Burlington--If a storm, family illness or other emergency made it difficult to get to the store, would your family be prepared?
Susan Bodette with the University of Vermont Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) recommends always having a two-week supply of shelf-stable food on hand. You can find a recommended list of storage-friendly foods that can be adjusted to your family's needs at http://go.uvm.edu/14dayshopping along with tips for storage and several nutritious recipes.
"Before you restock, first check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you already have," Bodette says. "Discard any expired food.
"Then consider what snacks and meals your family eats the most often and add those ingredients to the shopping list," she adds. "Include formula for infants, canned or jarred baby food and any foods for a child with special nutritional needs. And don't forget about your family pets."
When making your list, include staples from all five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy). Look for healthier options such as low or no-salt, no-sugar-added canned goods and whole grain pasta, rice, breads and cereals.
Unseasoned frozen vegetables are useful to have on hand to add to recipes and soups or as an inexpensive side for any meal. You also should check coupons and store flyers for sale items. Store websites often post their weekly flyers online or offer e-coupons.
"Proper storage is important," Bodette says. "Keep food in a dry, cool spot, preferably a dark area if possible. Place new items at the back of the storage area, moving older ones to the front so you will use those first.
"Bread, tortillas, milk and cheese can all be frozen and will last weeks longer than they would in the fridge or pantry," she continues. "Wrap cookies, crackers and other perishable items in plastic bags and store in sealed containers."
Open boxes of food and other resealable containers carefully, so you can close them tightly after each use. For protection from pests, empty open packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into screw-top jars or air-tight canisters.
Before using any food item, check for signs of spoilage. Discard any canned foods in swollen, dented or corroded cans.
The nutrition educator recommends stocking up on nonprescription drugs such as pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, stomach remedies and fluids with electrolytes such as sports drinks. It's also a good idea to check with both your health care and insurance providers to see if you can get an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs and medical supplies.
In addition, be sure to have a supply of health and cleaning supplies such as bleach, tissues, a thermometer, disposable gloves, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
For more information about EFNEP, including its distance learning programs and other offerings for adults and youths, go to www.uvm.edu/extension/efnep.