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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Make Food Plan Now for Emergencies

September 1, 2005

Editor: A PDF file of the "Eating Nutritiously When the Lights are Out" fact sheet is available to download from this Web page.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With clear weather in the forecast, flood warnings from earlier this week might seem like a distant memory. But Ohio State University Extension nutritionist Sharron Coplin said that this is the perfect time to do some menu planning and pantry inventory for emergencies.

“Some people planned ahead for Y2K, but a new millennium approaching just is not that common of an occurrence,” Coplin said. “People tend to think that an electricity outage isn’t something to be too concerned about -- and something that ‘won’t happen to me,’ so they tend not to plan ahead for it.”

But with just a little preparation, healthful meals can be a cinch even when power outages become prolonged.

An Ohio State University Extension fact sheet, "Emergency Food Pyramid: Eating Nutritiously When the Lights are Out," contains all sorts of ideas for an emergency. It is available online by going to and clicking on the "Emergency Food Pyramid" title, listed under "Food Safety and Storage."

When a prolonged outage is anticipated, Coplin recommends using up perishable food from the refrigerator and freezer at the beginning of the emergency, if possible. Then go to the pantry, where there should be all sorts of possibilities to get you through an outage.

“Most of the time, the foods recommended in the power-outage fact sheet are just regular items that could be part of your regular food consumption pattern,” Coplin said. “Just keep these items on the shelf, and replace them when you’ve used them.”

Such items include tuna, canned chicken or other meat, canned beans, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, cereal, crackers, canned soup, canned vegetables, canned or dry milk and bottled water. The fact sheet includes meal plans with “no heating required” for three days of outages, including:








  • Bean burritos, made with tortillas, refried beans, kidney beans, salsa and grated Parmesan cheese, served with a "Mexican salad" of drained canned corn, salsa, and drained red or black beans.
  • Tuna salad, made with two six-ounce cans of tuna (for four people) and a quarter-cup of mayonnaise from a small jar or single-serve packs. Serve on crackers with canned pineapple and a gazpacho (cold soup) made with stewed tomatoes, tomato or vegetable juice, dried minced onion, and parsley.
  • A meal of canned baked beans, canned diced tomatoes, apple sauce and bread. Canned beans and diced tomatoes can be eaten without heating.


Any opened perishable food that can't be kept cold and isn’t eaten should be thrown away at the end of the day, Coplin said.

Other tips for emergencies are provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Of course, Coplin said, such guidelines are only helpful if they’re reviewed before a power outage eliminates the ability to download them.


Martha Filipic
Sharron Coplin