by Shane White
Immediate - The power has been out for several hours. Not just for you, the power is out for several miles in every direction. You do not want to open your refrigerator or freezer. Your food in the refrigerator will only last around 4 hours with the power out as long as nobody is opening it up. Food in your full freezer can last up to 48 hours if it remains closed. Replacing this food can be an unnecessary expense. After a couple hours, you will want to hook up a generator to your refrigerator if you have one. If your refrigerator is running you will be able to open and close your refrigerator as normal. If you do not have a generator, you may need to cook a lot of your food or something because you might not have much time before the temperatures start to rise in your refrigerator and freezer. This is not ideal, but at least you can salvage some of your food. You can also put some food in coolers if you can get some ice from somewhere.
So what do you eat? Think of food that does not require electricity. If you have a gas burner, or a camping stove, you can cook some of your canned foods that require cooking. You can also eat granola bars, fruits and vegetables that are not in the refrigerator, or pull out those MREs that you have had laying around. It might also be a good idea to have some boxed dinners in your pantry that do not require anything refrigerated that you can cook. For breakfast, maybe some just add water pancake mix.
Short Term - After the first day, you will be needing to make sure that you can get some gas for your generator. This might be difficult since gas stations use electricity to pump the gas as well as to charge you for the fuel. If you can't find a gas station you are going to need to start using the food in your refrigerator and freezer before your generator runs out of gas.
Hopefully you have stored food before now. Three weeks would be an absolute minimum of food in your storage. If the power is out longer than three weeks and that is all you have stored, you will be in big trouble. Six months to a year or more of food storage is much safer in my opinion. You can't go wrong having too much canned and boxed foods in your pantry as long as you cycle through them. Consider writing expiration dates on them so you can quickly see what needs to be used. This will help to keep you from being stuck with a lot of expired foods.
If the power is out, most grocery stores will be closed. They will not have a may to charge you for your food, monitor their inventory, or even keep their lights on. Their food will be spoiling as well. Stores just do not have a plan for long term power failures. Eventually they will be forced to sell their food without power, but until then, you may have trouble finding food if the power is out.
Long Term - If the power has been out for over a month, it is a good chance it will be out for a long while. Your food stores can only last so long and you cannot count on getting your food resupplied as readily as before. Even your freeze dried food that is expected to last 25 years is only going to help you if you have enough to feed you and your family.
Something you can do now to be ready for this is to grow a garden. If you have food growing, you will have plenty of food when the crop is ready. Also consider investing in canning supplies. If you can your food, as it grows, it can be good for another couple years. I guarantee that the quality of the food you grow is much better than anything you can buy already canned.
You can also raise a few animals and learn how to get milk, eggs, and meat from them. Some communities allow for some chickens, rabbits, and other animals in your back yard. Find out what the local ordinances are for your area.
Do what you can to make sure that you have plenty to eat in any kind of a catastrophic situation. They happen all the time. There is just a matter of time before they happen to you. Store food and stay fed.