Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Prepare for Anything: How to Stock Your Pantry for a Storm

If you're like me, you probably don't give much thought to stocking up for a storm—until there’s a big storm. Then, you’re left heading to the supermarket at the last minute, battling harried crowds and lunging for the last bag of Cheetos.

When Hurricane Sandy was coming, I dashed out to the store at the last minute and grew overwhelmed by the crowds—and even more overwhelmed by the realization that I really didn't know what to buy. My usual grocery shopping routine focuses heavily on dairy, fresh produce, and meat and fish, with very few refined carbs. I wound up grabbing a few bags of chips (which I normally don’t eat), and hoped I wouldn’t actually have to resort to eating them.

While I made it through Sandy alright, I know that, with winter approaching, there may be more storms in my future. I decided it was time to compile a list of healthy, tasty, non-perishable staples that don’t require refrigeration or cooking. Here are a few items to stock in your pantry that will provide with you the energy to weather any storm.

Stormy Snacks

Canned Chickpeas

Chock-full of protein and rich in lots of nutrients—including iron and Vitamin B6—chickpeas are an important addition to your storm pantry. If your oven works, you can whip up this easy recipe for Spicy Baked Chickpeas. Otherwise, just rinse them and jazz them up with salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you have in your pantry.

Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges

If the thought of living without dairy is as scary to you as the thought of living without electricity, fear not! The answer to your problem lies in Laughing Cow Cheese. While it’s good to refrigerate these delicious little wedges of cheese, they will be fine for a while in a cool, dry place. They come in low-fat versions, and there are several flavor options to keep you happy, like garlic and herb or mozzarella with sun-dried tomato and basil.

Whole Grain Crackers

What’s cheese without crackers? Keeping a box of whole grain crackers on hand will give you a good source of healthy carbs. Add some cheese or peanut butter for a hearty snack, or just munch on them straight out of the box to keep hunger at bay.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, or another kind of nut butter, is a great source of protein to get you through the storm. Enjoy it on crackers, spread a little on some chocolate, or just eat it by the spoonful (we won’t judge).

Makeshift Meals

Canned Soups and Chili

It never hurts to keep a few cans of soup on hand (many are high in sodium, though, so check the label for low-sodium options). Ideally, you'll be heating your soup on the stove, but in a pinch, you can grab a spoon and still get a hearty meal at room temperature. Cans of chili are a particularly good option for adding protein and fiber to your storm-time meals­. You can jazz up the soup or chili by mixing in a cheese wedge, or eat it on top of whole grain crackers.

Ready-to-Eat Indian Meals

The next best thing to getting take-out from an Indian restaurant is grabbing a ready-to-eat Indian meal. These single-serving portions come in sealed foil pouches and don't require any refrigeration until they're opened. Ideally, you'll want to heat them up for a hot entree, but if you're caught without a working stove or microwave, you can enjoy them straight out of the pouch. My favorite is the Trader Joe's brand, but many grocery stores carry similar versions. The array of options, like Punjab Eggplant and Jaipur Vegetable, will add some variety and spice and entertain your taste buds while you're waiting for the storm to pass.

Canned Salmon, Tuna, and Chicken

Canned tuna, salmon, and chicken are good protein sources to have on hand. You can pretend you're preparing for a cocktail party by spreading some on crackers, along with the cheese. Throw some mustard (which doesn’t require refrigeration) into the mix for extra flavor, or get creative by sprinkling on some dried herbs.

Canned Veggies

Popeye had the right idea: Enjoying a can of spinach or other green veggie is a great way to get an instant energy burst, perfect for fighting off Bluto or battling a storm. Whatever your veggie of choice, you can enjoy it straight out of the can on its own, season it with herbs, or mix in a cheese wedge for a makeshift, no-cook creamed option. Canned yams are another great way to get your fix of veggies. Stock up while they’re out for Thanksgiving—just make sure you're getting the kind that's low in added sugar. Throw in a serving of canned salmon and a side of crackers and you've got a well-balanced meal.

Breakfast Bites


If you want something crunchy and slightly sweet for breakfast or general snacking, a box of granola is a great option. You can buy a box from the grocery store (read the labels to make sure what you’re getting isn’t loaded with sugar) or make your own.

Fruit Cups or Canned Fruit

Make sure you don’t miss out on your daily fruit requirement during a storm by keeping some fruit cups or other canned fruit around. They will satisfy your sweet tooth without giving you a sugar crash, and provide you with important nutrients. Just be sure to read the label to make sure you’re getting the kind made with natural fruit juice, rather than a heavy, sugary syrup.

The Good Stuff

Dark Chocolate

Let’s face it, chocolate is a necessary for getting through an emergency situation. If you’ve followed my advice and gotten some peanut butter, you can make these chocolate and nut butter bites. Or, it’s delicious as a sweet treat with a glass of red.

Instant Coffee

Any stressful situation will be made worse by a caffeine withdrawal headache, so it’s a good idea to keep some instant coffee on hand. Starbucks sells instant coffee packets in a variety of flavors, like caramel, pumpkin spice, or their classic Italian Roast. This finely ground coffee dissolves well in both hot and cold water, perfect for if you’re stuck without power. Just make sure you also remember to stock up on bottled water!

Tell us! What do you keep stocked in your pantry? What are your go-to meals in a storm?

Photo of woman at the grocery store courtesy of Shutterstock.