Today I won’t be focusing on any particular virus or world emergency, but instead on how we as food-restricted people can be prepared.
I am personally a huge fan of prepping and being ready for an out-of-the-ordinary event that may disrupt our lives. This could be a last minute trip to LEGO Land, a 4 day power outage, or an outbreak that makes leaving the home difficult.
In our case, as long we are able to power our freezer (it’s rated for a 3 day power outage) and have access to water, I think we’ll do OK for the most part.
Want to be more prepared? Check out our Batch Cooking eCourse. Learn to fill your allergen free freezer.
Stocking Your Pantry with Allergen Free Foods
It’s not uncommon for a food allergy family to find safe food and buy three cases. I often joke about this with bakery customers, and we all laugh because it’s true. The start of being prepared begins with your dry goods pantry. These items have a shelf life of several months, but you should rotate through them so they aren’t wasted.
Items We Love to Have in Our Pantry:
- Canned Beans
- Corn & Gluten Free Flours (and baking supplies)
- Dried Fruit
- Gluten Free Pasta
- Oils and Vinegars
- Safe Snack Bars for The Kids
- Tomato Products (sauce, paste, etc.)
- Canned Tuna
Related Article: Our Favorite GF & Top 8 Free Snacks
Your allergy friendly pantry will be unique to you. Be sure to keep items on hand that will allow for quick & easy meals, one-pot-meals, and foods your family generally enjoys. Also, make sure you have a way to open the items in your pantry (if you take canned food on the go, don’t forget a can opener).
Once you have your pantry all sorted, you’ll need to stock your freezer. For families that manage multiple food allergies, I always suggest an extra (chest/standing) freezer for storing goods. Make sure you’ve labeled everything well, and rotate through the stock.
What We Love To Keep On Hand In The Freezer For Preparing Food:
- Cookies (my special recipe)
- Ice Cream For Each Person’s Needs
- Ice Packs (For Quick Travel)
- Pre-Cooked Meals, at least 75
- Turkey (ground)
A Bit More on Our Emergency Preparedness
If I’m being honest with myself, the allergies of the kids first led me to being more prepared in general, but then my personal diagnosis is what REALLY changed my mindset. The kids can have any water they’d like… I can’t. They can also use any brand of toilet paper and paper towels… again, I can’t. There’s only one brand of laundry detergent that doesn’t cause a reaction for us. The list goes on, but I think you get the idea. You can read more of Our Story here.
In our case, we are generally prepared for a what-if scenario because of how limited we already are. What really drove home this point for us was when my water wasn’t available online for a while. We worked directly with the company, but when you have to ration your own water because it’s the only safe option, you’ll NEVER want to experience that again.
For families like ours: if you wait until the disaster starts, you’ve waited much too long. In finances, they say you should have 3 – 6 months of living expenses in your savings account at all times. In the restricted-diet world, I would say keep a 30 day supply of frozen food on hand and a pantry that’s well stocked. The pantry should be able to last at least two months.
The Importance of Double Batching aka Bulk Cooking
Making large batches of safe food is something we’ve been doing for well over ten years. When you’re new to the diagnosis, everything is HARD. There never seems to be enough time in the day, and it’s incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities that come your way.
Eventually on your journey, you reach the point where you realize that the only way forward is to cook LESS. The easiest way to achieve this is to have extra food on hand that you can pull from. You’ll purchase an extra freezer, maybe a few more pots and appliances, and you’ll start living the batch cooking life.
For some, they like to do BIG cooks, like a weekend warrior project. At the end of a few days, they’ll have a month worth of dinners. Others enjoy the one meal at a time approach. It means that at dinner time, they double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. Both methods are valid, and you should choose the one that works best for your time, energy, and budget.
Once you have stock in your freezer, you can pull from it at least once a week to make sure nothing is going to waste. You can also make use of your stock when you’re sick and unable to feed your family. If you plan a vacation and want to bring safe food from home, your freezer stock may be just what you need.
My BIG tip in this area: don’t skimp when purchasing your freezer. I don’t recommend second hand (we had a terrible experience with that once), and I suggest buying something bigger than what you think you’ll need. We have the largest home-based option at this time, and one day, we may upgrade to a commercial size freezer.
Let’s Talk About Non-Food Items
Part of being prepared for an extended stay indoors, an emergency, or a getaway is to make sure you have other essential non-food goods. Here are items I would consider (most of these items are in our supplies kit)… You will need to make a list based on your restrictions, number of family members (and their ages), pets, etc.
- Bath & Beauty Items (I can only use one particular soap and one particular toothpaste)
- Books & Comics for the Kids
- Car Chargers for essential electronics
- Cleaning Supplies
- Entertainment (both electronic & electronic free)
- Medical Bracelet
- Medication (OTC, Compounded, Epi-Pens, etc.)
- Paper Towels & Toilet Paper (especially if you’re corn free)
- Self-Soothing Items (especially for children such as a stuffed toy)
- Small First Aid Kit (unique to your needs)
- Space Blanket (the ultra thin ones)
- Water Filtration
- Waterproof Items (for important documents & phones)
- Writing Instruments (pen, paper, etc.)
- Written Emergency Plan (names, numbers, addresses, medications, action plan, etc.)
What To Do When Disaster Strikes
There are different action plans you’ll need to implement based on what happens in your area. Let’s look at what to do in a small emergency that requires you to stay home.
First, make sure all of your family members and pets are safe. Let friends and family know that you’re OK, and have a plan to check in on each other from time-to-time. Assess what supplies you have, and make a list of what’s needed (in case you have the opportunity to replenish stock).
Next you’ll want to look at official statistics on what’s going on. For example, if there’s an illness going around and statistically you’ll be A-OK, please do not panic. If you learn that you are in the effected group of people, take the appropriate measures to stay safe and healthy.
In my case, if there’s a medical outbreak of some sort, we would continue to practice good hand washing (a “benefit” of being a food allergy family), and make sure that the kids keep their distance if they’re not feeling well. I would continue to wear my mask if I have to leave the house, but would probably go out of my way to stay home a little more than usual.
What you do will be unique to you and the situation. Always remember: panic and stress will only make the situation worse. Do what you can to stay calm, rely on your plan, and stay safe & healthy.
What To Do When Natural Disasters Strike
The first advice is still the same. Make sure everyone is safe, and contact those who need to be aware of where you are. However, BEFORE disaster strikes, it’s important to know your best escape routes. This includes from the inside of your home, and how to get out of town fast should the need arise.
When leaving your home, you may be limited on what you can carry, or how much time you have. Hopefully you have an emergency kit that’s pre-packed with essentials, copies of important documents, etc. Something most people don’t consider anymore: a phone book. What if your phone loses power, or is left behind? Contact information for friends and family should be part of your emergency supplies.
In my personal opinion, these are the must-have items when fleeing your home with little to no warning:
- Contacts (yes, an old fashioned phone book)
- Electronics & Documents (phone, laptop, emergency hard drive [yes, we have one])
- Safe food & water (we keep coolers and ice at home that we can fill in a moment’s notice)
- Medication & your action plan for allergic reactions
- Safe items unique to you, especially if you have a corn allergy
If you’re wondering how to determine what the priority items should be, think about how easy it is to purchase an item. Example: if you can have off the shelf band-aides, they’re not important. If you need a particular brand from a specific company and it takes two weeks to get to you, those band-aides are important.
Should I Be Making “Panic Purchases”?
Panic purchasing can do more harm than good in both the short and long term. In the short term, if you’re purchasing items you don’t really need (or have plenty of) those who are more vulnerable won’t have access to the products. I’m not saying you shouldn’t purchase, I’m saying a 1 year supply of toilet paper may be a bit much.
In our case, whenever we sense that disaster is on the horizon (such as an outbreak), we make sure we have plenty of my specific items on hand (water, flour, toothpaste, etc.) as these items are not sold in most stores.
From there, I assess if we NEED anything and if so, we’ll try to stock up before the stores are flooded with last-minute shoppers.
So no, I don’t think you should be panic purchasing, unless you were already running low on a specific-to-you product.
It’s important to remember that you only have so much control over prepping for disaster. Everything we’ve done for ourselves has us prepared for “best case scenarios”. Truth is, we aren’t prepared for a fire or flood to wipe out everything we own. THAT is a whole different set of plans.
I encourage you to think logically about a couple of things. First, what kind of emergencies usually happen in your area? In California, everyone is generally prepared for an earthquake. Determine what you need to be prepared for your zip code and plan accordingly. Second, what are your actual NEEDS. Next, what will keep you comfortable (entertainment, treats, etc.)?
I’ll say this again: you can only plan for so much. I like to live in the mindset of “I’ll do what I can and hope it’s enough”. I’m not going to upend our lives or bankrupt us prepping for events. Instead, I choose to do logical things that work for our family. Yes, we have loads of dry goods on hand because we need them daily. We have extra critical items for me because you can’t just run to the store for them.
If you’re a single person with food allergies and you only have two years worth of toilet paper in your stock, you may need to reassess your plans. It’s important that you do what’s right for you and your family, and try not to stress yourself to death in the process.