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No Power? You Can Eat Well if You Plan Ahead

When the lights went out all over Georgia, many people learned how dependent they'd become on their stoves and microwaves. How do you fix your food without electricity?

You certainly don't have to go hungry, says a University of Georgia expert. You just have to be prepared.

"You can cook in the fireplace if you need to," said J udy Harrison, an Extension Service nutritionist and food safety specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

How and What to Cook

"A one- or two-burner camping cook stove can come in very handy when the power goes out," she said. "But you'll have to go outside to use it."

Even gas or charcoal grills can be handy in a pinch. The key, Harrison said, is to be smart when you buy the food you'll have to prepare.

"Don't plan to cook a 12-pound turkey, even if it will fit in your fireplace," she said. "When you head to the store, think simple. Think, 'What can I cook in minutes over a roaring fire or outside in a blowing wind -- and with the children 'helping'?'"

Easy Foods When Power's Out

Here's a list of easy foods to stock up on, Harrison said, for the next time the power fails:

  • Canned meats. Ham, chicken and turkey are available. Look for them on the same grocery aisle as canned tuna in most stores.
  • Packaged pasta mixes or rice mixes. You can even mix these with the canned meat or tuna to create a quick-to-fix "camping meal." You can easily prepare it in your fireplace, camp stove or gas grill.
  • Hard cheeses. Hard cheddar, Swiss, provolone or mozzarella can be kept even without refrigeration for several hours before they lose quality. And don't forget the crackers.
  • Canned soups or dehydrated soup mixes. Soup or water can easily be heated in the fireplace or on a camp stove.
  • Fruits. Fresh, canned or dried, fruits are healthful and don't have to be cooked.
  • Vegetables. Fresh or canned veggies are nutritious and also require little or no cooking.
  • Cereals. Cold cereals can make a meal or a great snack for the kids. And nothing is more soothing on a cold winter morning than a steaming bowl of oatmeal. Be sure to get instant, and just add hot water, straight off the fire or your camp stove.
  • Peanut butter and jelly. Who doesn't like peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches? And what could be easier to "cook"?

Packaged Foods, Reminders

Harrison said many packaged food products work well, too. "A boxed macaroni-and-cheese mix cooks in 10 minutes," she said, "and is great with the beans and wieners."

And while you're at the store, she said, make sure you have the other things that make powerless cooking work, like plenty of starter sticks for the fireplace, a hand-operated can opener and fuel for the camp stove or grill.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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