When I was a kid, I used to love going “shopping” at my grandparents’ house. I used to bring my little yellow and orange shopping cart and stroll past the two racks of canned and packaged foods my grandfather had in his basement kitchen. I’d grab things my mom “needed” and then I’d make my way to the pantry, swing open the doors, and do the same. My grandmother would bag it up and we’d take it home.
They used to joke that my grandfather shopped like he was going to live through another Great Depression. I didn’t get it at the time, but in my adult hindsight, I guess Gramps was on to something: It’s good to be prepared for the unexpected — especially living here in the mountains!
We’ve had winters without power for days at a time, and at the start of this summer, we were warned the same could happen due to drains on the power grid and days of high fire danger. We saw it during the early days of the pandemic, when life was going to shut down for at least two weeks and people started to panic shop. But now, as inflation climbs and employee shortages continue, we’re starting to see something we never thought we’d have to worry about here in the good old United States: empty shelves.
It is never a bad idea to have on hand a supply of nonperishable, ready-to-eat food in the event even a temporary disaster should strike. In these modern days of convenience foods, it’s easy to build a supply of items that have a shelf-life of years at a time. In fact, this is something that Sierra Senior Services, in looking out for our region’s most vulnerable population, has been doing for three years now.
In recent weeks, Sierra Senior Services distributed emergency food boxes to all Meals on Wheels participants in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe, and all residents of the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments. Previously funded by senior services, food boxes this year were purchased with a grant from Liberty Utilities.
“Each box contains three, shelf-stable meals and assorted snacks that can be eaten at room temperature including chicken salad, tuna salad, and spaghetti, crackers, granola bars, shelf-stable milk, applesauce, raisins, grape juice, and oatmeal cookies,” director Sharon Romack explained in an email to Moonshine. “All the food is low sodium so seniors can enjoy it without worrying about their salt intake. The boxes are compact enough to be taken along in case of an evacuation, yet perfect to eat in the event of a power outage. The food does not expire until 2024.”
Truckee Emergency Services Coordinator Robert Womack points residents to ready.gov, where they can find information and lists of items they should keep on hand in the event of an emergency situation, as well as what to pack in their go-bags if a wildfire should require evacuation.
Water is at the top of the list, with the recommended amount of 1 gallon per person per day for several days, to be used for both drinking and sanitizing purposes. It is a good idea to be prepared with at least a several-day supply of nonperishable food, taking into consideration special dietary needs as well as storing items that you know your family members like to eat. Ready-to-eat camping-style meals are a great option if you have a way of boiling water.
If you have a formula-fed infant at home, be sure to have an extra supply of formula in your pantry. We’re seeing the importance of this now, as manufacturer shortages are leaving some parents scrambling to locate supplies for their babies. If using a powdered or liquid-concentrate formula, also ensure to have a sufficient supply of water to mix it with.
And don’t forget about your four-legged family members! They need water, too. Also keep an extra stash of dry and/or canned food for cats, dogs, hamsters, whatever furry — or non-furry — type they may be.
In addition to a food cache, disposable plates, cups, and cutlery should also be part of your plan. A traditional mess kit is great too, especially for the environment; but keep in mind that it will necessitate an extra supply of water for proper washing. Matches, can openers, and camping-sized propane tanks are also wise to have. Just remember that camping stoves and grills, gas or otherwise, should never be used indoors. Woodburning stoves and disposable chafing dishes warmed with canned heat sources are ways to heat food in an emergency. Commercially canned food can be eaten directly out of the can without warming or by heating the can (label removed and thoroughly disinfected) over a heat source.
One last item Womack suggests having is not food-related, but is wise given today’s electronics-driven society. “I would also suggest, if they have kids, to pack something to keep them occupied. Phones and iPads die,” he said, adding that the adults will equally benefit from having something to do. Games, puzzles, cards, books, are all great to pass the time.
Recommended nonperishable items to keep on hand in the event of an emergency:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
- Protein or fruit bars
- Dry cereal or granola
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Canned juices
- Nonperishable pasteurized milk
- High-energy foods
- Food for infants
- Comfort/stress foods