THE KITCHEN DIVA: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

By Angela Shelf Medearis

A well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver, during emergencies. (Depositphotos)

I live in Texas, in an area that has been hit recently with a massive power-grid failure, freezing temperatures, icy roads, frozen pipes, water pressure woes and boil water notices for the past several days. To say that our state was unprepared for this weather disaster is an understatement.

Whether you live in an area that has been hit with pandemic quarantines and lockdowns, work and school closures, bad weather, power outages, frozen pipes and water cutoffs, or you just need to stock your pantry for the times when you’re unable to shop, here are some ways to create an emergency pantry using canned goods as staples.


A typical emergency pantry:

* Dried and/or evaporated milk

* Pasta, rice, cereals, crackers, bread (can be frozen for months)

* Jars of processed cheese spread

* Granola bars, Pop Tarts

* Canned fruits and vegetables

* Canned meats & fish (chicken, ham, tuna)

* Canned fruit, vegetable juices

* Peanut butter

* Canned bean, potato salad

* Unsalted nuts

* Canned baked beans, chili, hash, spaghetti, soup

* Dried fruits

* Instant beverages

* Baby food and formula (if needed)

* Bottled water


Additional supplies:

* Non-electric can opener

* Paper towels, foil

* Medications (prescription and nonprescription) that family uses on a regular basis

* Paper goods (toilet paper and tissues), napkins, plates, bowls, cups

* Plastic cutlery

* Bar soap and rinse-free body wash (if sanitizers or liquid soaps are unavailable)

* Food and water for pets

* Catering sterno cans, matches and aluminum chafer pan sets (disposable party buffet serving sets can be used for cooking and re-heating food safely)


Tips for creating and stocking an emergency pantry:

— Choose foods your family enjoys. Good options include low-sodium canned beans, vegetables, fruit (packed in juice), breakfast cereal, peanut butter, pouches of fully cooked whole grains and pastas, nuts, whole-wheat crackers and shelf-stable milk or plant milk (sold in aseptic boxes in the grocery aisle).

— When buying canned foods, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added products, and choose fruits packed in their own juice or water instead of syrup.

— Store canned goods in a cool, dark, dry area away from furnaces, pipes and other places where temperature changes occur. Store metal cans off the floor because moisture may lead to rust.

— Always use the FIFO (first-in, first-out) method when it comes to using foods from storage so that you’re sure to use your oldest cans first. If you see a can or jar with a broken seal or is rusting, bulging or denting, it should be discarded. If any food does not look or smell right, throw it out.

— Keep at least 6 gallons of water per family member to be prepared for one week. Store water in airtight, food-grade storage containers. Replace water every six months.

Here are a few recipes using ingredients that should be in every emergency pantry — grains and beans! They are versatile, nutrient-dense, packed with protein and very filling. These No-Cook Emergency Pantry Recipes courtesy of Trisha Calvo, a writer for Consumer Reports, are simple and easy to prepare.




Overnight Oats — Mix rolled oats with water and let sit overnight on a counter. In the morning, add peanut butter, raisins or other dried fruit, and a little cinnamon.


Power Bean and Grain Bowl or Wrap Filling — Combine drained canned beans with a pouch of precooked grains, drained canned corn, olive oil and any vegetables, herbs and spices you like. This dish also makes a delicious filling for a wrap, tortilla or pita bread.


Salmon or Tuna Stuffed Avocados — Combine chunks of canned salmon, tuna or canned smoke trout with chopped tomato and cucumber. Toss with a dressing of lemon juice or white vinegar, olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper. Use to stuff in avocado halves, top lettuce greens or as a sandwich filling.


Chunky Gazpacho — Combine a can of diced tomatoes with its juice, chopped onion, chopped cucumber, a little Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt and pepper. You can also add chopped red or green peppers, drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh parsley or cilantro, if you have any of these. For a heartier dish, add a can of chickpeas (drained).


Corn Salad — Combine drained canned corn with vegetables you have on hand (tomatoes, peppers and onions, for example), chopped. Add drained canned black beans if you like. Toss with a dressing made of one-part apple cider vinegar and one-part olive oil, fresh or dried basil, and a little salt and pepper.


Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.


© 2021 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis