Whether you're preparing for a hurricane or some other natural disaster, you need nonperishable food items to keep your tummy full as you wait out the power outage. You may be thinking beef jerky and canned beef stew, but there are a lot of healthy nonperishable food items for hurricane preparedness.
It’s About Food Safety
Every year more than 45 million Americans eat something that makes them sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the germs that cause foodborne illness can come from anywhere, your refrigerator and freezer keep your perishable items — milk, meat, eggs and last night's leftovers — out of the danger zone to prevent you from getting sick.
Any perishable item stored at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit can potentially lead to foodborne illness, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. This temperature range, referred to as the danger zone, promotes rapid growth of bacteria.
When you lose power, your refrigerator may not be able to keep your food out of the danger zone. The USDA advises that if you keep your refrigerator door shut when you lose power, it can maintain proper temperature for up to four hours. Your freezer can keep food frozen for up to 48 hours if it's full or 24 hours if it's half full.
Any food left in your refrigerator during a prolonged power outage can be a breeding ground for bacteria and may make you sick. Nonperishable food can fill your belly and keep you safe from foodborne illness.
Read more: Disadvantages of Canned Chickpeas
What Are Nonperishable Foods?
A nonperishable food includes any item that has a long shelf life and doesn't require refrigeration to prevent spoilage. Though many nonperishable food items are known to be high in sodium and filled with preservatives, you can find healthier options. In fact, you can fill your kitchen with nonperishable food items from each food group.
Examples of healthy nonperishable food items for hurricane or power outage include:
- Canned fruits (in their own juice, not syrup)
- Canned vegetables (without added salt)
- Dried fruit
- Dried herbs and spices
- Boxed juices
- Whole-grain pasta or rice
- Oatmeal and whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal
- Canned tuna and chicken (low-sodium)
- Canned or dried beans
- Nut butters, nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oil
- Whole-grain crackers
- Nonfat dried milk powder or evaporated milk
- Dried or aseptically packaged plant milks
- Snack foods: trail mix, granola bars, fruit leather and popcorn kernels
Some of these items may require a heating element, such as a gas stove, but most of these healthy foods can be consumed without any need for cooking.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends that you have enough nonperishable food items to last at least three days.
Creating Nonperishable Meals
It may take some creativity, but you can make delicious nonperishable meals out of your nonperishable food items, with or without a heating element. For breakfast, mix dried or evaporated milk with water to pour over ready-to-eat cereal. Or add evaporated milk to your oatmeal — let the oats soak for a few minutes if they're not instant — and stir in dried fruit and chopped nuts.
For lunch, if you have a gas stove, cook up whole-grain pasta and toss with canned veggies and chicken. Or make peanut butter and raisin sandwiches with your whole-grain crackers. Serve with canned fruit.
Make a healthy, high-protein dinner by tossing a variety of canned beans (black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans) with canned veggies (corn and peas) in a large bowl and season with dried herbs and spices.
You can even use your nonperishable food items for Thanksgiving, such as canned turkey or chicken with canned sweet potatoes, canned green beans and instant mashed potatoes made with evaporated milk. For dessert, enjoy canned pumpkin mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg served on graham crackers.
Is This an Emergency?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Foodborne Germs and Illnesses"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "'Danger Zone' (40 °F - 140 °F)"
- USDA: "Hurricane Season Is Here: Is Your Refrigerator Ready?"
- Central Texas Food Bank: "What’s the Best Non-Perishable Food to Donate to Your Food Bank?"
- Department of Homeland Security: "Food"