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The weatherman says snow is on the way. Or a tropical storm is slated to come to your area. You can tell it must be serious because the grocery store parking lot is packed to the brim 48 hours before a single drop of water is set to fall. Storm-preparers are quick to snatch up bread and milk, but are those foods really the best options in the event you're stuck at home for several days—or worse, don't have power?
Perhaps not. While everyone else is making a run on the ingredients for milk sandwiches (or French toast, if they're creative), you can avoid the brawl in the bread aisle and pick up foods that will actually help you eat well and stay warm when the outside temps are too frightful to contemplate a quick run to a drive-thru.
A few rules to keep in mind: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone have a three-day supply of food when a storm is approaching. You may not be stuck at home after the first 24 hours, but a storm could quickly become worse than forecast. Your day off work or out of school could turn into several days in a blink, so prepare for a scenario that allows you some wiggle room if the weather bears down for longer than expected.
The Best Foods to Buy Before a Storm
When you're stocking up before a storm, you want to prepare with foods that are good for you and are safe to store and eat if you lose power. Some foods on this list are shelf stable but would be kept in your refrigerator after they've been cooked. The CDC recommends you stock up on foods that require little or no cooking, water or refrigeration. In really brutal blizzards, you could lose power or pipes could freeze. That leaves you with few options for making a pasta dinner or a roast chicken. If the power stays on, you'll be set, but it's smart to prepare with foods that don't need several cooking steps before you can safely eat them.
If you do lose power, keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible to help keep it cool in there. The USDA says your food should be safe for about 4 hours in an unopened refrigerator and for 48 hours in a full unopened freezer. They recommend an appliance thermometer, to check the temp in your fridge, and a food thermometer to check food you're unsure about.
Try this genius hack with a cup of water and a quarter, to check if your freezer stayed cold.
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Canned soup and chili are warming in cold temps and easy to heat, so they're a great option for a snowy day. What's more, if push comes to shove and you're sitting in your kitchen without power, you can eat the soup right from the can without heating it. (No, it's not ideal, but it is possible in a pinch.) Canned soup's downside? It can be pretty salty. Stick to options that have less than 600 milligrams sodium per serving.
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The great thing about whole grains is that they can be cooked in large batches and stored for days. They also don't need to be heated, which is great news if you don't have a microwave or power (although if you lose power for more than 4 hours, your cold precooked grains may no longer be safe if stored in the fridge).
No-cook toppers for a whole-grain bowl may include vegetables, leftover or canned meat, nuts, seeds, cheese and a simple vinaigrette. If you have power or a camp stove, you could fry an egg very quickly to bring a collection of ingredients together for a soul-satisfying meal amid the never-ending snow.
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Canned tuna or salmon
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While you're in the canned-food aisle for the soup, go ahead and pick up some water-packed chunk light tuna or salmon. The fish are loaded with protein and heart-healthy fats. Both can be flaked over whole grains, soups or salad greens. You can also make a quick tuna or salmon salad with some Greek yogurt, chives and celery. Serve with crackers for a simple meal you don't have to cook, or spoon it over toasted bread for a fast tartine.
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The incredible egg is versatile enough to see you through a serious blizzard without becoming boring. You can soft-scramble eggs and wrap in a tortilla with cheese and salsa for simple breakfast burritos. You can soft-boil eggs and serve in a grain bowl. If you're feeling particularly creative, you can even make an omelet. If you're left to cook on a camp stove, fried or sunny-side-up eggs are fast and easy too, which means you can still get a warm breakfast easily.
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Canned beans are precooked and inexpensive; they're also filled with fiber and protein for lasting energy. You can rinse canned beans and use them straight from the can if you don't have any heat source in a power outage. Canned beans can be used in whole-grain bowls, nachos and tacos. And, you can add some to soup, egg scrambles and hash for extra-filling heft.
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Did you think a storm list could be complete without bread? It's not possible. But instead of going into the aisle with the rest of the preppers, head to the bakery and pick up a loaf of freshly baked whole-wheat bread. Bread is, quite simply, the perfect food for a snowstorm because you can do so much with it, from grilled cheese to tartines, avocado toast to a PB&J (in a pinch). You can dunk it in soup or toast bread cubes for quick croutons. Whole-grain bread will have more staying power (thanks to fiber) than white bread, so you'll have plenty of energy for shoveling the driveway.
You can also bake-ahead muffins, scones or quick bread if you want to have some breakfast foods and snacks you can keep at room temperature. Use whole-wheat flour for extra fiber, and opt for fruit over chocolate chips or other sweet ingredients.
Energy bars and trail mixes
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Energy bars, dried fruit, nuts and trail mixes are a great snack option when your power status is in question. These snacks are filled with protein, healthy fats and fiber. You can make a mix for every member of your household, or you can keep it simple with one mix everyone can enjoy. Plus, as a bonus, a bit of dark chocolate or dried fruit can satisfy a sugar craving. (That is, if you don't pick up the pack of cookies on the way to the checkout.)
Try These: Healthy Trail Mix Recipes
If you need a little more sweet on your snowstorm menu, make way for some fruit. Many fruits don't need to be refrigerated, which means you can stockpile them for the days ahead.
Good fruits to buy:
Berries will likely need the cool temps of a fridge, which you may not have if you lose power. Fruit can be blended into a smoothie if you're craving something frosty. They can be eaten as a fast snack. You can even cook some fruit down for a topper for oatmeal or pancakes.
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Other Supplies to Gather Before a Storm
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In addition to food, you should stock up on some other supplies that can help make cooking and eating easier. Again, if the power is up and running and you're just stuck at home, your routine doesn't have to change one bit. However, if you find yourself sans power for mealtime or longer, these supplies will help:
• cooking utensils
• knives, forks and spoons (preferably disposable)
• paper or compostable plates, cups and towels
• manual can and bottle openers
• heavy-duty aluminum foil
• propane gas or charcoal grill, plus fuel
• a large insulated cooler
These items can help you prepare, cook and then store meals. You don't have to use a camp stove for every meal—lots of great no-cook options are available—but it's nice to have a warming meal from time to time, especially when you're fighting off the bitter cold of a winter storm outside. Per the CDC, remember to only use charcoal grills or camp stoves outside of your home to avoid smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
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Why You Should Buy Water
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Unless your home's pipes freeze, you will likely continue to have plentiful access to water, both hot and cold. However, you can't guarantee that your pipes will keep flowing in the frigid temps, and sometimes storms can interrupt basic utilities, even if everything is fine at your home. In the case of water, it's better to be stocked up and safe than dry and sorry.
Try to purchase at least one gallon of water per day for each person and pet in your home. You may not need it during the storm, so feel free to use it later. But this practical purchase will help you feel secure in the event of a water loss.