Managing your food supplies in an emergency

The Practical Prepper

A big part of preparedness planning involves managing and maintaining a food supply. In fact, we talked a little about food storage as an early step in prepping just a couple of months ago. Of course, food storage is only part of the equation. This post discusses a few things to consider about handling and preparing your food in an emergency situation.

While it's always best to practice general food safety all the time, it's even more critical in a crisis situation. Remember, in an emergency, doctors and medicine may not be readily available to treat food poisoning or food-borne illnesses.

Over at Self-Reliant Info, we have a post with some helpful food safety videos. You can also find some good information at the Partnership for Food Safety Education's Safe Food Handling page. Some good basics that are easy to overlook are:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food
  • Keep you cooking and eating utensils clean too
  • Keep your food in covered containers
  • Experts advise discarding prepared food after 2 hours at room temperature


The type of disaster you face will impact how you deal with your stored food and how you prepare it.

For any emergencies involving flooding (e.g., excessive rainfall, burst dams, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.), it is important that you discard any food that has come into direct contact with floodwaters. On a related note, be sure to always use sanitized water in your food preparations, whether you're mixing a powder or cooking with it.

You should inspect your food storage regularly as a part of rotating your food supply. After a disaster, be sure to check out your stored food. You don't want to eat food from swollen, bulged, corroded, or dented cans. Torn bags and broken seals are another thing to check for.

Obviously, you'll want to discard any food with unusal color, odor, or texture, even if you just opened the container. But remember, food may look okay, but may not be. When in doubt, throw it out.

If the catastrophe has you facing a long-term power outage, a first step to consider is looking for other storage. You can extend the life for some vegetables, etc. in a cool underground cellar (yours or a neighbor's). If someone you know still has a functional refrigerator or freezer (e.g., if they have a generator and you don't), check to see if they have room for some of your food.

Of course, if your power outage is from a severe winter storm, keeping your food cold isn't as much the issue. Instead, focus on keeping it in a cold environment that's clean and protected from animals. Coolers, metal tins, and plastic totes are all helpful to accomplish this.

Dry ice might be another option, depending on its availability in the emergency. You could probably get by with just 10 pounds in a small chest-type freezer for a few days, but a larger freezer would probably take 20 to 30 pounds for the same time frame.

If no alternate cooling method is available, salvage what you can immediately. Eat refrigerated food first, and move on to frozen as it starts to thaw. Minimize opening the freezer to extend its cooling period.

Cook and eat what you can. Consider dehydrating or canning whatever possible, if you're equipped to do so. If all else fails, throw a block party. Or, you can donate your excess food to those who didn't have much food on hand (and there will be some of them, to be sure).

Generally, thawed food is okay for a while if it's kept cool (like at refrigerator temperatures). If it still has ice crystals, it can even be refrozen.

Ultimately, you'll have food to throw away. If you're composting already, keep doing that as much as you can. Otherwise, if trash pickup services aren't running, bury your "perishable" garbage. If burying isn't an option, keep your garbage in closed containers, outside if at all possible.

 

 

Believing that preparedness and self-reliance are key to individual freedom, Atticus Freeman is the founder of the Self-Reliant Info blog, in addition to authoring The Practical Prepper weekly blog here on Farm Dreams. Thanks for reading! 

 

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Tags: failure, food, outage, power, preparation, safety, storage

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