Saturday, February 14, 2009

The 10 Meal Box

Hurricane and emergency preparedness is kind of a hobby for me. Odd, I know; I listed it on my profile and, where all my other interests link to other people with the same interest, that one links to... nobody at all! I guess I'm the only one who considers it a hobby. ;) I live in an area prone to hurricanes and went through one that did a lot of damage, to say the least, so I'm very aware of what can happen. The worst case scenario is total destruction due to a direct hit from a powerful storm. Far more likely is damage that leads to extensive power outages, which can last weeks, and roof damage. I’ve taken steps to prepare our house and family as much as possible, thinking through what might happen during a storm and the aftermath and what I can do in advance to lessen the damage and discomfort as much as possible.

One thing I’ve done, since I like to eat, is to put together a 10 meal box. (Actually it’s a couple of large plastic storage bins with lids.) I went through my cookbooks, including Apocalypse Chow, and found 5 recipes my family likes that use non-perishable ingredients. After trying them out, I bought enough of the ingredients to make each recipe twice, including seasonings, and put that in one box. Additional items to fill that box and the second box include breakfast and snack foods, cookware, paper plates, bowls, plastic utensils, water, dish soap, a can opener, matches, and so forth. I also purchased a butane stove, as recommended in Apocalypse Chow, and store it with the boxes.

This is something I think every family should try to put together, and it doesn’t have to be a big expense. You can buy enough for one meal at a time and accumulate the items slowly instead of all at once, for instance. Once your box is established you’ll need to rotate the food to keep it all fresh. (Even canned goods expire after a while.) I go through my hurricane supplies at the beginning of each storm season to freshen everything then donate any unused items to a food pantry in November when the season is over.

Before I had the idea to set up my 10 meal box I set aside other food stores. I have several packages of dried beans and a large bag of rice stored with a Dutch oven (the camping kind with the little legs on the bottom) to cook it all in and a trash can, purchased just for this purpose, full of charcoal in the garage. I bought an Emergency Food Supply in a 5 gallon bucket from an on-line company that has a 20 year shelf life. I also purchased a container of nutrition/survival tablets for our “go bags”. They probably taste terrible but if we’re in a situation where we need to actually eat them I have a feeling the taste won’t be important. I have water stored as well. We drink bottled water (our tap water tastes terrible) so we have a good stockpile of that all the time. I also have two 5 gallon bottles of water and a ceramic dispenser I purchased at Whole Foods. I have four water coolers, two five gallon and two smaller ones, that I fill with tap water when a storm approaches and leave by sinks to wash with. I have large 10 gallon buckets I put in each shower and fill with water to use for washing and flushing the toilet. One thing I DO NOT do is put water in my washing machine. A family member did this prior to a storm then lost power for a long time afterwards. With no power she couldn’t run the washer and drain it so the water sat in there and rusted the machine! (It’s also not a good idea to store valuables in the dishwasher since sewage can back up into it after a storm- yuck!)

These are just some of the things I’ve set up for emergency situations. Would your family be prepared if an emergency struck your area?

UPDATE: The book I recommend to everyone for emergency preparedness, Apocalypse Chow, is out of print. The authors have revised it and it's now published as Vegan Unplugged. If you're not vegetarian/vegan don't let that throw you! You'll want vegan recipes, trust me. After all, how long will meat last without refrigeration? I've also realized that the credit for my 10 meal box goes to that book. I read the book then didn't act on it for quite some time, forgot about their 5 day meal box, then came up with my very similar 10 meal box. So the 5 day meal box was probably floating around in my subconscious somewhere. I like to give proper credit, so there you have it.

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