Be it COVID-19, “Snowmageddon,” Hurricane Sandy or some other impending disaster of unknown scale, it seemed a good time to re-share my tips for Preparing for Emergencies Gluten Free, to go over the high points of staying safe in times of natural disaster or power outages.
No one relishes the thought of natural disasters or unforeseen emergencies, but they are a reality we can’t ignore. When I first drafted this list with hurricane Sandy whipping at my door, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d forgotten something in my hurricane preparations. It’s that uneasy feeling that nags at you late at night when you know you’re in the path of an impending storm or other natural disaster that’s the worst part; it’s mostly the fear of not knowing what lies ahead that is the problem, isn’t it?
Beyond all the (very important, but very obvious) hand sanitizing and self-quarantining involved with COVID-19, let’s address how to prepare for any kind of emergency when you layer on the added complication that you or your family is gluten free or has food allergies. There are definitely some added complications, but nothing that you can’t handle! Don’t focus on deprivation — focus on making sure you have what you need so there’s no deprivation!
Stock Up on Gluten-Free Staples.
Growing up, my mother always had extra of everything, it seemed, in her giant pocket book. She called them her “just in case” supplies. That’s a great way of thinking about how to prepare for natural disasters, pandemics and storms, too.
Even seemingly small events like snow storms can throw a wrench in your plans. It’s just a good rule of thumb to have extra and have a back-up plan. Buy extra shelf-stable staples.
Whether you stash them in the garage, a box in the basement, your freezer or under your bed … there’s no excuse not to have extra of gluten free staples like canned beans, boxed rice, protein bars and other nutritious, shelf-stable foods your family enjoys.
Also think about aseptic containers (things that don’t need to be refrigerated) of milk, creamer and other “dairy”-type items. You can buy cases of these to keep on hand, emergencies 0r not.
Gluten Free Oats
Certified gluten free, purity protocol oats is a staple that we’re never without in our house. If you’re wondering whether oats are something you can tolerate on your gluten free diet, I encourage you to read this article to find out more, as they are not for everyone, and certainly not all oats are safe for those with celiac disease. Find out how to shop safely for these super nutritious staples.
Gluten free oats make a warm, filling breakfast, lunch or dinner by just adding boiling water (can even be prepared on the grill if need be). Gluten free oats, quinoa, rice, hemp … lots of gluten free grains can actually be made into milk or yogurt if you have them on hand already. The key is to have them on hand already. Are you getting the idea? You’re going to start to see a theme ….
Gluten free oats prepared as overnight oats ahead of time are another option that’s super nutritious and can make life a little easier because they’re already done! They can be turned into gluten free waffles for a little more fun or even into overnight oats dessert! Now that’s fun, and again, no deprivation.
Homemade soups have long been called peasants’ food because they feed many for not much, and that’s a great way to think about eating in times of crisis. I have so many homemade gluten free soup recipes here at gfJules.com that I’ve stopped counting. Simply type in “Soup” using the search bar at the top of every page and you’ll come up with recipes as varied as butternut squash, curried carrot, broccoli and cauliflower and strawberry sorbet.
If you happen to have my gfJules Gluten Free Cornbread Mix in your pantry (we do ship right to your door, weather permitting) — then you’re really set, as that mix is so easy it can be made with a bowl and fork, and cooked in a cast iron skillet in the oven or over a fire. It goes wonderfully with any soup or by itself. Growing up in the South, we even enjoyed it for breakfast with maple syrup — desperate times may mean that I suggest this again …. Spoiling yourself a little where possible in times of emergency can be completely forgiven.
Any soup can be made on a grill or gas stove, or if you have power, in a pressure cooker, Instapot or slow cooker, and can feed your family for days. Soups can even be cooked down a few days later and used as sauce for pasta, for something different.
Gluten Free Pasta
Speaking of pasta, gluten free pasta makes a fast and easy dinner nearly anyone can whip up … if you have it on hand. So make sure to have it on hand! There are loads of inexpensive gluten free dry pastas in nearly any market anymore (Homemade Gluten Free Pad Thai and Gluten Free Avocado Pesto Pasta are some of our favorite recipes), or you can even make your own.
With the current Corona Virus quarantine, many of us are looking for something to do, so learn a new skill and teach yourself to make homemade gluten free ravioli, gluten free pierogi, gluten free lasagna, gluten free gnocchi or gluten free spaetzle. Spoiler alert: it won’t take long because it’s actually quite easy!
Don’t forget that spaghetti squash makes a natural gluten free pasta that’s super easy and nutritious as well. Here’s my how-to recipe for making it. And if you run out of store-bought pasta sauce, here’s my easy homemade pasta sauce recipe for you, too.
Gluten Free Bread and Gluten Free Pizza
With my gfJules™ Gluten Free All Purpose Flour we can make nearly anything we might need, even without power. Gluten Free Pizza Crust or Gluten Free Calzones can be made with a bowl and a wooden spoon and we can even cook pizza on the grill if the power is out (click here for my grilled gluten free pizza recipe & how-tos).
With power, the sky is the limit! One of the things I often make and keep in the freezer is homemade gluten free bagels: breakfast, lunch or dinner, these make everyone in my house happy!
Even a simple grilled cheese shouldn’t be overlooked for crowd-pleasing ability. If you’ve got homemade gluten free bread or leftover gluten free bread in your freezer, and you have your favorite cheese or non-dairy cheese subsitutes in your fridge, you’ve got the makings of a grilled cheese. Throw it on a skillet or on the grill (you know, grilled cheese!).
I mean, grilled cheese originally came from … a grill, right? You can even make gluten free brownies on the grill – just put another pot under the pan so that the bottoms of the brownies don’t burn from being directly on the grate (learned that one the hard way!). Gluten free cookies are just as easy.
The best, safest and most versatile gluten free products are often not available at your neighborhood grocery store. Even better in times of this crazy virus NOT to make a trip to the store, but if you have to make a trip to an organic grocery or if you order on-line, buy extra and buy in advance if you can! It’s no good not having enough when you need it, particularly with products like gluten free flour and oats that have a long shelf life (my gfJules Flour and mixes have 18 month “best by” dates).
Also keep in mind that whether you are the one experiencing the emergency or not, if the products you rely on are manufactured elsewhere, a natural disaster or serious storm there could affect you as well.
A huge snow storm one winter at our gluten free flour manufacturing facility out west caused a serious delay in production and shipping that affected people all over the country who found themselves waiting much longer than they had planned to receive their shipments of gluten-free products. (We’re now manufactured on the east coast so it’s way better!) It goes without saying that those who ordered extra not only saved on shipping, but they never had to go without their favorite products!
So think about your staples. Maybe gluten free cereal or protein bars are your staples – be sure to stock up on whatever will last you safely for several days.
With Notice, Bake in Advance.
Before Hurricane Sandy’s onset, and in preparation for expecting to lose power, I had already baked fresh gluten free bread, made quinoa, baked a double batch of gluten free blueberry muffins, grilled veggies and even made gluten free chocolate cupcakes and gluten free pumpkin doughnuts. These are the things we can do with notice, or with time (as in under quarantine) when you have what you need at home.
We may be hunkering down, but we’ll be eating well! (Note: my gluten free muffins are always a go-to for us when we travel or prepare for power outages because they stay so soft and fresh for several days without needing to be reheated – bonus!).
The same holds true for quarantining yourself or others in your family. Bake ahead in case you just don’t feel like baking later.
I also always have homemade gluten free cookie dough and even homemade bread and rolls (already cooked) in my freezer at all times. It doesn’t take much advance warning to bake off the dough and warm up the rolls.
Hit the farmer’s market or local farm stands where and when you can, as they are often open on the fly. Buy extra veggies to grill more later (for pizza or pasta!). Many grocery stores — weather permitting — will also deliver. So look into those options ahead of time when you can.
Extra grilled veggies will go on my fresh bread for sandwiches and we’ll be set for days. I also stock up on favorite gluten-free bars for snacks and nutrition. Many of these bars have lots of protein and fiber and can fill-in those nutritional blanks when you don’t have access to all your usual food sources.
Gluten free protein powder is also a good idea to keep in your cabinet. Throw it in a smoothie with frozen fruit (and veggies you can sneak in where your kids won’t notice) and you’ll be filling your tanks with nutrition to keep the whole family healthy — which is always the right answer.
Fill Your Tanks.
Speaking of filling your tank nutritionally, don’t overlook the need in emergencies to fill your car’s gas tank and if you have a gas grill, get a spare refill. If you have a charcoal grill, buy extra charcoal and keep it dry. Be sure to have plenty of matches on hand, as well.
If you don’t have a grill, small table-top grills are fairly inexpensive and can be a lifesaver at times like these. (Don’t ever grill inside though, use an outside table-top!)
For weather emergencies, be sure you have several containers of drinking water on hand – you can fill gallon jugs in advance, if you have time, or buy them before everyone else does! Also make sure to charge cell phones, have extra batteries on hand, gather flashlights and candles (and matches!) and firewood, if you have a fireplace.
Make or Buy Ice in Weather Emergencies.
Make bags of ice with your ice maker, or buy bags of ice before there’s a run at the store. Prepare a large freezer with enough room for your perishables that are necessary ingredients (cheese for pizza; milk for cereal; eggs for scrambling on the grill, etc.).
Dry ice is also a great option if it looks like a power outage may be a long-term prospect. There are very particular ways to handle and store dry ice, however, so use caution. Here are some great tips on storing and keeping dry ice for as long as possible. Remember: dry ice is NOT ice, it is frozen carbon dioxide, so exercise caution when handling.
Buy Your Prescriptions and Other Medications.
Be sure to stock up on any prescriptions early, in case your pharmacy or doctor’s office is closed due to the weather or other emergency. It’s no fun to run out of medications and have to wait for days to get them filled, but in many cases it can also be harmful to your health, so take your prescriptions seriously and fill them in advance. Many pharmacies are starting to offer delivery services — check out those options!
For quarantines and other health emergencies, stock up on NSAIDs, electrolyte powders or solutions, cough medicines and even essential oils to help moderate symptoms. Thieves is the essential oil most known for its antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties, but unfortunately, as with most essential oils, at this point the claims are largely anecdotal. Personally, I use it anyway; if it helps, great, if not, it still smells wonderful!
Prepare for Shelter.
In some weather emergencies, you may need to seek shelter. In that event, be sure you can carry with you a BIG bag of gluten free bars, cereal, gluten free oats, snacks, gluten-free bread and peanut butter, etc. so you will have safe foods at the shelter, since most will not necessarily be prepared to feed you or your family a special diet.
Even if shelter simply means living with friends or family for a few days or weeks, you don’t know what that might look like in terms of being able to prepare safe food. If you have a bread machine, grab it! Baking homemade gluten free bread in a bread machine is the absolute easiest, safest way to ensure you can make gluten free bread anytime there is power without having to worry about cross-contact, since no mixer or other utensils, pots or pans are necessary.
Bottom line: stay safe and eat well – it’s important to keep yourself nourished and not to be forced to rely on possibly contaminated or gluten-containing foods. When you have your “Just in Case” supplies at the ready, you will weather the storm!
And don’t forget to have fun where you can. Pull out those board games, reacquaint yourself with cards, teach your kids charades … these can be the times to make special memories.
What will be will be, so control what you can control — which in our case in particular must be focused on food — and let the rest fall where it will because … it will. Layering on anxiety and stress is just that and certainly won’t keep you healthier, heal you faster or keep your family safer. Rely on your community where you can and where you need it, and be that community for others where you are able.
Please share in the comments what you have done in the past or are doing now to deal with crisis and emergencies, particularly while living gluten free or with food allergies. Your ideas will help keep our community safer and stronger, too!
God bless you and keep you safe and healthy!