Your Hurricane Grocery Shopping Guide

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Many nutritionists and chefs have a simple rule for eating well: When you go to the grocery store, stick to items around the perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find the meat, dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables; by contrast, if you spend too much time in the aisles in the middle of the store, you’re likely to wind up with a lot of packaged (and possibly processed) foods. 

If you live on the East Coast, then this weekend might be a time to take the opposite tactic.

As Hurricane Irene barrels northward, many people in coastal areas are battening down the hatches and taking appropriate precautions. Chief among those is purchasing or putting together a hurricane survival kit for a worst-case scenario. The most important supplies to have in there are flashlights, a first-aid kit, a radio and a three-day supply of food and bottled water.

The question, then, is what sort of food should make up your three-day supply. If you’re concerned that you’ll actually have to evacuate or that your home will become unlivable, then your priority is strictly survival. Most ready-made kits come with a supply of “food bars,” which provide the calories you need to survive but aren’t exactly gourmet dining.

However, the more likely scenario for most people in the storm’s path is spending the better part of the weekend stuck in their homes, possibly without power or potable water. In this case, you should stock up on actual food, but focus on items that don’t require running water or heat to prepare. In other words, a lot of dry goods that don’t require refrigerating and canned goods that don’t require microwaving or heating.

“You mostly want to get non-perishables,” says Cheryl Luptowski, consumer affairs officer at NSF International, a public health organization. “That’s always the tricky part: Most of them require heating or being mixed with water, and you might not have an abundant quantity of water or a way to heat it.”

Canned soup, in other words, is out of the question, unless you want to eat it cold (and no, you don’t get to serve cold soup and call it gazpacho). Ready-to-eat canned fruit is a better bet, and Luptowski recommends discarding the sugary liquid and sprinkling in some granola for a healthy snack (fresh fruits like bananas and apples are also an option). Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a good lunch of choice to get you through the storm (get whole-wheat bread if you want to maintain some semblance of healthy eating), and crackers topped with everything from peanut butter to spam are likewise good bets. She also suggests getting single-serve boxed milk for cereal, chips and salsa, canned beans and jars of apple sauce.

If all of these sound more like snack foods than proper home-cooked meals, remember that you’re trying to survive a hurricane, not spending a relaxing weekend at the Four Seasons (unless you’ve actually decided to spend the hurricane at a hotel, in which case just ignore this article and order room service). But if a weekend of snack foods sounds hellish to you, Luptowski recommends getting a propane-fueled camping stove to allow you to keep cooking, which can cost you as little as $15 for a single-burner stove. Note, though, that such stoves should never be used indoors, so you won’t be able to do any real cooking until the worst of the storm subsides.