With hurricane season here, it's time to stock up on supplies
Money is tight these days, and a hurricane food kit may seem like a luxury. But weather experts predict a nasty 2011 season, and Mother Nature isn't interested in budget shortfalls.
The hurricane season started June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.
Collect food supplies by buying a few items every time you go to the store; that makes it a bit less painful. You've got a little time, since storms tend to work their way into the Gulf of Mexico later in the season.
Avoid foods that your family won't normally eat. Even a storm might not get the kids to eat canned salmon. And we don't want to add anymore rain to your hurricane party, but alcoholic beverages are generally a bad idea. A glass of wine might calm your nerves, but a bottle impairs judgment you'll need in an emergency. In some areas, liquor sales have been banned as storms approach.
Don't talk yourself out of a hurricane kit just because you have an evacuation plan. An impending storm may not be severe enough to require evacuation. However, even a tropical storm or a minimal hurricane can knock out power for days. You may have a roof over your head, but not the electricity to cook dinner or run the refrigerator. That's when shelf-stable food comes in handy.
When making up a shopping list, consider whom you are buying for. Is there a baby in the house? A diabetic? People with high blood pressure who need low-salt foods? After the season, cycle the food into your regular meals.
As a storm approaches, inventory the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. You may already have foods appropriate for an emergency such as bread, crackers and peanut butter.
Think of it this way: It may be frustrating to be home when things look okay but there's no power. It'll be worse if you are in long lines in the blazing sun waiting for water when you could have had your own supply.
Information from Times files was used in this report.
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. Fast facts
Hurricane food kit
Use this checklist to determine what you've got in the pantry. Then take it to the supermarket to finish stocking your hurricane grocery kit.
• Canned soups, chili, vegetables, stews: They can be eaten cold but can also be heated in a pot on the grill.
• Cereal: Vitamin-fortified cereal can be eaten dry or with boxed or powdered milk (as long as you've got enough water).
• Beverages: Juice, power drinks and enhanced water offer an alternative to plain water. Shelf-stable milk can be used for cereals or to drink. Buy in small boxes because once opened, it must be consumed.
• Crackers: For snacking or eating with cheese and cold cuts from the fridge just after the power goes out.
• Condiments: Mayonnaise is generally a no-no because of refrigeration issues, but buy the smallest jar you can and make tuna or chicken salad. Look for condiments — ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, relish, salt and pepper — in individual packets.
• Water: One gallon a day per person for drinking, more if you'll be using it to reconstitute powdered milk. Have enough for seven days.
• Fresh fruit: When a storm is a day away, buy apples and oranges. They last awhile, and it is good to eat something fresh. Stock up on ice at that time, too. Fill the freezer and every cooler you've got.
• Healthier snacks: Granola bars, Fruit Roll-Ups, dried fruit, nuts and trail mix offer nutrition and have a long shelf life.
• Preserved meats: Beef jerky is high-protein, low-carb and good for diabetics. Canned tuna, chicken, even Spam also provide protein.
• Comfort food: You might as well buy the cookies. You know you're going to crave them. Go easy on salty snacks because they make you thirsty.
• Other foods to consider: Peanut butter, individual applesauce and fruit cups, rice cakes, dehydrated food (from camping stores) and Meals Ready to Eat (from military surplus stores).
• Supplies: Garbage bags and ties, paper towels, wipes, fuel (charcoal, lighter fluid, matches) or a full propane tank for the grill, hand sanitizer. Don't forget the manual can opener. Plastic wrap or storage containers.
• Tableware: Paper plates, napkins and paper or plastic cups; plastic forks, knives and spoons; a couple of serving spoons, forks and knives for food preparation and serving.
• Food for pets: Food and drink for your pets, and their familiar dishes. Vitamins and medications.
On the Web
For more information on hurricane preparedness, including evacuation routes, go to tampabay.com/hurricane-guide.