Nonperishable food is an essential part of your hurricane kit. Popular go-to items in south Louisiana are tuna, Vienna sausages and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
But, there are plenty of other nonperishable or shelf-stable items that you should consider for emergencies. Some of these are good to buy now at the beginning of hurricane season, while others have a shorter lifespan but can last a week without refrigeration, such as bread and fresh fruit.
See more: Read our hurricane guide for beginners.
Most emergency planners advise that you stock enough nonperishable food and water to last for two weeks per person. The Red Cross and FEMA say every household should have a three-day supply of one gallon of water per person per day, plus more for any instant foods that require water for preparation, such as instant oatmeal, dry milk and soup mixes.
Select foods you like and normally eat. Don’t waste money on food you or your family won’t eat.
You may not have any way to heat food or refrigerate it. Buy single-serve portions, when possible, to avoid leftovers.
Make sure you have a manual can opener with big handles.
Have disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils, so you don’t have to use your water supply washing dishes.
Remember baby food, special dietary requirements and food for your pets.
Food safety reminder
An unopened full freezer will keep food safe to eat for about 48 hours without power; a half-full one for 24 hours. Highly perishable contents of your refrigerator will stay fresh for only four to six hours after the power goes out. Read more tips for fridge safety during power outages.
Nonperishable food items
A good hurricane kit includes ready-to-eat food, such as granola bars, in addition to food that tastes better heated, such as canned chili. This list includes suggestions for both.
If you don’t have a way to boil water when the power is off, do not include foods that require hot water. Keep in mind foods that require water also will consume your water supply quickly.
Meats and protein
- Vienna sausages
- Tuna (cans, seasoned pouches, tuna salad kit)
- Canned chicken
- Canned ham
- Shelf-stable bacon and bacon bits (fully cooked)
- Shelf-stable meal pouches, such as those from Saffron Road
- Jerky and other meat sticks
- Shelf-stable pepperoni slices
- Canned beans
- Canned seafood such as kippers and smoked oysters. Check out international markets for larger selection.
- Summer sausage, salami
- Canned soups
- Canned chili
- Nuts – peanuts, almonds, etc.
- Low-sodium broth
- Noodle cups
- Dried cereal
- Instant rice pouches. Can be eaten as is or boiled to warm. (Pro tip – if it is hot outside, leave on sidewalk in sun to heat)
- Bulghur wheat, quinoa, couscous and other easy grains
- Instant oatmeal and grits
- Canned vegetables – tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green beans, artichoke hearts, red bell peppers, asparagus, etc. Trader Joe’s has unusual canned options like eggplant, grape leaves and specialty beans.
- Canned black olives
- Ready-made pizza crust with sauce in squeeze bottle
- Wasabi peas
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Dried and dehydrated fruits – blueberries, cranberries, raisins, mango, papaya, pineapples, coconut, cherries, etc.
- Canned fruit
- Apple sauce (individual servings such as cups or pouches)
- Shelf-stable smoothie, fruit and yogurt pouches
- Sandwich crackers with various fillings, such as cheese or peanut butter
- Popcorn (kernels not microwave bags)
- Fresh fruit (good for last-minute additions)
- M&Ms – won’t melt
- Shelf-stable Jell-O cups
- Shelf-stable pudding cups
- Packaged cookies
- Snack cakes
- Hard candy
- Water – in gallons and individual servings
- Coffee – instant coffee, ground coffee, you do you
- Shelf-stable milk in a Tetrapak like Horizon or Parmalat
- Powered milk
- Fruit juices
- Coconut water
- Lychee juice
- Sports drinks
- Drink mixes to add to bottled water
- Canned French butter – available at international markets
- Ghee in a jar (clarified butter)
- Shelf-stable cheese, such as parmesan in the shaker container
- Condiments – ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, etc. Condiment packages from restaurants work well too.
- Spices – Pick herbs from your garden before a storm. Have dried spices available.
Cooking advice during outages
People cook on gas stoves and outdoor grills during storm-related power outages. Have matches or a lighter for your gas stove because most igniters are electric and won’t work during an outage.
If you have a grill, stock up on propane or charcoal before a storm.
You can boil water on a grill in a cast-iron skillet or any heavy pot. An old pot is good. You can use everyday cookware on a grill, but it may discolor permanently.
Have at least one roll of heavy-duty foil in your emergency cooking kit. Foil pans are good for cooking and baking on a grill.
Other ways to heat food:
- Small, inexpensive portable grill plus charcoal
- Camping cookstove plus fuel
- Candle- or Sterno-fired fondue pot, chafing dish or candle warmer
- Working indoor fireplace, but be sure to open the flue
Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors. The same goes for generators. NEVER run a gasoline engine in or near your garage or living/sleeping space. Sadly, carbon monoxide kills people in every disaster area.
New Orleans food writer Judy Walker contributed to this report.
Have more food suggestions? Email email@example.com.
Sources: Times-Picayune archives, LSU AgCenter.
A version of this story originally appeared on NOLA.com in August 2013.
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Carlie Kollath Wells is a breaking news reporter at NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune.