It is an understatement to say that Sandy was a devastating storm. No one in the northeast was unaffected. Everyone has friends, coworkers and neighbors who were nailed with loss of power, property and transportation. We all feel powerless to Mother Nature, and it is difficult to figure out where to begin to help.
Right now as I write this, there is another round of weather — this time rain, snow and wind, so we may be in for a season of relentless nastiness. Hopefully we won’t be hit with another Sandy anytime in the near future, and the very worst is behind us as we rebuild and repair. When storms are looming, it is human nature to stock our refrigerators and clear the supermarket shelves of bread. I’m reminding you that I do understand the desire to eat comfort food and hunker down under the covers, but when life returns to normal, and the storm begins to clear, you’ll be proud of yourself if you didn’t let your health efforts fall too low on your priority list. Let’s keep you on your game, even if you lose power and don’t have a refrigerator or stove. Here’s how:
Store wisely! If you do not have a refrigerator and the temperature outside is 40°F or below, use your windowsill, balcony, fire escape or patio as a refrigerator. Store your food out of the sunshine and keep it in a bin if possible.
If you have coolers, you can use your coolers as an icebox – use ice or frozen vegetables and store your perishable items as tightly packed together as possible. If you can plan ahead, freezing water bottles is a good idea so that it keeps your food cold and as the ice melts you have drinking water.
Shelf life 101: If you are wondering what the best produce is to buy, look at how your supermarket is selling your fruits and veggies. You’ll notice that tomatoes, oranges, apples, lemons, onions and melons are sold at room temperature. They do not need the extra chill and are your best bets when you need your produce to last. Buy single servings of the vegetables you want that need refrigeration and eat them right away. A pre-made salad or steamed veggies from a Chinese restaurant can supplement the foods you are eating at home. Even when homes are without power, lots of restaurants and supermarkets run on generators. You may find a market with ready to eat salads or a hot bar that is unaffected.
- Foods that need refrigeration should be eaten within about 4 hours – after that they may not be safe and should be tossed.
- If you open a can and do not finish what is inside, remember to store the leftovers in an airtight container. Oxygen and aluminum cause reactions that can ruin your food.
- If you do not have safe drinking water, use bottled water to wash your produce, or wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
- If you have something that has begun to grow mold, such as cheese, bread or deli meat, do not cut off the mold and eat the rest – some of the mold or bacteria is not visible to the eye and it is not worth the risk of getting sick.
What to buy . . .
You should always have a well stocked pantry, especially in the winter, so take some time to prepare yourself for the season ahead. If you can prepare yourself without the pressure and mad rush of a storm coming soon, do your research and buy canned foods that are BPA free and choose sustainable canned seafood, such as wild canned salmon.
Especially if the power is going to be out for a long period of time, plan on stocking up on these items:
- Shelf stable soy, almond or rice milk or Parmalat® milk in individual portions
- From a regular supermarket, Instant breakfast powder, protein powder or Ovaltine
- From a health food store: Tera’s whey (http://www.teraswhey.com/) and Amazing Grass Amazing Meal (http://amazinggrass.com/)
- Canned tuna fish, sardines, and salmon
- Dried meats, such as jerky – look for turkey jerky and salmon jerky
- Canned beans
- Peanut butter, sesame or almond butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Bars such as Kind, Lara
- Crackers such as Wasa, Ryvita, Finn Crisp, Marys Gone Crackers Twigs and Sticks
- Suzie’s thin cakes and crackers
- High fiber cereal or granola – I like Nature’s Path Smartbran
- Fresh fruits (wash thoroughly with drinking water before eating)
- Canned or dried fruits – Look for no sugar added and canned in water or juice
- Fruit leather
- Small containers of vegetable juice
- Fresh vegetables (wash thoroughly with drinking water before eating)
- Olive oil
- Hot sauce
- Soy sauce
Remember to keep an eye on expiration dates and close your bags tightly to prevent moisture and insects from invading. If your cans are dented, rusty or your safety seals do not pop up, do not eat the food. It isn’t worth having no power and a food-borne illness.
Hopefully you are safe, warm and unaffected by Sandy. Use this list to help you prepare in the future days and months ahead, and share this with friends and people you know who may be able to use it, too. Enjoy an occasional glass of wine and keep a sense of humor when things seem really bleak.