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What to Buy for Your Hurricane Food Kit

June 18, 2020

The arrival of hurricane season brings with it the annual reminder to prepare in advance. Fortunately, many resources exist to help guide decisions for purchasing supplies in preparation for a potential emergency. Planning for food is an essential part of hurricane preparedness.

Knowing what to have on hand, how much to buy and how to properly store your food ensures readiness if a storm hits. Having a predetermined menu plan and purchasing non-perishables ahead of time avoids the last-minute rush to overcrowded stores where shelf-stable items may be in limited supply. 

Stocking Up

Effective food planning begins with first determining the amount of food needed. The Red Cross recommends at least a three-day food supply (and even up to two weeks). In planning for three days’ of food, a family of four needs enough supplies on hand for 36 meals. Although the math makes the task seem daunting, planning simplifies the process as does using recipes that require very few ingredients.

  • Grill time: Decide if you want to use a charcoal or propane grill to cook if you lose electricity and prepare accordingly. 
  • Keep it simple: Create a menu using recipes that require few ingredients. Consider simple, nutritious foods like peanut butter and jelly, cold cereal and spaghetti. 
  • Drink up: Remember to include enough drinking water to supply one gallon per person per day (up to 10 gallons per person). Purchase large water jugs that hold several gallons or buy a five-gallon water bottle every time you go to the store.
  • Family favorites: Generate a check-list of family-favorite, self-stable foods, keeping nutrition in mind. Plan to include whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice; low-sodium canned items; and lower-sugar bars, cereals and snacks. 
  • BOGOs: Buy non-perishable items ahead of time, and take advantage of BOGOs for cereal or snack bars then set aside one box for the hurricane kit.
  • Leftovers from last season: Check the shelf life on products from the previous hurricane season and refill stores with targeted items that fill out your family menu plan.
  • Fresh supplies: Write expiration dates on cans with markers for easy identification and follow food storage guidelines to keep supplies fresh. 

Pantry Staples and Storage

Use this guide as you stock your pantry for hurricane season.

Food Categories

Use within 6 months*

 Use within 1 year*

 Greater than 1 year**

Grains

· Crackers

· Tortilla chips

· Popcorn

· Ready to eat rice/pasta

 · Cereal

 · Granola

 · Instant oatmeal

 · Cereal/snack bars

 · Instant brown rice

 · Graham crackers

 · Pasta

 · White rice

Proteins

 · Canned tuna, salmon, chicken

 · Peanut butter, almond butter

 · Nuts, seeds

 · Canned beans and peas: black, pinto, garbanzo, black-eyed peas

 · Bean and pea soup

Fruits

· Dried fruit: raisins, apricots

· Individual applesauce

 · Canned fruit or fruit cups in 100% juice: pineapple, peaches

Vegetables

· Potatoes

 · Canned vegetables: diced tomatoes, corn, carrots, green beans, green chilies

 · Spaghetti sauce

 · Tomato paste

 · Instant potatoes

Oils

 · Canola oil

 · Olive oil

Beverages

· Powdered milk

· Shelf stable milk/milk substitutes

 · Canned evaporated milk

 · 100% fruit juice

 · Instant coffee, tea, cocoa

 · Bottled water

Miscellaneous

 · Canned soups

 · Instant soup, bouillon

 · Jelly

 · Salsa

 · Mayonnaise, ketchup packets

 · Grated parmesan cheese

 · Mustard packets

 · Chili powder

 · Garlic powder

 · Onion powder

Food Storage Source: Food and Water in an Emergency and Food Keeper

*or by date on label

**when stored in proper containers and conditions

Sample Menu Ideas

Breakfast

  • Cereal with milk/milk substitute and banana 
  • Instant oatmeal with raisins and nuts
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese in tortilla 

Lunch

  • Bean soup with crackers and baby carrots
  • Tuna sandwich with celery sticks
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with apple slices

Dinner

  • Spaghetti: Whole wheat spaghetti noodles with spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese and green beans
  • Rice and Beans: Black beans and instant brown rice mixed with canned tomatoes
  • Taco Soup: Drained pinto beans and corn with added canned tomatoes and green chilies, seasoned with chili powder

Snacks

  • Tortilla chips and salsa
  • Crackers and peanut butter 
  • Popcorn mixed with nuts and raisins

As the Storm Approaches

Keep an eye on approaching hurricanes and prep your fridge and freezer accordingly. Make a last-minute grocery run for foods that either can be frozen or eaten in the first couple of days after the storm. Pick perishable foods like fresh or frozen lean meat and poultry, cheese and eggs that enhance or accompany your dry-goods menu. Select fruits and vegetables with a longer shelf-life such as onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, bananas, apples and oranges. Remember to buy bread or bread products for sandwiches. 

Lastly, prepare for the possibility of a limited water supply and no electricity. Have all the tools needed for using a charcoal or propane grill. Assemble disposable utensils, plates, cups and paper towels as well as a manual can opener and garbage bags. 

Once your hurricane plan and supplies are in place, familiarize yourself with food safety during and after a hurricane to ensure your family remains safe after the storm passes.

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