What To Eat When The Power Goes Out

Daisy Luther
By Daisy Luther January 29, 2019 07:12

What To Eat When The Power Goes Out

When you’re in for some turbulent weather, do you head to the store with a list entitled, “Food for Power Outage?” Or do you already have a supply of food for power outages that you keep carefully hidden from your family? Many folks these days don’t have a way to cook when the power goes out, so that should be considered when creating your supply of the best foods for a power outage. If you don’t already have a stockpile of non-perishable food that doesn’t require cooking, it’s time to build one.

In my family, a power outage means party time and some foods that we do not usually indulge in. Of course, we do have backup cooking methods for heating food when the electricity goes out, but if the event is going to be short-term, we usually focus on food that doesn’t need to be cooked.

While you may have a fireplace or woodstove, in the summer you won’t want to heat the house up with it, and during a storm, you won’t want to stand outside in the rain cooking on the barbecue.  So, during a short-term power outage, it makes life easier in many cases to eat things that don’t require much in the way of preparation.

What non-perishable food should you buy when a storm is coming?

The radio and preparedness websites always tell you to stock up on non-perishable food, but what is it?

Non-perishable foods are items that are shelf-stable and will not spoil if left out at room temperature for a long period of time. Some examples of non-perishable foods are:

  • Canned goods
  • Packaged dry food (like potato flakes or pasta dishes)
  • Cheese or peanut butter crackers
  • Beef jerky
  • Applesauce
  • Pudding
  • Fruit cups
  • Granola bars

Dried goods like beans and grains are also non-perishable, but they aren’t very practical for a power outage.

Related: How to Prevent Your Foods from Going Rancid

The Best Food for Power Outages

Depending on your budget, on what is available, and your diet, here are some ideas for food to eat when the power goes out.

  1. Graham crackers with peanut butter or almond butter
  2. Protein shakes – my favorite is Reserveage Organics (in chocolate, of course!)
  3. Saltines with peanut butter
  4. Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas)
  5. Canned juice
  6. Trail mix (this is our favorite)
  7. Dry cereal
  8. Cereal with rehydrated dry milk
  9. Canned baked beans with ham
  10. Pretzels
  11. Nuts
  12.  Pudding cups
  13. Canned fruit
  14. Jerky (This one is organic)
  15. Pouches of pre-cooked and seasoned rice or quinoa
  16. Cookies
  17. Granola bars – we like Kind bars (my favorites is Dark Chocolate, Nuts, & Sea Salt)
  18. Crackers
  19. Dried Fruits: apricot, mango, banana, raisins, cranberries, pineapple, figs
  20. Sandwiches: Peanut butter and jelly, tuna, leftovers from the fridge before they spoil

No-Power “Recipes”

Following are some “recipes” for power outage food.  Okay, “recipe” is a stretch – perhaps just some “tasty combinations”.  🙂

  • No-Power Nachos

Layer organic tortilla chips with canned cheese sauce, salsa, and canned jalapenos

  • Blackout ‘Smores

Top graham crackers with chocolate-nut spread and marshmallow fluff

  • Wraps

Soft tortillas filled with canned meat, a touch of mustard or mayo, and veggies from the fridge

  • No-cook Soft Tacos

Soft tortillas with canned meat (we use our home canned chicken or taco meat for this), salsa, and canned cheese sauce

  • Main Dish Tuna Salad

Combine a can of tuna, a can of white beans, chopped onion, chopped peppers and chopped black olives (veggies are optional).  Top with Italian dressing mixed with dijon mustard to taste.

  • Pudding Cones

Drain canned fruit of choice and stir it into vanilla pudding.  Serve in ice cream cones for a kid-friendly treat. (We do this with yogurt also.)

  • Mexican Bean Salad

Combine 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed; with 1 can of organic corn, drained.  For the dressing mix 1/2 jar of salsa; 1/2 tsp each of chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder; 3 tbsp of lemon juice.  Toss well.  Serve as a salad, in a soft tortilla or mixed with a pouch of pre-cooked rice.

Do you have any no-cook ideas for the stockpile?  Please share them in the comments section!

Related: 50 Foods to Dehydrate for Your Stockpile

What should you do about food in the refrigerator when the power goes out?

If you’re pretty sure the event is short-term, keep the refrigerator door closed to help prevent the food inside from spoiling. (Here’s a chart to help determine if the food is safe to eat or not.) For food safety purposes, it’s a good idea to grab a digital thermometer so that you can tell what the temperature is in your refrigerator and freezer. I keep one of these in the fridge and one in the freezer.

If you do get items from the refrigerator, plan it out so you can quickly grab all the things and then close the door again to help maintain the temperature while the electricity is out.

If it appears to be a longer-term event, you’re going to want to make a plan for the food in your refrigerator and freezer to help prevent it from going to waste. If you have a way to pressure can without power, you can learn how to preserve your meat and vegetables before they go to waste in this book.

  • Some ways to use up the food before it spoils:
  • Put the items you’d most hate to lose into a cooler full of ice. (For us, that’s meat and cream for our coffee)
  • Eat refrigerated leftovers, fruits, and vegetables first.
  • Make sandwiches and put them in the cooler.
  • Throw a barbecue and invite all the neighbors. It’s better than throwing it out, right?

If you do end up having to dispose of food, try to bag it up and put it in the outdoor garbage can before it begins to decompose. The stench is terrible and you will never, ever get it out of your freezer. I learned this horrifying lesson when a repairman unplugged my freezer for one of his tools and failed to plug it back in. I discovered the error 3 weeks later. Really, that’s all the detail you need to know. Trust me.

Related: How to Use Acorns as Survival Food

Use disposable items to conserve water during a power outage.

If you are on well-water, if the power goes out, you will probably not have any running water. As well, even if you are on city water, the fluid from the taps may be contaminated and may not be hot. To circumvent a few difficulties, we stock up on disposable goods to use during power outages:

  • Styrofoam plates
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Plastic cups

Even if you’re normally very eco-friendly, you will find that these items make your life during a power outage so much easier.

This article was written by Daisy Luther and first appeared on The Organic Prepper.

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Daisy Luther
By Daisy Luther January 29, 2019 07:12
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  1. efzapp January 29, 14:15

    #1 Don’t use styrofoam plates;buy paper plate that you can burn. #2 If you have no power for 3 days then chances are everything in your freezer is no longer good. The smell of rotten meat is really bad. Rather than cleaning out the freezer with the stench just allow everything to freezer again and then clean it out. Trust me a frozen rotten roast smells better than a defrosted bloody rotten roast.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Sharon January 29, 14:18

    How can we get rid of the smell/taste of food that comes in plastic, or paper like Graham crackers, saltines, cereal, etc.?

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 29, 22:28

      My taste buds and sense of smell isn’t delicate enough to detect any particular taste from the plastic impregnated paper wrapping saltines or cereal. So no answer to your query.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Hoosier Homesteader January 29, 14:19

    Good post!
    I have NEVER thought of protein drinks before! Great idea! They’d be great to have in your vehicle too, and your BOB.
    Matches and BIC lighters. Have an extensive stock of these on hand. If the outage is short term, or EMP related, you’ll be glad you have them. They’d be a good barter item too.

    Reply to this comment
    • Chris. January 29, 19:22

      From experience I can tell you, don’t drive around too long with a box of protein drinks/meal replacement drinks in a vehicle that isn’t ALWAYS parked in the shade. Just a week in the wrong spot will leave you with a really unpleasant mess to clean. If I could afford it I’d have been better off buying a new pickup.

      Reply to this comment
      • Hoosier Homesteader January 29, 21:37

        Absolutely, Chris. I was “thinking” of powdered protein drinks and that, of course, would be missed by most.
        I’ll look at the packages before I choose; even the powdered drinks may not stand up to the heat of a vehicle in summer. BUT, they’ll be A OK for a home stocking item!

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck January 31, 03:21

          Hoosier: I can’t think of anything untoward happening to a powdered protein drink no matter how hot the car except that it might lose some of its efficacy. In a cool, moist climate like San Francisco, it might get clumpy and you might have to chop it apart before adding liquid, but powder generally is pretty stable. What brand did you have in mind?

          Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck January 29, 22:32

        Chris: Was the protein drink in cans or aluminized paper cartons sitting in your car? If in cans, did the cans rupture?

        Did you make any attempt to insulate them in your car?

        I keep all my emergency food and water in my car in a styrofoam ice chest. The only item not in an ice chests is the SOS emergency survival bars but I have them wrapped in several inches of newspaper to act as insulation. They are supposed to be good through some extremes of temperature but I use the newspaper to level out temperature swings.

        Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck January 31, 03:18

        It really doesn’t help when someone posts something like this that says that protein drink caused a big mess in his car because he didn’t park under the shade for a week.

        That doesn’t give enough detail for any of us to make some kind of informed decisions. As I indicated in my post, some drinks are in those cardboard/aluminum foil lined cartons. Some drinks are in metal cans. We don’t know what kind of container the drinks were in that Chris makes reference to.

        Did the containers explode spontaneously or did the drink gush out when Chris opened the container? We don’t know and while some might say it makes no difference, others might say if we thought there was a chance of the contents gushing out like a bottle of champagne that has been shaken, we could take precautions and open it outside the car in the Kwiki-Mart parking lot rather than inside our garage or worse yet, inside our car inside our garage.

        I assume that Chris had some difficulty cleaning the spilled contents up in his truck but we don’t know if it was just a sticky mess or if the contents were spoiled and methane gas caused the spillage and not only was it a sticky mess but also smelled bad.

        Where was the car not parked in the shade? Was it Phoenix in August or Duluth in December or somewhere in between those two extremes?

        Maybe no one else cares about the answers to those questions, but I have just acquired a case of protein drink because it had occurred to me that it was an easy to satisfy a protein need that would not require any refrigeration or cooking. Might not taste as good as the prime rib from House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, but in an EOTW situation, beggars can’t be choosers and protein is protein. The body can’t tell the difference between a protein drink and a big slice of prime rib — well, once it is past the mouth and down the esophagus anyway.

        Reply to this comment
  4. Graywolf12 January 29, 17:13

    We stock Progresso soup because it requires no water.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 29, 22:33

      The only problem with Progresso soup is that it is thin in calories as I noted in my lengthy post. For long term it needs augmentation to boost the calorie content.

      Reply to this comment
  5. TruthB Told January 29, 18:28

    Chips and salsa should be at the top of the list.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Doc January 29, 21:00

    A back up camp stove will make good use of those beans and pasta. Mine runs on both liquid and propane also have a single burner that is used for coffee in every blackout. CYA I also keep a 1 gal propane tank as a backup or for a quick fishing trip, 20 gal on the BBQ and a couple disposable canisters. Solar Generator for power backup 2400 watts continual and LED Lighting lights entire home using only 120 watts with all lights on. Infrared/convection tabletop oven and a nuwave induction cook plate and a 1100 watt nuke, completes the cooking needs. I find this works well for me, hope others do as well.
    We may need this info sooner than later the way things are looking in the world, sure glad I live in the middle of nowhere even if it is 26 miles to the grocery store. It will be ugly in towns and large cities. God Be With Us All.

    Reply to this comment
  7. andy January 29, 21:54

    Our propane stove only requires power to auto light. No power, simply turn on a burner and light with a match.
    Our freezers are on solar with battery backup.

    Reply to this comment
  8. left coast chuck January 29, 22:26

    If the power goes out for some unknown reason, the first thing I would do is phone the electric company to get a report on why the electricity is off and their estimate of when it will be back on. If it is of short duration of a couple of hours, I would ascertain that no one opened either the freezer or the fridge until the power was back on.

    Lacking that information, I would make a quick trip to the dry ice store and pick up a significant supply of dry ice. I would then transfer everything I wanted to keep frozen into one or more ice chests and pack them with dry ice. I would then put the ice chests on blankets or some other insulating material so they wouldn’t lose cold through contact with the floor. I would finish draping insulating material over the ice chests to reduce loss of cold through the walls and the lid.

    I would move everything else that had to be kept cool into other ice chests and place the frozen water that I keep in the freezer in those ice chests.

    I would try my best to limit entry into those ice chests for the duration of the blackout.

    I would next retrieve my camping stove and lanterns from their storage and make them ready for cooking and lighting. I would also set up my Sterno stove and Sterno cans for small items that need to be cooked.

    I wouldn’t worry about changing my diet a bit. Instead of baked potatoes, I would have home style fried potatoes. Instead of roast, I would either pan fry it or if it was too tough for frying I would slow cook it over my camping stove and make soup or stew.

    If I were unable to obtain dry ice due to a run by other customers, I would just take out what I needed from the freezer and use it until everything was thawed, then I would cook it all, and use more of the ice stored in the freezer to keep it cool. Cooked meat will last longer than thawed meat. I don’t have any fresh meat in any of my cooling devices. I freeze everything as soon as I get home from the store with it. The only fresh meat is what I am going to use that day. I freeze fresh onion and fresh bell pepper. Some vegetables don’t freeze well. Celery, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers all do not freeze well. I think the water contained in those items freezes and ruptures the cells of the vegetable.

    Progresso soup also provides the base for many of my emergency food plans. It doesn’t need water and I augment it with dehydrated foods and add sufficient water to make a thickened porridge. I can also add either canned chicken or canned beef for soups with those bases or canned tuna or salmon for soups with a base that goes well with fish. I always add extra vegetables, either canned or frozen to the soup to extend it and add calories. the Progresso soup is notably thin in calories, so for emergencies, it needs to be augmented in order to reach the daily required calorie minimum.

    The can of soup we had for dinner last night was 19 fluid ounces and had a total of 200 calories in the can. It was supposed to serve 2 people. That is a very thin meal. Adding frozen vegetables and meat to it brought the caloric content up to satisfactory levels.

    Unless there were some extremely dramatic emergency accompanying the electrical outage, I wouldn’t change our diet very much. I might hardboil all our eggs if it looked as if the outage were going to last several days. I might fry up all the bacon we had at one time rather than what was needed for a meal, but I usually fry up a pound of bacon at one time and save the bacon for an easy meal later on. I might take the sliced lunch meat and dry it over a can of
    Sterno in the oven to make jerky out of it. If I had a gas oven, I would certainly make jerky out of any meat that thawed and which I considered might go bad. If the milk soured I would use it to make pancakes or some kind of unleavened bread. A lot of stuff we keep in the fridge doesn’t really need to be refrigerated. Mustard, catsup, anything with a lot of vinegar in it doesn’t really need refrigeration as long as it is kept cool.

    If I had ice cream in the freezer and couldn’t obtain dry ice, I would have an ice cream fest.

    As a final note, investigate what stores in your area sell dry ice. It will certainly keep frozen items frozen. If you insulate the ice chest with blankets, newspaper, magazines, throw rugs, it will keep the dry ice longer. You want to make sure that you also insulate the bottom between the ice chest and the floor as you will lose a lot of cold through the bottom of the ice chest. Newspaper is an excellent insulation medium for under ice chests.

    Reply to this comment
  9. CarmenO January 29, 22:36

    In my case, for the next three months or so, if there is a major power outage, I will move my meats and other freezer items to the trunk of my car, with the other stuff that is already in the trunk of my car. Heck, I’ll even move the ice cube trays there. As it write this it is -22 degrees F, with the wind chill factor it is a balmy -47 F. It’s expected to be -30 without chill factor, by tomorrow morning. And yes, my natural gas insert work without electricity. If the gas company can pump it, it will still work. They are already prepared to provide gas, in an extended electric grid collapse. They have been preparing. I suggest that people check with their gas companies to see if they can still pump gas to no electricity needed furnaces. The ones old as heck.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 30, 02:32

      Yes, it is significantly colder in the trunk of your car than it is in your freezer which usually only runs at 0°F or a little less. You would save money by turning off your freezer and just storing your frozen food on the back porch in an ice chest during the winter.

      Reply to this comment
    • -44F to 113F January 30, 03:24

      Sounds like you live near, or perhaps a bit south of me. Brrr. The natural gas is kept moving through pipelines by the use of compressor stations (not pumps). The ones recovering heat from their own compressor to generate electricty can keep the gas moving for some time barring a mechanical or other failure. The only flaw I see around here is that the electrical generation units are foreign owned and operated. As long as our allies like us…..

      The name? Only the temperature range I have seen in the 27 years I have lived here…

      Reply to this comment
    • Hoosier Homesteader January 30, 16:26

      CarmenO, compared to your location, mine is a tropical paradise even though as I write this it’s 5 degrees F with a windchill of around -20. I never was a winter person even as a kid. ….As far as I’m concerned, COLD is a four-letter-word, and the only good thing about winter is the end of it 🙂 Take care, and be safe up there!

      Reply to this comment
  10. left coast chuck January 29, 22:47

    If it becomes necessary to use your barbecue to cook outdoors because the outage is long term there are several things you can do to protect yourself from precipitation.

    First, if you have a patio cover with a slat roof to protect you from the sun but not the rain, it is a simple matter to break out the ubiquitous blue tarp and fashion a roof on your patio cover.

    If you don’t have a patio cover, you can still use the blue tarp to fasten to your fascia board or, lacking a fascia board you can fasten it to the joists that stick out under your overhand. Lacking any of the above, try to run a line that is at least high enough to allow you to stand under it and run the tarp over the line and fasten down the sides with rope and stakes to form an open bottom kind of tent.

    Put your barbecue unit at one end of the tent. It can be out in the rain unless it is a torrential downpour in which case, move it slightly inside the “tent”. Be sure the tarp doesn’t touch the barbecue when you are using it as the heat of the barbecue will melt your shelter.

    Even if it is -47°F outside, the barbecue at one end of the tarp should keep you from frostbite, even though you won’t be able to barbecue in your usual summer barbecuing attire. Be sure not to linger too long in taking the cooked food into the house as it will chill quite rapidly at that kind of temperature.

    If it is that kind of temperature, bricks or stones can be heated along with cooking, wrapped in newspaper and used to help heat the inside of the house. Be sure whatever you heat on the ‘cue is completely dry because any moisture in the bricks or stones might cause them to explode which would add considerably to your problems.

    I’ve been outside in -21°F and slept in a snow cave in that kind of temperature. I can’t imagine -47°F temperatures. -21° is as cold as I ever want to get. Actually it was colder than I wanted to experience but I wasn’t consulted about the matter.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Dan January 29, 23:39

    Good Post,a lot of the comments mentioned things that I have done in the past. I was born and spent my childhood in southern Alaska, so prepping was second nature. Just a few suggestions though. We always had powered milk in our supplies,and as far as water, My Dad would always have a 50 gal. plastic drum of water stored in the corner of our bathroom (we did our laundry at the Laundromat) We also had an LP stove, so we could always heat items. As far as storing frozen food, we always have some coolers available for storing the items.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Random5499 January 30, 00:18

    The only problem we have during a power outage is walking back to the bathroom without a lantern because we expect the light switch to work.
    Can’t wait to try organic chips w/canned cheese on ’em.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Grammyprepper January 30, 08:37

    @random5499, we do the same every time the power goes out…even carrying the lantern, we flip the switch…@leftcoastchuck shares a heck of a lot of wisdom n his comments, so be sure to read all the replies. We keep Chunky soups on hand, over rice they make a good meal, but even if they had to be eaten cold, would give you calories. HAve an alternative for heating meals, hot food can be a real morale booster. If it’s a longer term event, empty the fridge first, then the freezer.
    Preserve what you can, cook up the rest and have a pre/post shtf party.
    The items mentioned aren’t necessarily the most healthy, but in a SHTF situation, food will be food.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Northern Sentinel January 30, 14:59

    Beans, Beans the musical fruit…

    Reply to this comment
  15. TheSouthernNationalist January 30, 21:51

    I built an outdoor fridge out of scrap pallets, its basically a box with a lid that we put food in when the power goes out.

    It uses snow and ice to keep things cold, I pack a layer of ice and snow on the bottom, then put the food on top of that then cover with more ice and snow.

    I left small gaps in the bottom so water can run out when the ice and snow melt.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Shake Spear January 31, 00:26

    Shut off the main to my house. Start my generator. Go back to my life.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Hacksaw January 31, 16:05

    The obvious answer is to eat food that will spoil first. Items in the refrigerator and then frozen stuff. Leave the non persishable stuff alone until the perishable stuff is used or becomes spoiled. But hey, if you want to eat animal crackers and granola while your meat spoils that is your call. Good luck with that.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Wannabe February 3, 21:37

    If you don’t have time to eat before spoiling then think about what you can feed your animals. Chickens eat meat, fruit, and vegetables although I would not feed them chicken, that would be like cannibalism lol. Dogs will eat almost any kind of meat, and cats will eat most meats. No reason to throw anything away. Easy to boil water on an open flame, drop meat in it and twenty minutes later viola meals fit for any pet for a king. Eventually it will get gobbled up.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck February 4, 05:28

      If you have a way of cooking meat, there is no need to feed it to pets. Do what the Indians did, dry it. You don’t have to add special spices or anything, just slice it very thin and cook it over very low heat so that it dries it and doesn’t burn. Just plain cooked meat will keep longer than raw meat and dried meat will keep even longer than cooked meat. The dried meat can be reconstituted by simmering it. Sure, it won’t be like a cut off the prime rib at House of Prime Rib but it will furnish calories and protein.

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