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Your Hurricane Food Menu So You Don't Eat Tuna Every Day

Just because there is a hurricane coming your way and you won't be able to cook, doesn't mean you have to eat canned tuna every day. Here's your hurricane food menu so you can prep in advance and eat well even during a power outage or if you can't cook without gas or electricity.

hurricane meal plan graphic

During Hurricane Irene in 2011, I was in my 20's, so I got by on takeout pizza and canned tuna when we had a power outage.

Then there was Sandy, taking our power for a week in NJ.

Then we lived through Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, a category 5 hurricane that ripped apart several islands and left us without running water or power (or the ability to cook!) for weeks.

By the time Isaias was headed our way in 2020, I've prepared for so many hurricanes and storms that I had a plan for how to feed my family during a hurricane. We might be without running water, electricity, or the ability to cook (electric stove over here!), but we are going to eat well. And I want to share all my tips with you for hurricane meal ideas. Think of it like a hurricane food menu: pick and choose what sounds good to you and prepare!

Here's what I am covering in this article:

  1. How to prep your fridge and freezer to make food last longer
  2. What food to prep before the hurricane and what you can eat once the power is out (lots of hurricane food ideas and recipes!)
  3. What food to make with minimal cooking
  4. Creative pantry meals if you can't cook at ALL

Let's hope that you don't lose power or the ability to cook, but let's prep for the worst and be prepared.

Depending on where you live, this might not be necessary because you might be able to go to the grocery store or the pizza place on the corner and get some food the day after a storm. And of course, if you have a generator that can power a fridge and an electric burner, then none of this prep is necessary.

But if you don't have a generator, then you need to be prepared in case there is a real disaster and you won't be able to get food easily.

And I personally would rather eat delicious homemade food than stand in line for hours to get into a store or pick up food, or waste precious gas driving to the store unnecessarily. Don't you agree?

Necessary disclaimer: This is NOT a full hurricane preparedness list. Check your local government's website to prepare and be ready to evacuate if needed. If you have a sensitive stomach or any health issues, then don't take chances with food that has been in the fridge without power for days. I am simply sharing what we eat during and after a hurricane. Of course, if you have a generator that powers your fridge then all of this might not be necessary.

1. Preparing your fridge and freezer for a power outage

Here's what I do if I am anticipating a power outage during a storm. All these steps ensure that I can actually keep my food cold longer and eat fresh food for a few days before having to reach for the canned tuna.

  • Go through the whole fridge and freezer and throw out any bottles or containers that have just a tiny bit of condiments or sauces left that you might have been saving. It's a small step, but it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders knowing there isn't any unnecessary stuff in the fridge.
    • Don't toss anything that is worth saving - you might not lose power for that long so all that food might still be good. If you're out of power for days, then you'll have plenty of time to toss everything later. 
  • Set the fridge and the freezer to the coldest setting (without freezing your actual fridge) so that when the power goes out you have a bit of extra time that everything stays cold.
  • Wash all the fruits and vegetables that you can eat raw. Apples, oranges, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes, broccoli are great healthy foods to munch on and they don't go bad for a while, even if the fridge temperature goes above 40F. Bananas and berries can last a couple of days before going bad. Lemons and limes last a few days and are great for flavoring your water.
  • Organize the fridge in a way that you can quickly grab one prepared meal or snack in a container and close the fridge quickly (more on hurricane meal ideas later!!), thus preserving the cold temperature for as long as you can.
    • I like to label the containers with what's inside so I can quickly grab stuff. I use either a washable marker, or a piece of masking tape to write what's inside. 
  • Get a thermometer for the fridge and the freezer, so you know when the temperature has gone too high for the food to be safe. This 2-pack is super inexpensive - SO worth it to know you're not eating food that's gone bad!
  • Freeze potable water in advance (start a few days before the storm, if you don't have an ice maker in the fridge), and transfer those ice cubes to gallon-size freezer bags. I recommend using zip lock bags instead of bags of ice from the store because:
    • when the ice eventually melts, it won't spill all over the freezer
    • you'll have perfectly drinkable water in those zip lock bags (important if you lose running water or your tap water is contaminated!). If you don't want to drink thawed water, you can still use that water for washing your hands, dishes, etc.
    • the zip lock bag method is great for storing frozen food in between the bags of ice - keeping that food frozen longer (more on the food ideas later!)
    • the zip lock bags are great to pull out easily and place into a cooler, where you can keep things like an open container of shelf-stable milk, or your food for the day so you don't have to keep re-opening the fridge throughout the day.
  • Fill up your fridge and freezer as much as possible - the more cold/frozen stuff you have in there, the longer you'll be able to keep it cold. Fill the freezer with bags of ice. Fill the fridge with large bottles of water (just make sure they are stashed in the back so your fridge is organized to quickly grab food).

2. What food to eat during a power outage

There's the obvious canned tuna, canned chicken, crackers, peanut butter and jelly. But there's plenty of other food you can prepare and keep in the fridge and the freezer for the first ~24-72 hours after the power goes out. Here are our favorites:

Just make sure to prep these before your power goes out!

  • Hard boiled eggs: boil eggs before the storm and keep them in an easy to grab location in the fridge, so you can quickly grab 1-2 (or however many you want for the family). They're a good source of protein and energy.
  • Cold pasta salads:
    • Make these Soba Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables in a Spicy Peanut Sauce - this is FANTASTIC when served chilled, so you can pull this out of the fridge and enjoy it even if you lose power and can't reheat food.
    • Or try this Italian Pasta Salad, just skip the cheese if you're weary about dairy in the fridge. The ingredients will all last even if the temperature in the fridge goes above 40F for a little bit! Whichever pasta salad you decide to try, make sure you pack it in containers that have just the right amount of food for you and your family, so you can quickly grab the container out of the fridge without letting too much warm air in. 
    • These pasta salads can be frozen in quart-sized zip lock bags and placed between your gallon-sized zip lock bags in the freezer. This way your food will stay frozen and cold about 24-72 hours after your fridge loses power.
  • No-mayo potato salads: Try this Grainy Mustard Potato Salad, or this No Mayo Potato Salad with Olives (skip the feta if you're weary about dairy).

And of course, don't forget treats! Prep these before the power goes out:

  • Baked goods: We always bake muffins or sweet breads before a storm. These Blueberry Wheat Germ Muffins are my go-to muffin recipe because they're on the healthier side. A banana bread or a peach bread is a great idea.
  • Roasted almonds: These Honey Roasted Almonds are fantastic and are a much tastier treat than plain almonds. (Or course, you can easily buy all kinds of seasoned nuts... but I like making my own! Cooking before a hurricane relieves my stress!!)

Here are a few food options that you can eat without any cooking and don't have to be prepped in advance:

  • Yogurt + cottage cheese: YES, dairy! I am recommending eating this within the first 24 hours of the power outage, but yogurt and cottage cheese will be TOTALLY FINE if they're still cold. Add some fruit, a drizzle of honey, and enjoy.
  • Cereal with milk: Shelf stable milk in those tetra pack containers is perfect for a family to enjoy a bowl of cereal each. If you have any leftover, you can store it in a cooler between two zip lock bags filled with ice, and it should last until the next day.
  • Overnight oats: Soak instant oats in water with 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds, then add a little shelf-stable creamer when it's time to eat (to add a little creaminess), brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried cranberries or freeze-dried strawberries.

That's a couple of days of hurricane food ideas before you even have to think about surviving off crackers.

3. What food to eat during a power outage if you can do minimal cooking

If your electricity and/or gas goes out, you can still do some basic cooking if you have a camping stove (such as this one or this one) or a propane tank and a propane stove/burner. This was a lifesaver for my husband who didn't have power for the electric stove for 3 weeks after hurricane Dorian.

Of course, it is not super convenient cooking on a propane burner (and you have to be suuuuuper careful not to knock over the boiling water on the tiny burner), so I will just recommend a few easy things to make that only requiring boiling water or heating up food:

    • Noodles / pasta / couscous. Ramen and many kinds of thin rice noodles can be cooked by simply pouring water over them. Try this Mediterranean Couscous with Tuna recipe - simply add some boiling water to couscous, and then add all the toppings for a delicious 10-minute meal using flavorful shelf-stable ingredients. You can get couscous here. Ramen can be cooked in about a minute. Soba noodles and angel hair pasta cook in about 4 minutes (depending on the brand). Stay away from thicker pastas that cook longer if you don't want to cook for too long.
    • Ready pasta. Ready pasta is another option that requires just 2 minutes of cooking.
    • Ready rice. These rice packets are already fully cooked, and you can make them absolutely delicious in just 2 minutes in a pan just like you would cook the ready pasta, by adding a tiny bit of water and heating them up. These are our favorite!
  • Canned soup or canned baked beans. These are also great options if you have a stove to heat them up.

4. Creative pantry meals and snacks when you can't cook or heat up food

  • 3-Ingredient chicken salad or 3-ingredient tuna salad (use shelf-stable mayo packets and jarred salsa.. so good!)
  • Nachos: spread a bag of tortilla chips on a platter, layer it with salsa con queso, refried beans from a can (or drained black beans), and enjoy!
  • Peanut butter jelly wraps with granola. This is a favorite of ours: spread peanut butter and jelly over a wrap (use a whole grain wrap for more nutrition, make sure it's not spinach or garlic flavored because that does not go well with jelly), then sprinkle granola over it and roll it up. The crunchy texture is so good!
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat can be soaked in water and eaten raw once it soaks up the water! Just like the overnight oats I mentioned above, I like to add a little shelf-stable coffee creamer when it's time to eat (for creaminess), sugar, cinnamon, and dried cranberries or fresh berries. It makes a great breakfast! You can get buckwheat here (don't be scared off by the Russian letters, this is the one I use and love), and read more about buckwheat in my buckwheat kasha post
  • Charcuterie board. You can get shelf-stable summer sausage, shelf-stable cheese, dried fruit, nuts (go fancy with some macadamia nuts, you're going through a natural disaster, after all!), and a fancy sauce and serve it with your favorite crackers. Open up a bottle of vino and enjoy!

You might also be interested in the following articles:

  • The ultimate Hurricane Prep Guide for Babies and Toddlers - I wrote a super detailed guide on how we prepared for Dorian when our son was 2 years old, and I have lots of tips for how to prepare if you might lose tap water - everything from hand washing to bottle washing to bathing without running water
  • Grocery Guide for Shopping Every Few Weeks - tips for buying fruit and vegetables that last for weeks and pantry and freezer items to cook good food when you don't want to step foot in a grocery store often

I hope this list of food ideas for a hurricane was helpful to you and will help you eat better if you have a power outage that lasts a few days. If you thought this was helpful, please share this with a friend who lives in a hurricane-prone area! And make sure to pin this for later:

hurricane meal plan graphic

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Comments or questions about the recipe?

Cottagge

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

Thank you so much for the great ideas and putting all together!! This is a great post.