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What to eat – besides storm chips! – when the power is out

With all signs pointing to a stormy ride for Nova Scotians this hurricane season, it’s good to be ready for any situation. That means having an emergency plan in place, which includes enough water, supplies and medication to keep you and your loved ones going for at least 72 hours.Don’t forget about the food! When you’re hunkering down, chances are you’ll want more to munch on than storm chips and baked beans to get through a days-long power outage.

Plan ahead
If you have time before the storm hits, make hearty snacks that you can keep on the counter: think muffins, cookies or loaves that include nuts, seeds, dried fruit or veggie/fruit purée to help keep you full for longer. These pumpkin spice muffins fit the bill – omit the icing if you’re pressed for time and top them with pumpkin seeds. Or whip up some no-bake protein energy bites or one-bowl, gluten-free cowgirl cookies.

Stock up on bread, fruit, veggies, dry cereal, canned goods, granola bars, crackers and peanut butter, and have some hard-boiled eggs ready to eat in the fridge. Keep basic prep tools out on the counter (like a can opener and cutting board), so you’re not fumbling in the dark.

Don’t forget to grind your coffee! If a power outage seems imminent, make your coffee, tea or hot chocolate ahead of time and store it in a thermos. It will stay hot for hours.

Make quick and hearty meals
Once you’ve lost power, you can still create quick and hearty meals from items in your pantry. Throw together a mixed-bean salad –  any canned beans will work and you can serve it with nachos for a makeshift taco night. Jazz up instant ramen noodles by adding whatever fresh veggies you have on hand, a hard-boiled egg and siracha sauce. It’s also easy to beef up instant packet oatmeal – toss in nuts, shredded coconut, cinnamon and diced apple or banana, or any other combo of simple ingredients you have in your kitchen.

Safety first
If you plan on eating canned soup, pasta or chili that will need heating up, think about how you’ll do that without electricity. A wood stove or camp stove can do the job. Never use a camp stove or barbecue inside your house. They give off harmful carbon monoxide, which you can’t see or smell, and are fire hazards. (Note: The same goes for generators – always operate them outdoors, never inside your home or garage.) Always keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Leave the fridge alone
If you want to barbecue during the outage, have the food in easy reach in your kitchen freezer – don’t bury it in your deep freezer. Keep the fridge and freezer doors shut as much as possible to keep the spaces cold. A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours. A freezer that’s half full will keep food frozen for about 24 hours. Before the storm hits, fill a half-full freezer with ice packs or bottles of water (you can fill emptied, washed milk jugs with water for this purpose) to keep things frozen longer.

When to toss
It’s key to know when you should toss food stored in the fridge or freezer after a prolonged outage. Perishable food in the fridge (things like raw or meat/seafood or lunch meat, milk and soft cheeses, casseroles, mayonnaise) should be tossed after being above 4°C for more than two hours. Non-perishable food (butter, margarine, hard cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies, salad dressings, mustard, ketchup and barbecue sauce, jams and jellies) can be stored above 4°C for several days. When in doubt, throw it out!

While you can’t control how long a power outage will last, with a little planning at least you can ensure you’ve got tasty, easy-to-prepare food on hand to keep your energy and spirits up until the lights come back on.

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