With Hurricane Florence predicted to possibly spread flooding and power outages far inland, a spot check of three Charlotte supermarkets Tuesday morning found people stocking up on supplies like milk and bottled water.
There’s just one problem: Those aren’t the supplies you need. If you lose electricity, you’ll lose refrigerator to keep extra milk. And in an inland location hundreds of miles from the coast, you aren’t likely to lose your access to clean drinking water unless you have a well that needs electricity to run.
Fill the bathtub with water so you have something to flush toilets if you’re on a well, but filling jugs and pitchers with water the day before will provide you with plenty of drinking water. (If you’ve bought jugs of water, pour out a little to give room for expansion and then toss a couple in the freezer. Jugs of frozen water can help keep frozen food a little longer, and ice is at a premium when the power is out for long.)
What should you be getting instead?
Batteries. Veterans of Hurricane Hugo, which hit Charlotte hard in 1989, know that downed power lines can take days and sometimes weeks to repair. Flashlights, lanterns and battery-operated fans will come in handy.
Outdoor cooking fuel: Think of propane and butane for camp stoves and charcoal and propane for outdoor grills. Remember: Never use charcoal indoors or in a closed garage (the fumes are toxic).
Powdered and canned milk: Tropical storms and hurricanes aren’t the same as snow days. Packing your refrigerator with extra milk and losing power means a lot of spoiled milk. Instead, look for shelf-stable products. You can cook with canned milk, and you can stir powdered milk into pancake mixes to make breakfast or lighten your coffee. Nut milks such as almond milk also come in smaller shelf-stable packages, so it’s great for cereal.
Non-perishable food: Think nut butters, boxed macaroni & cheese, and canned meats like salmon, tuna, chicken and good ol’ Spam. Once you open canned meats, they won’t keep long, but most can feed several people. You can always cook mac & cheese and Spam on the grill. Ramen noodle packets keep a long time and they’re easy to dress up with canned vegetables.
Canned beans: They have protein, they fill you up, and you can use them for simple, quick meals like quesadillas cooked on a camp stove. (Make sure you have a manual can opener.)
Instant soup mixes and canned soup: You can make powdered soup with water from the sink and dress it up with things like canned tuna or beans. Canned soup doesn’t take a lot of fuel to heat up on a grill. Boil-in-bag rice and couscous are great to keep handy, too.
Instant coffee: You’ll be grouchy and stressed enough, so make sure you can get your caffeine fix. Some brands, such as Starbucks Via, dissolve easily in tap water if you have a way to heat it.
Bread: Sliced white bread can mold quickly, especially if you’re stuck without air conditioning in September humidity. But heartier whole-grain breads may keep longer. Even more practical: Tortillas and crackers.
Fruit: Apples and oranges don’t need refrigeration and the fiber can fill you up. Dried fruit is also a good source of nutrients.
Paper products: Paper plates and plastic cups will save on clean-up, wet wipes or paper towels are great for cleaning your hands or cooking surfaces, and of course, you can never have too much toilet paper.