitizer
Disposable wipe cloths
Liquid dish soap
Paper plates, plastic drinkware and plastic serving ware
Medium pot that can go on a grill (cast iron is recommended; no thin cookware)
Press coffee pot
Extension cord, in case you have a power source nearby
Charcoal for a grill
Have two large coolers on hand
For an emergency food stash, here are staples we recommend, and some we recommend that you avoid:
Dry cereal — individual servings packed in a cup are a smart choice
Dried fruits in individual bags (apricots and figs provide much needed calcium and potassium)
Canned pudding (good calcium, and it’s a creamy treat)
Ready-to-eat soups — potato soup is good cold, as is tomato
Canned beans — choose a variety
Tuna, salmon or chicken in foil pouches (better flavor than canned)
Sardines or anchovies, for flavoring other dishes
Shelf-stable bacon and smoked fish (for flavor in other dishes)
Hard salami, jerky, pepperoni and other commercially hard-cured meats that are stable until opened Salsa
Jarred pasta sauce
Jars of roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes
Canned chili, spaghetti and noodle-Os
Couscous or angel-hair pasta — these starches require very little water to prepare
Ready-to-eat rice in foil packages
Flavored flatbreads or bagel chips
Jugs of fruit juices and vegetable juices
Canned fruits and vegetables (pineapple and oranges are good choices for vitamin C)
American cheese slices, other processed cheeses (these are all shelf stable)
Shelf-stable milk (Parmalat is a brand-name of cow’s milk, but soy, rice and goats’ milk are available ) Individual packets of mayonnaise
Infant formula, baby food
Extra pet foods
Fresh lemons. They’ll last a long while and make plain water much more refreshing- and you can use the rinds to scrub dishes and kill smells in trash cans.
Water — at least 1 gallon of water a day per person — one week’s supply minimum. (Remember how hot it is without AC and how much you’ll need to drink.)
Be prepared to shop for dry ice if a hurricane watch is issued. Many grocery stores now provide it, but almost all ship stores carry it. Use care in handling and do NOT put it into a freezer that’s working; it will trick the thermostat and cut off the freezer’s compressor.
potato chips, salty crackers, pretzels, candy, sodas and excess beer and wine. (You need your wits; more people die from accidents after storms than during one). These foods will dehydrate you — a bad move when water is scarce.
We won’t kid you — it’s challenging to try to cook a real meal under no-power circumstances, even if you have a gas stove. Lighting is bad, and washing pots and pans is tough, especially if you must boil water to do it.
But after a week of grilled hot dogs or peanut butter or tuna sandwiches, you’ll welcome these fast-fix ideas for “real” food:
Tear open a pack of ready-to-eat Spanish rice; add some roasted red peppers, hard sausage slices and a can of drained kidney beans.
Packet of foil-wrapped tuna filets, broken over a can of sliced potatoes, a can of green beans, some black olives and a few capers. Dress with bottled vinaigrette (a Greek vinaigrette with oregano makes this sing).
Asian peanut noodles:
Boil angel-hair pasta (add hot water to a pot and let stand, or use Ramen noodles and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the broth). Add a generous tablespoon of peanut butter, a teaspoon of sesame oil and some dried chives. Add thawed frozen chopped spinach or broccoli (the plain stuff, no sauce). Stir well.
Layer broken tortilla chips, canned vegetarian refried beans mixed with a little cumin (or canned chili if you eat meat), canned green chilies and salsa in a square glass dish. This one’s kid-friendly.
Crunchy parfait dessert:
Layer dark chocolate canned pudding in a fancy glass with crushed chocolate or almond biscotti and canned (drained) dark cherries. Sprinkle cocoa powder on top.
Layer vanilla pudding or canned dulce de leche pudding mixed with frozen whipped topping, with: crushed pineapple, flaked coconut and rum-soaked ladyfingers. Top with a rum-soaked sugar cube, lit with a match, and serve immediately.