This Hurricane Season, Stock Up the Right Way

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Weather agencies across the nation are predicting a much busier hurricane season this year than usual. NOAA predicts up to 10 hurricanes between now and November, with three to six of those being major hurricanes.

Remember Hurricane Ike? Remember living off canned tuna and biting your spouse's head off every time he went to open the fridge after the power went out? Goddammit, we can get at least an extra day's cool air out of it if you'll JUST LEAVE IT ALONE. Let's not go through that again.

Get your Costco card and stock up now, so that you don't have to risk mariticide or long lines and pitchforks at your local Walmart when the next storm starts forming in the Gulf. Below are our suggestions for stockpiling this summer.

Water. This can't be emphasized enough. Please stock up on water. Bottled stuff, be-jugged stuff, filtered stuff, however you like to purchase and store water in mass quantities -- just make sure you have lots of water. I also like to fill bathtubs before a storm hits; this is handy for washing off (with washcloths; don't actually get in the tub) and for filling toilet tanks so that you don't have to use your precious bottled water supplies for these activities.

Buy food that's high in protein and complex carbohydrates; you'll need the energy. Cleaning up a storm-damaged house, backyard, carport, etc. can be draining, and you don't want to live off Lay's potato chips while you're doing this. Canned tuna, canned chicken and canned salmon can all be eaten alone or used to make good salads, especially eaten on wheat bread. Granola bars (the healthy kind, please), trail mix, dried fruit and the like are basics.

Make sure you have 72 hours worth of food on hand that doesn't require any light or heat to prepare. That often means granola bars, as seen above, but it doesn't have to. Think about cured meats and hard cheeses with olives or dried fruit, or bread covered with butter and slices of avocado. Think outside the box. And, no, butter doesn't need to be refrigerated.

Look through anything you may have stockpiled from last year. What is the use-by date on it? Throw away anything that's expired or has been stored in the heat. Especially get rid of any cans that are dented or look swollen. No one wants botulism on top of a hurricane.

Whatever you buy, make sure that it's capable of being stored at room temperature...and then store it that way. That means don't store your food in the attic, in the garage, in the garden shed, etc. Store it in your house, preferably in a cool, dark place. Under your bed, in a spare closet, in your enormous pantry (I hate you), wherever keeps the food at a steady temperature and out of direct sunlight.

Other thoughts for the days following a hurricane...

Can't stock up on fresh fruit? Of course you can't. Buy a bunch of baby food. It's better for you than syrup-laden canned fruit and they taste better, too. Laugh now, but I'll be happily eating pureed pears while you're staring down into the abyss of another box of granola bars. (You should probably also stockpile this stuff if you have actual babies.)

While I don't recommend purchasing a nearly $400 Ultimate Survival Pack, it's not terrible to have excess food or beverages. It's great to be able to hand out water to emergency workers or service personnel who are helping out, not to mention neighbors who are helping you clear storm drains of leaves so the water will finally drain in your alley. Talk about a fast way to make friends with folks on your block: "Want to hang out in our tree limb-ravaged backyard and drink some Conundrum?" Or you can hoard your excess stuff and sell it; whatever.

On that note, wine might seem like an awesome idea, given that it doesn't have to be refrigerated (like beer). But consider one small caveat: wine doesn't tend to taste very good when stored in a muggy, 85 degree house for a week straight. It won't stop me from drinking it, though, and it's better than a warm beer.

Another fabulous idea, post-storm: have a cookout. If you have a bunch of meat in your freezer that's going to go bad anyway, cook it. Invite your friends and neighbors. Go nuts. This is when you'll want those Lay's potato chips and warm beer.

If you're like me, and you went without power for a very significant amount of time post-Ike, you'll eventually want to start cooking again -- power or not. This is where having stockpiles of vegetables will pay off. Lots and lots and lots of veggies keep perfectly well at room temperature without spoiling. Make a tomato salad with fresh basil (if your basil plants weren't destroyed in the storm) and balsamic vinegar or bake potatoes on a grill and enjoy them with butter alongside a salmon salad. Little things like this will perk you up even if you haven't showered in days.

If all else fails, hit the liquor stash. Who cares if your power is out when you're quaffing a 12-year-old Springbank by candlelight? Stock up on a few goodies now at Spec's; it'll make the wait for HL&P seem that much shorter.

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