2011-08-25 / Community News

Being Prepared Is Not Limited to Hurricane Season

by Lauren Lehmann

September is National Preparedness Month. How prepared are you for a natural disaster? Do you have enough food to feed your family? What will you do if you cannot get to a grocery store? How will you cook your food?

In our area, the effects of hurricanes are a possibility between June and November. While I was living in Houston, I experienced the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I began to see emergency preparedness as a way of life, rather than something to do when a hurricane is brewing in the Gulf. Believe me, ten days of bread and peanut butter without electricity is no picnic.

Soon after marrying and moving to a rural area, my husband and I wondered how long our food supply would last in the case of a natural disaster. We tested ourselves by doing a mock- emergency weekend. Could we live for two days without spending money, going to the store, or using electricity for preparing our meals?

Yes, we passed our test, but not with flying colors. Surprisingly, preparing the food was not an issue. We used a grill and a dutch oven. But, in a real case scenario, much of our food would have spoiled without electricity powering the refrigerator and freezer. Until this mockemergency, neither of us realized just how much food we stocked in the freezer and refrigerator. Every meal contained some ingredient or condiment that was frozen or refrigerated. We realized we needed to stock more nonperishable foods in our pantry. And no, cans of chili-mac and beef ravioli were not the answer.

Instead, we began to stock our pantry with foods that we could combine to create a balanced meal. This included meats, vegetables, rice, noodles, and various canned soups and soup mixes. In order to streamline this process, my husband and I made a list of the meals that we eat on a regular basis and planned our grocery list accordingly. Since stocking up our pantry, we decided to include freeze-dried foods as well because they contain less sodium. In our experience, the cost difference between canned and freeze-dried foods is minimal.

Stocking our pantry has also made several long-term impacts on our family. First, we spend significantly less on food now than when we would make a big weekly trip to the grocery store. Second, we eat fewer convenience foods and do not have to wonder if we have everything on hand for supper. Third, we are expanding our cooking repertoire to creatively incorporate nonperishable ingredients in our recipes. Fourth, cooking has become a rewarding hobby that our family experiences together.

During National Emergency Preparedness Month I encourage your family to test yourselves by doing your own mock-emergency weekend. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan that works best for your own family.

Lauren Lehmann, from Lexington, is a high school teacher and an advocate for home preparedness.

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