The Tampa Bay region emerged relatively unscathed by Hurricane Idalia, as its path veered off to the north of us.
Of course, some areas suffered damage — but it wasn’t the catastrophic disaster here that it could have been.
Still, hundreds of thousands of people across Florida lost power.
In fact, any time the electricity goes out, it begs the question: What’s for dinner tonight? What’s for dinner tomorrow night? And, what about breakfasts and lunches?
Shoppers cleared shelves of some items at many stores, or had already stocked up their pantries with canned vegetables, jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna and other things — yes, I am talking about you, potato chips.
But do you have a plan for how to use these items?
Meal planning shouldn’t go out the window when prepping for a natural disaster.
Your hurricane food should be well thought out, just as your family’s weekly menu during normal circumstances should.
Of course, when the electricity is out, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to satisfy everyone’s taste, especially among picky eaters.
But the main goal is to stay full and to keep nutrition in mind, so you don’t just fill up on cookies.
Here are some suggestions to help you weather a storm.
Be sure to have enough food and water on to last between three and seven days.
When preparing meals, begin with using perishable food items first since they will spoil if not used quickly.
So, once the storm clears, you can grill your meats — outdoors.
If you have cold milk, use it early, too, so it will not go to waste.
When the power goes out, a fully stocked freezer keeps food frozen for up to 48 hours, and a half-stocked freezer for 24 hours. Food in the fridge is safe for four hours.
An insulated cooler with ice can keep food cold for a few days, but test its reliability before a storm hits, as some brands are more heavy-duty than others.
A thermometer for the cooler is necessary to ensure it stays below 40 degrees F.
Be sure you have a separate cooler for meat and foods eaten raw if possible, or place the meat in a leak-proof container or bag and place at the very bottom.
The cooler should be packed with several inches of ice or with frozen-gel packs.
Block ice lasts longer than ice cubes.
Before the storm arrives, you can create your own blocks of ice by cleansing used milk or water jugs, filling them with water and freezing them.
Be careful when using dry ice to keep your foods cold.
Heed any boil water notices, and make sure to have hand sanitizer for washing hands in case there’s no water supply.
Also, don’t forget to stock up on disposable eating utensils, can opener, trash bags, aluminum foil, paper plates and bowls, storage bags and so on.
For post-storm meals that don’t involve cooking, keep in mind the different food groups and how you can incorporate them into snacks or meals.
For instance, here’s some information about those food groups, from a colleague from Broward County Extension, that you might find useful:
Grain group: cereal, crackers, breakfast bars, rice cakes, bread, dried pasta, taco shells/tortilla shells, bread sticks, graham crackers, pretzels
Vegetable group: canned vegetables and soups, canned three-bean salad, fresh vegetables: tomatoes, avocado, onions, peppers, cucumbers
Fruit group: canned fruit in their own juices, dried fruit, trail mix with fruit, unsweetened applesauce, packaged raisins, fresh fruit: apples, bananas, pears, oranges
Dairy group: powdered, canned, or shelf-stable milk, shelf-stable pudding, nutritional drinks
Protein group: peanut butter, bean spreads, packaged nuts, beef or turkey jerky, canned: tuna, ham, salmon, sardines, chili, ravioli, and beans (kidney, black, lentils, etc.), pumpkin/sunflower seeds
Cooking a few things in advance adds more options too, such as pasta, quinoa, hard boiled eggs, or rice and just storing them in the cooler to eat cold.
You can also wash and chop fruits and vegetables in advance while you still have water and power.
While we know the “hurricane classic” meals like tuna with crackers or peanut butter sandwiches, there are more creative options too.
You might have seen disaster prep cookbooks, either as a hard copy or viewing articles and PDFs online (though hard copy is more power-outage friendly).
Check out the cookbook from Florida International University Student Health and Wellness: https://dasa.fiu.edu/all-departments/healthy-living-program/_assets/docs/resources/huricanecookbook.pdf
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute ofFood and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Recipes for days when the power is out
Basic Oatmeal (serves 1)
½ cup instant oatmeal
1 cup shelf-stable milk
1 teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar
Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes
Banana Crunch Wrap (serves 1)
1 whole wheat tortilla shell
2 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 Tbsp chopped banana chips
1-2 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
Can also add granola for more crunch.
Spread peanut butter on shell, add other ingredients, and roll
Simple Chia Pudding (serves 1)
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup shelf-stable milk of choice
2 Tbsp syrup, honey or brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 30-60 minutes until it forms a pudding consistency.
Can also add fruit and nuts.
Lunch or dinner ideas:
Sweet Three Bean Salad (serves 6)
28 oz. can of vegetarian baked beans
16 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can corn kernels
½ cup canned pineapple juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of cinnamon
Mix everything into a bowl and enjoy
Bean Burrito (serves 1)
1 whole wheat tortilla
½ cup refried beans or black/pinto beans
¼ cup salsa
½ cup canned spinach, drained and patted dry
1 Laughing Cow wedge
Spread cheese in middle of tortilla, then add beans and remaining ingredients and roll
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Vegetarian Baked Beans (serves 4)
1 can candied yams or 15 oz sweet potato puree
½ cup shelf-stable milk of choice
Butter spray 1 Tbsp canola oil
28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
Combine sweet potatoes/yams, milk, and butter/oil. Serve with ½ cup baked beans.
Lentil Tacos (serves 1)
2 soft or crunchy corn tortillas
½ cup cooked canned lentils
2 Tbsp salsa
¼ tsp each of garlic and onion powder
¼ tsp dried chili powder
Pinch of salt
Chopped onion, lettuce, or avocado, if desired
Combine lentils with salt, salsa and spices. Put lentil mixture in shells and serve with toppings.
Published September 20, 2023