September 16th is “Dine in the Dark Day,” and our partners at FLASH and the Great Hurricane Blowout inspired me to try it — dining in the dark, that is. In fact, I simulated a power outage for 48 hours (my poor wife). I encourage you to follow along as I describe our dining in the dark experience. Then try it yourself. Test your preparedness!
Here’s the question: If your power went out right now, what would you have for dinner? What if the outage lasted a week? Do you have 21 meals ready to go in your pantry? I didn’t.
Let’s hope that you already have an emergency plan (where to meet, for example) and an emergency bucket packed for an outage, so you’re all set when it comes to flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and the rest of the recommended emergency items. But what are you going to eat?
While it’s obvious that having a well-stocked pantry of non-perishable foods would be the best defense, most of us just don’t actively prepare an emergency pantry for an extended outage. To find out what we should be stocking up on, my wife (good sport) and I decided to do an impromptu “emergency rehearsal” by shutting off our power for 48 hours. No, we didn’t run over to the store first to stock up; instead at 3:00 PM on Saturday this past weekend we just shut down the power.
Here’s a diary of the next 48 hours.
Dinner #1 (Saturday Evening)
An easy candle-lit dinner. We had chicken breasts in the fridge and just enough charcoal for one more cookout, so we grilled chicken and added leftover rice and two peaches, our last fresh fruit except for three very ripe bananas. Cookies and our last bit of cheese for dessert. But this would be the end of perishables: even if we kept the door closed, the fridge will only hold perishables safely for about four hours. (A half-full freezer would last more like 24 hours.) It was very evident that we didn’t have much water — just one jug of drinking water and another (half-empty) of distilled water for ironing. That was it. We stacked the plates and silverware in the sink, and washed our hands with disposable wipes!
Breakfast #1 (Sunday Morning)
In the morning we hit the pantry for cereal topped with a box of milk substitute (my wife is lactose intolerant), plus prunes and raisins. And those bananas. We could have really used a nutrition shake or energy bar for some protein. We also had our last slices of bread with peanut butter and honey.
Lunch #1 (Sunday Noon)
OK, all perishables and fresh fruits already gone, what’s in that pantry? Lunch was canned tuna (me) and canned chicken (my wife) on rather fancy crackers that we’d normally serve with cheese at a party. More peanut butter. Even with rationing and very limited brushing of teeth, we’ll run out of drinking water by tomorrow morning. Snacks: chips and a can of roasted almonds.
Dinner #2 (Sunday Evening)
Vacuum packs of ready-to-eat (RTE) Indian food and rice. Other RTEs might be spaghetti or chicken-and-dumplings. Or canned soup. We sure would have enjoyed our dinner a bit more if we could have heated it up in a pot of water on the grill or camp stove/hotplate, but as it was, all we needed were scissors and a bowl and the meals were pretty good, even cold. No more RTEs in the pantry, though.
Breakfast #2 (Monday Morning)
We’re only three meals into the outage and the pantry is looking quite bare! Breakfast is cereal and our last box of milk substitute. Applesauce. Snacks: chips and a jar of olives.
Lunch #2 (Monday Noon)
Canned black beans and the rest of an opened box of taco shells. We’re eyeing the bag of old marshmallows. Bonus: we found two packages of cheese crackers (with peanut butter!) from a recent flight. This is getting sad.
The takeaway? We (barely) had 48 hours of food, and just 36 hours of water. What did we learn about what should be in our emergency pantry? That’s Part II of this blog. Check back, we’ll post it soon.