Bare Minimum Pantry Supplies for Black-Outs

Disclosure: Links to products may be affiliate which means I get commissions for purchases. Sponsored posts will always be clearly disclosed as such. Privacy Policy

The topic of emergency preparedness can be quite overwhelming, over the next few weeks I’ll be covering different aspects of how individuals and families can be more prepared for some emergencies. Emergency preparedness is a practical, low cost insurance policy. Just like car, home, or renters insurance, we may never need it, but that doesn’t lessen its importance.

From the comments on Stocking the Emergency Pantry:

Any suggestions on what to keep in a pantry – especially for a vegetarian? I grew up in earthquake ville and we just keep canned food and water for three days. I have no idea what a real pantry should have!

Yes, that would be helpful, all you ever hear is canned food. What kinds of canned food? If I’m desperate enough I’ll eat anything, but from a planning standpoint something other than canned fruit and tuna would be good.

Heather says:

Since many homes have electric ranges (stoves) and many apartment dwellers are not allowed to store a grill on their patios or balconies,  today’s list is comprised of options that don’t require any heating at all. It is not the optimal scenario. Apartment dwellers should at least own a small grill or camp stove for emergency situations. The list below is intended for the pantry only. Homes should also have a black-out kit consisting of flashlights, batteries, crank radio, etc. The next installment will cover ideas for shelf-stable foods that must be heated.

Important: If you only rarely consume canned food, the high sodium of many processed foods can be a shock to your system. Do not add sports drink to this mix. Save those for times when nothing is staying in or held down. Plain water is best for anyone who is not ill or performing strenuous labor. Assume a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days. Don’t forget to rotate stored water every six months.

The menu for the first day of a power outage for any cause (hurricane, ice storm, forgot to pay the bill, or those pesky zombies) is simple. It’s clean out the fridge day. Those who lose power due to inclement cold weather are often able to use their back porch / balcony / or other unheated area as a makeshift fridge. Those of who will likely have triple digits following a bad storm don’t have this option. Assuming there is no way to heat food, only eat what is safe to consume cold. A case of food poisoning without power or transportation isn’t always just a minor inconvenience. Keep Gatorade, Pedialyte or other sports style drinks on hand (even in powdered form) to help prevent dehydration in individuals who are unwell.

Day two of a power outage is when things start to get a little more interesting. Unless is the weather is cold, the items in a standard fridge will no longer be held at a safe temperature. Whole fruits and vegetables will still be fine, but need to be eaten before they go bad. The freezer section of most side by sides and top mounted freezers will be thawing at this point. You may consume fruits, vegetables, and by all means enjoy the ice cream. If you don’t have a way to cook it to a safe temperature, the meat is most likely a loss.

If you have a fully stocked, chest or upright freezer, it may stay fully frozen for 48 – 72 hours, if no one opens the door.  Unless the power has been restored, do not open “just to check.” After this time has elapsed, and there’s no assurance of power being restored, by all means dig in and salvage what you can.

Day three and beyond is when you move on to the goods in the emergency pantry (unless there was nothing to salvage from the refrigerator or freezer).

Below is a basic list of shelf stable items that can be eaten without heating. They may not taste great at room temperature, but hunger is often the best seasoning. Vegetarian options are green:

  • Cold Cereals – Try to have something other than Sugar Coated Frosted Chocolate Bombs
  • Crackers – Whole grain are a better choice
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tortillas
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts – walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds
  • Canned beans – kidney, great northern, chick peas, black-eyed peas, black beans, refried beans*, etc
  • Canned vegetables – carrots, collards, corn, green beans, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, spinach, etc
  • Canned fruits
  • Shelf stable milk** or powdered milk
  • Sports drinks or powders
  • Canned Soups – chili, stew, and vegetable / chicken / beef broth based are better options than cream of X at room temperature
  • Cans or Pouches: Tuna, Salmon, Sardines, or Chicken, Vienna Sausages
  • Dried Beef
  • Jerky

Be sure to have a manual can opener on hand.

If you have the ingredients, many of the beans and vegetables can be dramatically improved by adding homemade Italian dressing or oil, vinegar and other seasonings. Just be sure to mix it up in small batches that can be consumed immediately.

To keep the food from expiring, the emergency pantry should be comprised only foods that you are willing to consume and replace on occasion. This does not mean you should switch from your fresh, local diet, but every so often include an item from the stash and replace it with a fresh can promptly.

*Not all refried beans are vegetarian, read the label.

**It’s better to have shelf stable milk in single servings, it must be refrigerated once opened.

Sharing is caring!

11 thoughts on “Bare Minimum Pantry Supplies for Black-Outs”

  1. Don't forget, that camp stove/grill Heather mentions must be used OUTSIDE. Besides the fire danger there is a very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning (I actually saw a case of this once).

  2. We have a little folding camp stove that uses a can of sterno — I pull that out just about every time our power goes out, even if it's just so I can make hot cocoa or coffee or tea, but you can also cook on it. It's not super fast, but it can be done, especially if you're mostly wanting to just warm up some canned food.

    A Coleman camp stove & some campstove fuel, along with a couple pots/pans that fit on it well, would be great to have so you can easily cook some of that food in the fridge/freezer. There are also butane stoves available, which can be used inside safely, I believe. The fuel is more expensive, though.

  3. Water: Store what you can manage, but also think about getting a really good filter. I mean REALLY good. British Berkefeld sells water filters that will take out pretty much anything, turning whatever water you find into drinking water. Expensive, yes, but they work, and they can be a lifesaver if all you can find is nasty water. My inlaws could sure use one now, as their whole township has cryptosporidium in the water supply!

  4. One really big point is to stick to things your family likes — sure, in an emergency any food is better than no food, but when everything is going downhill fast, having something familiar to eat will make things a little less bad.

    (ok, i'm done now!)

  5. i was in publix the other day and saw these things called HeaterMeals, self-heating meals in a bag. At first I thought WTH? is it that hard to use a stove or microwave?

    but then after thinking about it for a little while longer, and looking on the website, i started to think that it might not be such a bad idea, and might be very useful for emergency food supplies.

    they're based on the MRE (meals ready to eat) concept that those with military backgrounds will be familiar with. they even have a line with a 5 year shelf life.

    didn't look too closely at the ingredients or nutritional labeling though.

    • They are usually full of fat and sodium. However if you are without power for multiple days they can be great. Camping supply stores (Walmart, Academy, Sports Authority, etc.) will often have some version of self-heating, 'instant' meals.

  6. Heather,
    If you utilize coolers filled with ice how much longer will refrigerated foods last? After Ike we usued coolers for two days for milk, butter, juice, and the occasional cold soda/beer. Power came back on mid-third day, just late enough for us to have lost everything in the freezer.

    My grill saved me during Ike, I have an electric stove/oven (though fortuantely gas water heater so I could shower), so I heated stuff on the grill. Even made instant tea & coffee by heating the water on the grill.

    • If food is kept at 40F or below, it can be treated just like if it were refrigerated. Sometimes ice can be hard to get. Also, if you can pour near boiling water through a filter lined funnel, full of coffee grounds, you can have the good stuff, too. 😉

      • I've tried to make a habit of keeping the freezer full. If it's not full of food, then I fill up empty plastic bottles – the bigger the better – with tap water and stick them in to freeze. If the power goes out, these big chunks of ice will help extend how long the food will be kept cold – maybe not frozen, but at least cold, giving you more time for you to use it if the power doesn't come back on.

        (Also, frozen water bottles are great to use for ice packs in a picnic cooler – keeps your food cold, plus you can drink ice cold water from them as they thaw.)

  7. Regarding your question from the vegetarian: There’s a cookbook called “Apocalypse Chow” you might find helpful. It was written by a married couple who are vegetarian and have made it through at least two hurricanes. I have no personal stake in this book except that I read it and liked it. You might consider checking your library, or Inter-Library Loan, for a copy.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.