What are good foods to store for a hurricane?

| 26/06/2019

I need advice on what food to purchase as the hurricane preparedness plan suggests. I don’t buy canned food so don’t know how it tastes. Can you advise which canned food has good caloric and nutritional value and also tastes good?

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Auntie’s answer: First of all, kudos for not generally eating canned food and for thinking about the nutritional value of hurricane supplies, rather than just stocking up on chips and chocolate. Now, with the strong caveat that I am not a nutritionist and if you are really worried you should consult one, here are a few ideas:

As far as canned food goes, tuna and salmon are both excellent sources of protein and low in saturated fats if packed in water rather than oil, and pretty tasty. While canned fish has far less omega-3 fatty acids than fresh, it does have a good amount, especially salmon. It also contains a bunch of other good stuff, such as vitamin D and B12.

Personally, I find canned meats in all forms revolting, but perhaps some of our readers can enlighten you on the culinary delights of spam. I’ll stick to peanut butter, another excellent source of protein that will keep for a very long time. But keep an eye on the expiration date; don’t leave the same jar stored for years. A spoonful now and again or served on crackers, with or without jelly (jam in British English), is a tasty and nutritious treat.

Canned fruit is not nearly as good as fresh and tends to be high in salt and sugar, but it does have some nutrition (some people even say as much or more) and remember, this would only be for a short time. I’d recommend canned peaches, which contain vitamin C, folate and antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E, and also don’t taste too bad.

But don’t forget dried fruits, which are loaded with nutrients, the all-important fibre and antioxidants. They keep for ages and taste much better than canned. If you can shop at the last minute, you could also buy some fresh apples, which keep well for a while unrefrigerated, as will most root vegetables.

Canned vegetables are also said to be more nutritious than no vegetables, but I have to confess I cannot think of any that I actually find edible.

Boxed foods don’t last as long as canned and are more susceptible to damage, but they tend to taste better and you can look for the ‘low salt’ items. Again, keep an eye on the expiration date, but as long as they are rotated periodically from your hurricane supplies, this would be a good addition. There are some fairly good soups, as well as boxed milk (cow, soy and almond, etc), and juices.

Canned tomatoes are surprisingly nutritious, high in vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and fibre, and are loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lycopene. So if you have a way of cooking pasta after the hurricane, a handy meal would include tomato-based pasta sauce (from a can or box; glass jars, which are easily broken during a storm, may not be such a good idea).

And if you can boil water, instant soups are another possibility. I’d also recommend having lots of protein and granola bars, as well as trail mix, especially if you have children.

But most importantly, make sure you have plenty of water for everyone in your household. Hazard Management Cayman Islands recommends at the very least to have three gallons per person, which, to be honest, seems low to me.

In its hurricane preparedness pamphlet (see here) HMCI has a few handy tips, such as using a permanent marker to label cans in case the paper label gets wet and falls off. Also, you probably will not be able to refrigerate for a while so buy can sizes which you can finish the same day it is opened.

Check out HMCI website for more tips. But remember, if there is a hurricane, the most important thing is to survive. Your body will handle a little less nutrition for a few days, or even weeks.

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Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ft. Lauderdale Florida without water for 12 – 48 hrs. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/water-flows-again-in-fort-lauderdale-but-boil-order-stays-in-place/ar-AAEwpt8

    This is why its important to have standard/minimal emergency supplies, such as 3 gallons of water (per person) on hand. It mightn’t be a hurricane (i.e., an event with warning) that makes you need to dip into your emergency plan.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The no 1 hurricane supply is a plane ticket out.

  3. Anonymous says:

    dark, gold, white and a spiced if you like it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    1) check the salt content of your pre-packaged foods. I know someone who stocked up, no hurricane, when they went to eat their supplies before expiry they were glad of no storm because the stuff was so much more salty than they were used to eating and they reacted badly to the excess sodium. – Corollary: buy and try before you stock up.

    2) As others have alluded to there is short-term and long-term emergency food. (Or no power-heat-water food and food you can store and prepare with a Sterno and bottle of water.) So your emergency supplies may actually fall into two categories, if you’re worried about ‘healthiness’.

    2a) short-term check out Chef-Boyardee. Some of them have ‘vegetable serving equivalents’. So its almost like eating a balanced meal. Almost. (As for taste, well, some people like them, and its just for a couple of days.) And it just needs a can opener (unless you can find a pull-top) and a spoon. Add individual serving tins of fruit cocktail (fruit juice not syrup) and with one spoon you’ve got an even more almost balanced almost tasty meal. Throw in some protein granola bars and a 5gal water jug and you’re stocked for the first three days of and after the hurricane.
    2b) Longer term Auntie had good stuff listed for when you’re able to open the shutters to get enough light to cook by and more importantly let the heat out. (I’ve sheltered with people who started cooking almost immediately. When all I wanted was to lie on the tile floor and suck up a little bit of coolness.) For taste you can also get powdered rink mix to make your longer-term water taste less like water. Whether you think you need gatorade over coolaid depends on how useful you find sports drinks in the first place. I don’t. Similarly, longer term, you may need additional water because of the physical labour of recovering after a disaster.

    3) As for the HMCI water recommendation that min. 3 gal is probably based on 1 gallon per person per day (for drinking, basic sanitation and minimal food prep) and so you’ll have enough water to get you through the storm. While more supplies are better some people will have only minimal supplies. So if HMCI can get them to at least be able to take care of themselves during the storm that’s something. And for shorter emergencies (e.g., Cat 3 hurricane) they may never need more what they have stocked up. – For one person some granola bars, a couple of bottles of water (filled from their own tap) and a few cans or boxes of eat-without-preparation food is not an insurmountable mental or economic ask if you accumulate a little bit at a time. For families, it just takes a while longer and more planning. – Also 3 days of food and water (for one person) is something you can travel with if you have to go shelter somewhere. I once had a couple of very large plastic boxes. Storm coming I could throw them in my car and leave my flood-prone apartment. That way you’re not a drain on wherever you’re riding out the storm, but your’e also not trying to move several pounds of supplies. (Remember a change of clothes and your toiletries. 🙂 Recommendations like 3 gallons of water are aimed at what most people can hopefully manage to achieve the most useful preparation.

    For big emergencies, like a Cat 5, where you want more than 3 days supply of water and food, for a lot of people even with the best intentions the emergency will separate them from their supplies. Or imagine trying to stock up for a family of five for two weeks. So for emergency planning if individuals can get themselves through the Cat 5 then after that its make it up as you go along. (Assess situation, assess resources, act accordingly, repeat.) And that’s actually a viable, if not very heartening, planning model. Obviously you’ll notice that even in that scenario, nationally, the more supplies (and planning) available the better. But at some point you have to accept that it is called a disaster for a reason.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you. Your advices are very useful. Just one point. It is not about healthiness. Nutritious and caloric food would be more beneficial than empty canned food if it is for more than 2 days.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Aunty, I believe HMCI meant to say 3 gallons per person per day minimum for the expected period of being holed up in a shelter and until the storm is over and it is safe to go out and seek more.

    This would include drinking, brushing teeth, and any other minor uses you may deem essential to your well being.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, more likely 1 gallon per person per day for drinking, minimal sanitation and minimal food-prep. For the first three days of the emergency.

      Food & water for 3 days is a fairly ‘standard’ recommendation, e.g., US FEMA. Obviously if you can plan/stock more in a safe location then better but there’s more value in getting more people to prepare for what they can most realistically manage. 3 days of food & water is an amount that most people can plan for and afford (over time) and manage to store and transport (if evacuating). And will get them through a ‘small’ disaster, e.g., power & water out for two days. And in the case of a ‘big’ disaster (Cat. 5 hurricane) at least its something and they can take care of themselves during the storm when there’s no way to get help to them no matter how badly they need it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    don’t worry we are not due another ivan type hurricane for around 40 years…

    • Anonymous says:

      In 1989, the UK had a “hundred year storm”. We had another in 1990. Averages have a way of catching you out

  7. Anonymous says:

    Freeze dried MREs are the way to go. They keep for years! Just add boiled water…

    • Anonymous says:

      what is MRE?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just add what?

      • Anonymous says:

        boiled water.
        A) Part of your supplies is water, which you can use for cooking. Heat is ‘easy’ with a can of sterno or similar. If you’ve got MREs you can figure out a fire.
        B) Some MREs don’t even need the boiling water, or come with their own heat pack (I’ve heard). Again, if you can track down MREs, or other emergency rations, you’re so far ahead of the preparation curve that you’re going to be able to plan for how to prepare them. Especially if you’re planning to be eating them for more than a couple of days.

  8. Anonymous says:

    i generally go for lettuce, cucumber and ice cream

    • Anonymous says:

      Beer 🍺 is good since any tap or cistern water maybe very contaminated. Quenches thirst and supplies all the calories you need!

  9. Fiona Foster says:

    Bearing in mind that almost everybody on the island is either obese or overweight, there’s PLENTY of calories in your fat stores. All you need is water, and if it’s raining, good, drink that. Do NOT buy bottled water, drink water from the taps. Perfectly safe.
    A Doctor

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you “Doctor”!

      There would be no tap water
      There would be no electricity
      There would be heat and humidity
      There would be looting
      There would be mosquitoes
      There would be no dry clothes
      There would be no air transportation
      There would be no roads
      There would be no cars that run

      And no one at my work place or among my friends is fat.

    • Aquaman says:

      Yes, it maybe but after Hurricane Ivan our illustrious Water Authority locked off the whole system so no tap water, except in West Bay. The Cayman Water Co. took a more pragmatic approach and allowed customers to get what trickle they could. I would very much advise you stockpile water, 1 gallon per person per day. Expect at least 3-5 weeks without proper tap water supply if we get hit with an Ivan again.

      • Anonymous says:

        For people not here during Ivan, if we get hit with another Cat-5, etc., yes the water will be out for a while. But one of the first things they restore is a water supply somewhere. So it may be that you have to abandon your home, or make daily walks to the shelter, to get water from an emergency supply, but potable water and rudimentary distribution thereof is high on the national recovery list. (Probably somewhere after communication, transport and health services.)

        Yes the more you can prepare for yourself the better. But that 3 gallons per person per day is a good place to start. (You can even fill them yourself with tap water the day before the storm hits.) Then build out from there. A relatively easy increase is a 5 gallon bottle of water cooler water. You’re now up to 5 days of emergency water in one sealed-until-opened container. Just pour carefully.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Peanut M&M’s and Dole Mandarin Slices saw me through the worst – and you need to plan for more than a week with no supplies.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good advice especially on curry powder and spices. And the maker. Thank you.
    They say that peanut butter keeps just fine in a cool, dark place like the pantry for at least a month. But would it be safe to use if it was in 90F for a week? Assuming no electricity.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Riding out anything above Cat 2 on Grand Cayman is a plan you should rethink if you have the means, or corporate/embassy support, to do so. Those that huddled-down during Ivan or Gilbert can relay their horrors of the sounds and sights of those events, but also know that the post-storm downtime can be several months. No power = no fridge, no a/c, spotty cell service, fuel contamination, maybe no water, and/or other comforts. There is a physical and mental toll that even the finest canned Beluga caviar won’t offset in those conditions. Buy insurance, shutter/board everything up (for the storm and looters) and bug out ahead of the incoming if you can. I say that as a Caymanian.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Whatever your tastes the harsh reality is that only food which is completely sealed up in a tough outer container is a safe option for emergency rations. The food also needs to be ready to use so if necessary you can eat it straight out of the can or packet with no preparation. That pretty much restricts you to cans or foil packed meals like MREs. Most supermarket foil and plastic packaged goods aren’t ready to use and even if they are the packaging won’t completely protect the contents if, as happened during Ivan, you get flooded out. You also shouldn’t try to take short cuts with this. I know people who’ve tried making DiY emergency ration kits in the past and it never worked – the food just made them sick.

    As you should only have to rely on it for a few days the nutritional value is pretty academic because you’ll mainly be consuming it as ‘comfort food’. One trick I learned years ago was to carry a selection of tasty things in a strong plastic screw top container to take the edge of having to eat the old freeze dried meals. Curry powder is a must and a selection of the little pouches the fast food outlets use is also works. Spam makes a great stew if you add plenty of curry powder 😛

    Far more important than food is planning for safe drinking water and personal hygiene in emergency preparation. You can go without food for a surprisingly long time but dehydration, particularly coupled with fluid loss from diarrhoea and vomiting, will kill you in days.

    One really good tip near the end of this story relates to identifying cans with a permanent marker. Just remember to write on the can, not the label – I kid you not, I know someone who did that when stocking up his boat! Personally, I remove all the paper labels because they’ll come off eventually anyway.