If you’re one of the millions being affected by Hurricane Irene this weekend, one of the biggest questions you likely have is “What the hell am I going to eat?” Without power, it’s tricky to whip up a meal— and even trickier to make sure what you do eat is safely prepared and void of any potential foodborne bacteria. Here are a few of our Greatist Hurricane Food Prep Tips (inspired by the post “5 Tips For Staying Safe and Well-Fed” on The Kitchn).

  1. Brush up on your food safety guidelines: For the most important guidelines, check out our latest infographic on food safety. Any food kept above 40 degrees for more than two hours is likely unsafe to eat. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that, in the event that you lose power, you know what temperature your food is and can still tell what is and is not safe. The freezer should stay below 0 degrees, and the fridge below 40. And keep it packed tight! A more tightly packed freezer will hold in the cold for longer. The freezer should stay safe for about a day (maybe two), while the fridge will likely stay below the safe temperature for only a few hours.
  2. Fill the freezer (and/or a cooler) with ice: If the power goes out, ice is the way to keep food safe for even longer.
  3. Stock up on dry goods: Without power, the safest way to cook is, well, without cooking at all. Stock up on healthy dry goods— crackers with nonperishable dips and spreads, fruits and vegetables, canned beans and tuna, and nuts to snack on so that you can keep up your energy even when hot meals are unavailable.
  4. You can never have too much water: When bad weather hits, tap water sources are likely to be contaminated, making them unsafe to drink or bathe in. Plus, the pumps that carry water through buildings often stop working (due to power outages). Stock up on bottled water, and fill the bathtub with water before the storm hits to keep hydrated and clean.
  5. Make some hurricane buddies: Getting stuck inside for 48 hours is no fun. Getting stuck inside alone for that long? Even worse. Don’t try to stick out the storm alone. When technology gets knocked out, the best way to entertain is to sit around with some nice nibbles and close friends for some classic board games and a round of cards.
  6. Don’t try your hand at cooking in the dark: We know you have kitchen skills, but don’t try them without decent lighting— and candles in the kitchen probably isn’t the best idea. Stock up on flashlights or flame-free camping lanterns and keep ‘em close!
  7. This isn’t an excuse to binge on junk food: Sure, being stuck inside is a good excuse to nibble on the occasional potato chip, chocolaty cookie, or neon orange cheese puff. But that’s not all to stock up on before a big storm.Make big batches of foods that will last un-refrigerated and can be eaten hot or cold. Some good options are:
    • Bread, cured meats, and hard cheese
    • Bean and vegetable stews
    • Dairy-free soups
    • Baked goods like muffins and quick breads.
    • Chickpea salad or lentils (Thanks to Laura, @50by25 on Twitter!)
  1. And of course, don’t forget the alcohol: Red wine or beer can actually be good for you— so take this as an opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy a healthful drink by candlelight!

Looking for some more ideas? Check out Bon Appetit’s list of 10 Things to Cook When a Hurricane’s a-Comin’.

Tips from the Greatist Team:

Derek says… Cook up a big batch of quinoa. Even mix with pre-cooked veggies and protein.

Kate says… Peanut butter and jelly, baby! With healthy added mix-ins, of course. A nice whole grain bread with natural peanut (or almond!) butter and a reduced sugar jam. Add in sliced banana or apple. For a more savory version, skip the jelly and try peanut butter with shredded carrot (trust me, it’s great).

Leah says… Peanut butter and celery.

Jordan says… Non-perishable dips like hummus. I’m trying this beet hummus recipe via Gojee. And toasted bread and veggies to dip!

Roxanne says…Cook a big batch of pasta or rice to eat cold or heated in the microwave.Then, sautée some veggies to mix in or eat on top of lettuce greens.

What are your best tips for safely cooking & eating during a hurricane?