What to Eat When the Power Goes Out

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

When you’re in for some turbulent weather, do you head to the store with a list entitled, “Food for Power Outage?” Or do you already have a supply of food for power outages that you keep carefully hidden from your family? Many folks these days don’t have a way to cook when the power goes out, so that should be considered when creating your supply of the best foods for a power outage. If you don’t already have a stockpile of non-perishable food that doesn’t require cooking, it’s time to build one.

In my family, a power outage means party time and some foods we that we do not usually indulge in. Of course, we do have backup cooking methods for heating food when the electricity goes out, but if the event is going to be short-term, we usually focus on food that doesn’t need to be cooked.

While you may have a fireplace or woodstove, in the summer you won’t want to heat the house up with it, and during a storm, you won’t want to stand outside in the rain cooking on the barbecue.  So, during a short-term power outage, it makes life easier in many cases to eat things that don’t require much in the way of preparation.

What non-perishable food should you buy when a storm is coming?

The radio and preparedness websites always tell you to stock up on non-perishable food, but what is it?

Non-perishable foods are items that are shelf-stable and will not spoil if left out at room temperature for a long period of time. Some examples of non-perishable foods are:

  • Canned goods
  • Packaged dry food (like potato flakes or pasta dishes)
  • Cheese or peanut butter crackers
  • Beef jerky
  • Applesauce
  • Pudding
  • Fruit cups
  • Granola bars

Dried goods like beans and grains are also non-perishable, but they aren’t very practical for a power outage.

The Best Food for Power Outages

Depending on your budget, on what is available, and your diet, here are some ideas for food to eat when the power goes out.

  1. Graham crackers with peanut butter or almond butter
  2. Protein shakes – my favorite is Reserveage Organics (in chocolate, of course!)
  3. Saltines with peanut butter
  4. Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas)
  5. Canned juice
  6. Trail mix (this is our favorite)
  7. Dry cereal
  8. Cereal with rehydrated dry milk
  9. Canned baked beans with ham
  10. Pretzels
  11. Nuts
  12.  Pudding cups
  13. Canned fruit
  14. Jerky (This one is organic)
  15. Pouches of pre-cooked and seasoned rice or quinoa
  16. Cookies
  17. Granola bars – we like Kind bars (my favorites is Dark Chocolate, Nuts, & Sea Salt)
  18. Crackers
  19. Dried Fruits: apricot, mango, banana, raisins, cranberries, pineapple, figs
  20. Sandwiches: Peanut butter and jelly, tuna, leftovers from the fridge before they spoil

No-Power “Recipes”

Following are some “recipes” for power outage food.  Okay, “recipe” is a stretch – perhaps just some “tasty combinations”.  🙂

  • No-Power Nachos

Layer organic tortilla chips with canned cheese sauce, salsa, and canned jalapenos

  • Blackout ‘Smores

Top graham crackers with chocolate-nut spread and marshmallow fluff

  • Wraps

Soft tortillas filled with canned meat, a touch of mustard or mayo, and veggies from the fridge

  • No-cook Soft Tacos

Soft tortillas with canned meat (we use our home canned chicken or taco meat for this), salsa, and canned cheese sauce

  • Main Dish Tuna Salad

Combine a can of tuna, a can of white beans, chopped onion, chopped peppers and chopped black olives (veggies are optional).  Top with Italian dressing mixed with dijon mustard to taste.

  • Pudding Cones

Drain canned fruit of choice and stir it into vanilla pudding.  Serve in ice cream cones for a kid-friendly treat. (We do this with yogurt also.)

  • Mexican Bean Salad

Combine 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed; with 1 can of organic corn, drained.  For the dressing mix 1/2 jar of salsa; 1/2 tsp each of chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder; 3 tbsp of lemon juice.  Toss well.  Serve as a salad, in a soft tortilla or mixed with a pouch of pre-cooked rice.

Do you have any no-cook ideas for the stockpile?  Please share them in the comments section!

What should you do about food in the refrigerator when the power goes out?

If you’re pretty sure the event is short-term, keep the refrigerator door closed to help prevent the food inside from spoiling. (Here’s a chart to help determine if the food is safe to eat or not.) For food safety purposes, it’s a good idea to grab a digital thermometer so that you can tell what the temperature is in your refrigerator and freezer. I keep one of these in the fridge and one in the freezer.

If you do get items from the refrigerator, plan it out so you can quickly grab all the things and then close the door again to help maintain the temperature while the electricity is out.

If it appears to be a longer-term event, you’re going to want to make a plan for the food in your refrigerator and freezer to help prevent it from going to waste. If you have a way to pressure can without power, you can learn how to preserve your meat and vegetables before they go to waste in this book.

  • Some ways to use up the food before it spoils:
  • Put the items you’d most hate to lose into a cooler full of ice. (For us, that’s meat and cream for our coffee)
  • Eat refrigerated leftovers, fruits, and vegetables first.
  • Make sandwiches and put them in the cooler.
  • Throw a barbecue and invite all the neighbors. It’s better than throwing it out, right?

If you do end up having to dispose of food, try to bag it up and put it in the outdoor garbage can before it begins to decompose. The stench is terrible and you will never, ever get it out of your freezer. I learned this horrifying lesson when a repairman unplugged my freezer for one of his tools and failed to plug it back in. I discovered the error 3 weeks later. Really, that’s all the detail you need to know. Trust me.

Use disposable items to conserve water during a power outage.

If you are on well-water, if the power goes out, you will probably not have any running water. As well, even if you are on city water, the fluid from the taps may be contaminated and may not be hot. To circumvent a few difficulties, we stock up on disposable goods to use during power outages:

  • Styrofoam plates
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Plastic cups

Even if you’re normally very eco-friendly, you will find that these items make your life during a power outage so much easier.

Are you looking for other power outage resources?

Here are some articles that may help!

And, if you want to handle a power outage like a boss, get your pdf of The Blackout Book. It’s a true quick-start guide to handling a power outage and it will be helpful to both beginners and those with a bit more experience.

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • If you have young children, make some easy and fun snacks with them to lighten the mood. Make funny faces with raisens on a rice cake with peanut butter.

    Apple boats are easy to make too. Quarter a small apple. Add a spoonful of peanut butter in the center. You can also add a small triangle of cheese for a sail.

    (I used to work as a preschool teacher and enjoy making fun and easy snacks.)

  • Bread rollups with any filling of your choice. Butter and cinnamon is good, classic pb&j, peanut butter and honey, or even nutella. I also like to top rice cakes with just about anything. Also, you could make your own trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and baking chips.

  • Take a large glob of peanut butter. Add honey to taste. Mix in powered milk until firm and no longer sticky. Add raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, etc. if desired. Roll in wax paper to form a log, chill if possible. Cut of slices. Voila — no bake peanut butter cookies.

  • There are still a good population of elderly people out there. I really suggest befriending one person who was raised without frills of the grid. Someone who still knows how to survive in the old ways. Not all folks will be in the cities. Small towns and urban areas afford the temporary “squats” where toilets may be dug to be filled in later. Scavenger hunts for kindling,burnable objects (not painted or treated) aluminum wrap, [big roll] for cooking in camp fire] a couple of medium sized mirrors to catch sunlight for roasting food. Hope this is some help

  • take care of each rice product. This week at tv news they told us than all the US rice contain arsenic. A woman who eat rice often is very sick now because of arsenic.

    Take care… rice bread, rice floor, rice chips, any rice product can have arsenic. This arsenic come from the natural way but in area where arsenic is too much available for the plant.

    Sorry for my poor english.

    • I’m 71 years old. I was raised on rice here in the South Carolina Low Country. I still eat rice and will continue to do so. To date, I have yet so see anyone sick because of rice.

  • For those who believe in being ready to ‘Bug-Out’, power outages present an excellent opportunity to practice ‘Bugging In’. Live out of your bag. Our family has discovered many items that worked great. But some failed miserably (fire starters, lighting, need of our children and pet for example). Better to find out now.

  • Buy a small barbeque type fire (not Gas) Always have plenty of potatoes. Cook potatoes then grate (on smaller grate size) beetroot, carrot, cucumber, cut corn off cob & have the latter mentioned raw. You will probably be better off healthwise. I wouldnt touch tuna or anything else out of the sea. You might toss some other veggie in with the potatoes. The only flowers I grow can be eaten, as well as encourage bees. Grow a lemon tree even in a pot, balances PH of the body. Look up epsom salts for lemon trees & garden. Try to get organic everthing.

  • On Kelly & Michael the other day they asked “What is it with the rushing out to buy bread and milk before a storm?” I always make sure we have bread, milk, and eggs in the house. Bread is the one of those things people buy often because they use it often. So most of the people buying bread before a storm are currently out or close to out. So they buy bread and then some extra just for backup because you never know how long you’ll be snowed/iced in. Beans are another good storm item. Hearty and whether their canned or dry they keep a long time.

  • No power time to raid the fridge for the items that will go bad fast. Kids love cream cheese mixed with canned chopped olives spread on any type of bread or cracker, I like Wasa bread which we always have in the pantry. We have rolling blackouts in CA so I keep the list of what to keep / use / toss on the side of the fridge. Getting to be quite an expert at it – love the advice on this site.

  • You frequently talk about the Numanna foods. They come in large sizes and most require 20 minutes of cooking. I think that in a long term SHTF scenario, just add water meals would be better. Any suggestions on this?
    Thank you…much appreciated, and love your website.

    • Hi Suzy! We have a small family of only 2 people. Most of the time, I prepare only part of the package. Since my secondary heat source requires that a fire be going, I didn’t worry much about the cooking time for this. I’ll see what I can find as far as a “just add water” food, but you have to keep in mind that the less preparation something requires, the more likely it is to have chemical additives you may want to avoid. I’ll get back to you on this one 🙂

      • after reading your site, i ordered some numanna foods. and they are great and of superior quality and i like the organic and non GMO products. and the people are so nice to communicate with. they only have full meals and i wanted some individual fruits and veggies, so i tried honeyville and they seem to offer non GMO ,so i ordered some and will see how they are……
        i love your site and receive your newsletter…i have learned a lot and you give great advice…i have your books,,,,,but i have not tried canning as i have no place for a garden..keep up the good work….

    • “Bruce,” why are you bothering to even read this blog? Didn’t you notice the title, or are you a troll just seeking conflict? Be educated or begone. Naturally the chemical industry has published many articles and even “scholarly” papers obfuscating the issue and making claims that organic foods are somehow no better than GMOs, and perhaps worse. What else would anyone expect of them? This blog is for people who think for themselves, provide for themselves, take personal responsibility, and don’t travel the beaten path of the Standard American Diet (SAD – sugar and chemical laden garbage).

  • Only use organic tortilla chips for your No-Power Nachos, it really helps the canned cheese be the stand-out of the dish.

  • Here is a book of no cook recipe’s ever good book : the storm gourmet a guide to creating extraordinary meals without electricity

  • Being a backpacker, I have a small backpacking stove that uses white gas (Coleman liquid fuel) and have a couple of gallons meaning many hours of cooking per gallon. I’ve used backpacking stoves many times for picnics (heat up a can Denisons chili then put on bread or soft tortillas, yummy for a family) and even meals while on the job. Camping LP gas stoves can also be used, and many people prefer them for ease of use.

    I also have some short-grain brown rice (prefer that over long grain), put a half cup in a pan, 1 3/4 cups of water, bring to a boil, then quickly pour into a wide-mouth pint thermos. A few hours later enjoy really soft rice. Cooking time only a few minutes on the stove. I haven’t found a legume that is as easy to cook, though I suspect that if I grind one up into a flour first (using my hand grinder) and mix it in with the rice, it might work. I should try that out.

    Basically, get foods that require only a short cooking time, a simple, relatively cheap (less than $100) camping stove, and you can enjoy hot meals even when the electricity and gas are down.

  • i can relate to the freezer disaster. we had a power outage of about a half day. unfortunately, when the power came back on, it surged enough to fry the condenser. the little lite was on and the freezer hummed. but a week later when i “went shopping’ in the freezer, i found my whole salmon “swimming in a red “sea” of thawed raspberries—along with many unidentifiable other items that used to be food. 🙁 you can be sure i “look in on” that freezer more often these days.

  • Eggs is completely left out, unbroken they last over a year in room temperature. Yeah the yellow darkens, gets a bit less freely flowing and arent quite as tasty but that is about it. And all they need is the ability to boil water. Same goes for a kg or 20 of rice. Combine the two for a boring and repititive but perfectly complementary meal that can keep you going by jusr being able to boil water without refrigeration for a very long time.
    Not to mention that a egg or 3 are quite nutritious and keeps you going for a day. Meanwhile various processed to death grains as suggested require a lot more mass and has plenty of health side effects… which may not exactly matter that the stomach hurts 24/7 if otherwise staying alive… but id kinda prefer not to be in pain.

    As for potatoes, well, sure good food but even better if you can secure a 20m*3m plot somewhere out of sight of people. Such a plot delivers absolutely massive amounts of potatoes on just rain and being ignored as they grow.

    Oh and keep books. Lots of them. It gets quickly boring sitting in a foxhole. Anyone without a 500 book personal library kinda sucks :p
    I mean presumably we are looking at a 1+ year period of hunkering down while the world as we know it is going to shit. During which time most suggested industrially produced spreads etc are just kinda childish and gone in a week, aside from being very poor in nutrition.

    Honey is a very interesting material, if good quality (and not supermarket bought sugarwater mixed garbage) lasts practically forever (5+ years) just standing in a jar. Some darkening but the sheer sweetness keeps in clean and edible. Go for the stuff that actually forms crystals… ie buy several types and leave them in room temperature for months beyond so called last use dates and see how they behave. And yes its supposed to be a thick mass, dont even try anything even slightly runny, that stuff is all garbage and ersatz.

    Oh and you can as a rule trust your sense of taste with anything non-industrial, and even with many of the industrial goods. Taste is after all the primary survival instinct of the old caveguy who tried eating just about anything he came across…. and those with even slightly malfunctioning taste buds died without offspring 😉

    • Honey was found in Egyptian tombs that was still good. Also in Israel there was a study done about putting honey on surgical wounds. Honey helped protected the surgical site as well as help with the healing. Eggs last longer if kept cooler. In my area, 100 plus degree days vastly shortens the life cycle of the eggs. I keep chickens and like to have the eggs out since it does not develop the gene with the cholesterol issues doctors warn everyone about, however it is not viable in the summer unless you have air conditioning in your house or live in a cooler area.

      • Dietary cholesterol has virtually no impact on lipid cholesterol. Some doctors are several decades behind the times:-)

  • In case of a power outage (such as longer than a week), i.e. SHTF type, there isn’t going to be anything at any store b/c they’ll all be closed down, no water, no electric in them etc. Therefore there won’t be ANYTHING fresh to eat. No fruit, no vegetables, no more fresh milk, or any dairy products, and of course for salad lovers, NO MORE salads goodies either. No bread for sandwiches (freeze it now).
    SO, just something to consider. IF the power is out b/c of an EMP, then you have what you have, and what you didn’t have, you won’t get at that time. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
    Life as we know it will cease to exist…seriously !!! Get what you can get NOW, b/c later (speaking to all the procrastinators out there) will be to late. No electric, no phones, no propane/gas (after you run out of what you had). We’ll miss our phones, our computers, our televisions, but we will NOT have any of it anymore…It’s not a matter of IF this is going to happen, but WHEN it will, and it will, it’s just a matter of time. NOT gloom and doom, just “FACT” !!! WATER-FOOD and you’re good until it runs out, then you need to know what to do at that point…

  • Thanks for the camping stove reminder. I have a one-burner LP stove from my motorcycling camping days in the late 70s early 80s. It screws on top of a propane cylinder & I always have lots of those as an amateur plumber & stained glass artist & amateur radio operator. The squat cylinders are cheaper than the tall cylinders that plumbers typically use as a hand wraps around them better. Plus the squat cylinders dont let the stove tip over so easy. The gas cylinders come in 3-packs & 6-packs. They are a disposal nightmare for municipal garbage departments as are the 20 lb cylinders too but when SHTF that will be the least of a taxpayor’s worries.
    Butane backpacking stoves are also good as long as the temperature is above freezing as butane doesn’t evaporate at low temperatures so the stove won’t work. They are inexpensive altho the gas cylinders are quite small & lightweight therefore you need to stock more.

    • “Styrofoam plates
      Paper towels and napkins
      Plastic cutlery
      Baby wipes
      Disinfecting wipes
      Plastic cups”
      Yes, an excellent list of disposable mealtime items to conserve your water & keep you healthy when power & water no longer come out of the wall. Now we also have products based on bamboo, only slightly more $$ than paper, & less “floppy”. I keep cereal bowls on hand, often they are a better choice than plates. Dollarstores carry most of these items & while no longer just a $1 they are still cheaper than the grocery & party stores.

  • I hear about power outages. Being off grid I am responsible for my power. I have 2 one-thousand gallon propane tanks. I have a solar oven. I have an outdoor griddle that uses propane. I also have a dutch oven for outdoor fire. For the winter I have a dragon heater with a small oven for cooking.

    I buy bulk and try to buy for the year. I only get to the grocery store (100 miles away) about once a month. I know the bible & history shows famines last 7 years, I am no where near there. But I try to have over a years worth of food on hand at all times. It is only animal feed I need to work on. I buy my honey in 5 gallon buckets. I always keep several on hand since we rarely use sugar. Grains I pick up from the mill once a year. Downside is my husband health has forced me to give up my dairy goats. I have some cans of powder milk, but miss my fresh.

    If I did lose power to my freezers I would grab my pressure canner and start canning all that I could. My husband brought me a freeze dryer to start preserving more of our food so I don’t need as much freezer space. Also a good way to preserve eggs for the future. If I could not use either propane or my freezer dryer, then I would build a fire for canning outside.

    Soup is a good choice for outdoor cooking in a cast iron pot. You throw in whatever you have fresh, frozen or canned.

  • Buying on sale, then cooking and canning meat in quantity, works well and doesn’t require refrigeration. I take 5lbs of frozen boneless skinless chicken breast, trim the fat, and put the frozen pieces in my instant pot and sprinkle with one packet of taco seasoning mix, cook for 45 minutes, and it comes out perfect. Mix with miracle whip for delicious chicken salad, and cube and can the rest for storage.

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