48 Hours Without Power: What’s for Dinner?

September 16, 2012 was “Dine in the Dark Day,” and our partners at FLASH and the Great Hurricane Blowout inspired me to try it. In fact, I simulated a power outage for 48 hours. Follow along as I describe our dining-in-the-dark experience.

If your power went out right now, what would you have for dinner? What if the outage lasted a week? Do you have 21 meals ready to go in your pantry? I didn’t.

Let’s hope you already have an emergency plan (where to meet, for example), and an emergency kit so you’re all set when it comes to flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and other recommended items. But what are you going to eat?

While having a well-stocked pantry of non-perishable foods is the best defense, most of us don’t actively prepare an emergency pantry for an extended outage. To find out what we should be stocking up on, my wife and I decided to do an impromptu “emergency rehearsal” by shutting off our power for 48 hours. No, we didn’t run to the store first to stock up – we just shut down the power. Here’s our 48-hour diary.

Dinner on Saturday.An easy candle-lit dinner: chicken breasts in the fridge and just enough charcoal for one cookout, plus leftover rice and two peaches (our last fresh fruit along with three very ripe bananas). Cookies and our last bit of cheese for dessert. That was the end of the perishables: even with the door closed, the fridge will only keep perishables safely for about four hours. It was very evident that we didn’t have much water; just one jug of drinking water and another (half-empty) of distilled water for ironing. That was it. We stacked the plates and silverware in the sink, and washed our hands with disposable wipes.

Breakfast on Sunday.Cereal topped with a box of milk substitute (my wife is lactose intolerant), plus prunes, raisins and those bananas. We could have really used a nutrition shake or energy bar for protein. We also had our last slices of bread with peanut butter and honey.

Lunch on Sunday. Lunch was canned tuna (me) and canned chicken (my wife) on fancy party crackers. More peanut butter. Even with rationing and very limited brushing of teeth, we’ll run out of drinking water by tomorrow morning. Snacks were chips and a can of roasted almonds.

Dinner on Sunday. Vacuum packs of ready-to-eat (RTE) Indian food and rice. Canned soup would have been nice. We would have enjoyed our dinner more if we could have heated it up in a pot of water on the grill, camp stove or hotplate, but the meals were pretty good, even cold. No more RTEs in the pantry, though.

Breakfast on Monday. We’re only three meals into the outage and the pantry is quite bare! Breakfast is cereal and our last box of milk substitute, plus applesauce. Snacks: chips and a jar of olives.

Lunch on Monday. Canned black beans and an opened box of taco shells. We’re eyeing a bag of old marshmallows. Bonus: we find two packages of cheese crackers from a recent flight. This is getting sad.

The takeaway? We barely had 48 hours of food, and just 36 hours of water. What did we learn about what should be in our emergency pantry? That’s our next story!