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Ohio State University Extension


Eating Nutritiously When the Power Is Out

Family and Consumer Sciences
Patricia Brinkman, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Sharron Coplin, Retired Extension Associate, Food and Nutrition, Department of Human Nutrition
Lydia C. Medeiros, Faculty Emeritus, College of Education and Human Ecology

Help! No power to cook food and no stores or restaurants are open. Are you experiencing an ice storm, earthquake or other disaster? How can you offer your family healthy choices during a disaster? Why should you care about eating nutritiously at a time like this? You are better able to cope with situations and other trials when you eat a healthy diet. Children are also better able to cope when they eat a healthy diet. 

You can feed your family nutritiously for a few days without power, if you are prepared. Having a supply of foods in your cabinet or packed in a pest-resistant container will allow you to provide a variety of meals with little effort. Listed below are some food items to include in an emergency kit. These items can be purchased and kept in the cabinet for a few months or more. Also included in this fact sheet is a three-day menu that incorporates these food items, which will provide your family with healthy meals. Purchase only items your family will eat. If someone has special dietary needs, be sure to keep these in mind when purchasing your food. When keeping food items for an extended period, be sure to rotate them often (at least every six months) and use them before their expiration dates. 


Store one gallon of safe water per person per day for use in an emergency. A three-day supply is optimal. If you have pets, store one gallon per pet per day. It is best to purchase commercially bottled water and keep it unopened until it is needed. Replace water every six months, or follow the expiration date.

If you need to sanitize water, add ⅛ teaspoon of unscented bleach to one gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discard it and find another source of water.


MyPlate graphic

100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, crackers (graham, 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain), unrefrigerated whole-wheat tortillas, ready-to-eat cereals (round o’s [oats], raisin bran, granola, mini shredded wheat, etc.), canned pasta or rice (Spanish rice, ravioli, etc.), ready-to-serve rice containers, breakfast or granola bars


Vegetable juices (tomato, carrot, vegetable), canned vegetables (green beans, corn, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, etc.), tomato sauce and salsa, ready-to-serve vegetables, canned soup or chili, canned vegetable salads (three-bean, potato, etc.)


Dried fruits, canned fruits (in fruit juice or light syrup), unsweetened applesauce or fruit cups, freeze-dried fruits, bottled/canned 100% fruit juices, 100% fruit juice boxes


Dry milk powder, ultra-pasteurized (shelf-stable) milk, evaporated milk, canned cheeses (Parmesan, cheese sauce [jar], shelf-stable pressurized canned cheese, cheese and salsa [jar]), cocoa mix with milk


Jerky, canned refried beans, canned beans (pinto, kidney, pork and beans), nuts (peanuts, pecans, almonds, soy, etc.), nut butters (peanut, almond, soy nut, etc.), canned nuts, canned meats (tuna, sardines, salmon, deviled ham, corned beef, chicken), tuna or chicken pouches, protein bars

Note: Look for low-salt, low-fat or low-sugar versions of all foods. Use of brand names does not imply endorsement. Suggested foods for each food category are listed above.

Equipment to Have on Hand

Can opener, plastic utensils (knives, forks, spoons), disposable plates and bowls, napkins, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowls (or several sizes of tight-locking plastic bags to use when mixing ingredients), mixing spoon, garbage bags for refuse

Safety Precautions

Clean hands and preparation surfaces before and while preparing food. Aim for no leftovers. Once opened, eat low-acid canned goods (i.e., vegetables, beans, meats) immediately. After two hours of being opened, discard any food in need of refrigeration, and incorporate perishable food (food from the refrigerator and freezer) at the beginning of the emergency if it is safe to use. Canned fruits and juices are more acidic than other canned foods and can be eaten later in the same day. Discard at the end of the day any food not eaten from pouches.

Eating Nutritiously

Even in an emergency, you can follow MyPlate to eat the foods you need in the appropriate amounts for good health. See the three-day menu listed below. If more days are needed, repeat the cycle. Canned foods can be eaten without heating, although heating is preferred and helps with palatability. This menu does not require heating equipment; as such, you can provide nutritious, non-heated food when power is not available. Explanations for milk and crackers are included at the bottom of the menu, and recipes are also included.

Each day’s menu provides 1,800–2,000 calories and the day’s necessary nutrients. Considering an individual’s daily needs can range from 1,200–3,200 calories, the average 2,000-calorie diet was used to create this menu. The amount of sodium is very high during the first and second day because of the processed products used on those days. However, the menu for the third day is lower in sodium. When possible, purchase and use low-sodium or no-salt-added items. Doing so will result in a lower sodium level each day. 

Nutrition Facts: Day 1 Nutrition Facts: Day 2 Nutrition Facts: Day 3
Calories  1990 Calories 1817 Calories 1975
Fat 48 g Fat 53 g Fat 49 g
Saturated Fat 12 g Saturated Fat 15 g Saturated Fat 9 g
Cholesterol 21 g Cholesterol 96 g Cholesterol 6 g
Sodium 4800 mg Sodium 4462 mg Sodium 1970 mg
Total Carbohydrates 288 g Total Carbohydrates 270 g Total Carbohydrates 364 g
Dietary Fiber 30 g Dietary Fiber 28 g Dietary Fiber 35 g
Sugars 129 g Sugars 140 g Sugars 200 g
Protein 73 g Protein 86 g Protein 59 g
Vitamin A 120% DV Vitamin A 140% DV Vitamin A 88% DV
Vitamin C 240% DV Vitamin C 158% DV Vitamin C 210% DV
Calcium 130% DV Calcium 100% DV Calcium 115% DV
Iron 130% DV Iron 97% DV Iron  
*g = grams, DV = Daily Value  
  Day 1 Serving for 1 Day 1 Menu Day 2 Serving for 1 Day 2 Menu Day 3 Serving for 1 Day 3 Menu
Breakfast 1¼ cup Ready-to-eat cereal 1 cup  Pudding parfait 1¼ cup Ready-to-eat cereal
1 cup *Milk ¾ cup 100% fruit juice 1 cup *Milk
¾ cup 100% fruit juice     ¾ cup 100% fruit juice
Lunch 6–8 Peanut butter balls 3 oz Tuna salad 3 Tbsp Peanut butter
1 cup Ready-to-serve vegetable soup (unheated) 8 **Whole-wheat crackers **Crackers
2 **Crackers ½ cup Canned fruit ½ cup Pudding
½ cup Pudding 1 cup *Milk ½ cup Nuts and raisins 
  Bottled water   Bottled water   Bottled water
Dinner 2 Bean burritos 3 oz Canned corned beef 1 cup Canned baked beans
¾ cup Mexican salad ½ cup Vegetarian baked beans 2 slices Bread
½ cup Applesauce ½ cup Mixed vegetable salad ½ cup Canned diced tomatoes
  Bottled water 8 **Crackers/cheese sauce ½ cup Applesauce
    ½ cup Canned fruit 1 cup 100% fruit juice
      Bottled water   Bottled water
Snack 6 **Graham crackers 2 Rice cakes, popcorn flavor 2 **Graham crackers
½ cup 100% fruit juice 1 Tbsp Cheese sauce ½ cup Pudding
  Bottled water ¾ cup Tomato/vegetable juice   Bottled water
*Use reconstituted, powdered milk or shelf-stable milk (ultra-pasteurized) for drinking or in foods.
**Use whole-wheat, whole-grain crackers or graham crackers, or if needed, use gluten-free crackers.


Day 1

Peanut Butter Balls

Make 1-inch balls by mixing equal parts peanut butter and dry milk. Sweeten with honey or jam.

Bean Burritos

Mix ¼ cup refried beans, ¼ cup kidney beans, ¼ cup salsa and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Spread on 2 tortillas.

Mexican Salad

Mix equal parts drained corn, salsa and drained black or red beans.

Day 2

Pudding Parfait

Layer ½ cup pudding and ½ cup cereal. Top with dried fruits or nuts.

Tuna Salad

Mix 3 ounces tuna with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.


Mix 1 can stewed tomatoes, 2 cups tomato or vegetable juice, dried minced onion and parsley.

Mixed Vegetable Salad

Mix canned low-sodium vegetables and bottled low-fat Italian dressing.


Originally posted Feb 11, 2016.