We were having one of our winter storms, the kind where the rain is coming down sideways and the trees are bending back and forth. I was at work a half hour away when my wife called and announced that the power had gone out and wanted to know where I had stored our camp stove. It was in my shop and I told her how to find it.
A short time later, I received another phone call, this one with a bit more volume behind it, if you know what I mean. She found the stove right where I said it was. What I had neglected to warn her of, you see, was that there were at least two killer mice living inside the box where it was stored. (I seriously did not know this ahead of time, really!) As she described it, both mice ran down her arm and escaped into the nether regions of my shop. But not before doing irreparable lifelong damage to her mouse-aphobia. You can imagine her delight as she related the story. That was about when I asked if the mice were ok…but that’s another story.
Arriving home, I fully expected to dine on canned chili or beef stew. Much to my surprise she had fixed pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables for dinner that night on our Coleman stove.
Not all ‘survival’ meals are going to measure up to that one. But with a little planning and not a whole lot of extra expense, you can build up a decent pantry to draw from during a disaster.
About this time I know what you’re thinking, “I’ll just go to the store and get what I need after the lights go out.” That’s a little like trying to buy car insurance after the accident. You can expect there will be a run on the store, besides experts believe most stores will be emptied out within four hours. In the event of a major earthquake, we can plan to go several days, possibly weeks before our local stores are resupplied.
Now is a good time to mention that if all the power in the region is out, you won’t be able to rely on your debit or credit card to cover your purchases. I can tell you from experience, the only grocery store in our little town closes up tight during a power outage. It is possible the grocery stores will have generator power to keep their refrigerated inventory cold, but if the banks are all shut down no one is going to honor your plastic. Stores may be operating on a cash-only basis. So it’s a good idea to have a bit of cash set aside to cover expenses under those conditions. How much cash you keep on hand is up to you and your budget.
Now when you’re stocking up, it’s a good idea to buy things that you can prepare just by mixing with hot water. Soups are a good choice, especially in colder weather. If you think about it, most of our power outages come in the middle of a wind-rain storm. Ideal soup weather! Kids love Ramen noodles, they’re not all that nutritious, but they’re inexpensive and easy to fix.
Secondly, buy foods that you are accustomed to eating. There is no benefit to throwing your body into a gastric crisis because you suddenly have only MREs to eat. (MRE: Meals, Ready to Eat, used by the military when out in the field, away from a ‘real’ mess hall.) Or you have only stocked up on freeze-dried backpacking fare without ever trying one out. You are already in a stressful situation, your body knows it and will likely revolt if you suddenly change your diet.
As always, send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest of Us,” available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.