September was preparedness month and a local Red Cross volunteer stopped by our GF luncheon and talked about how they are making an effort to be able to feed those needing a gluten free meal during disasters. But, if you looked at his handouts, they are still geared towards those who are not GF and don’t address the additional delays and concerns those eating GF will face in a disaster. After all, they can order 500 pizzas for everyone else, but that doesn’t leave your crew anything to eat when locked into a shelter!
For food trucks that travel into areas such as that affected by Hurricane Sandy, our local Red Cross is planning on having a local caterer create boxed GF meals from the same steam table kitchens they are using for the rest of the meals they are preparing. These will be added to the trucks only in response to requests and will come out with the “next day’s delivery.” That means an additional day that you have no GF food delivered and you’ll have to hope the meals marked for you make it the next day (and that there are no mistakes; since this is the same group that does hospital meals locally and the food is from a single cafeteria line kitchen, I don’t hold out much hope). Combine this info with the standard advice that it can take three days before help arrives (so at least four, if you are eating GF) and it means it is important for those who have to follow a gluten free diet to ensure they have at least three days of food in their emergency bag (and preferably more), which can be grabbed quickly. You should also plan on a smaller version to keep in your car or at work, in case you must evacuate or a hurricane or earthquake were to affect you while at work.
If you’ve been eating GF for any length of time, you probably are already stocking up when you find something you can have (here, stores with a large GF selection are a much longer drive than the local stores, although at least we don’t have to take a 4-5 hour drive to another city anymore). At home, canned foods (which can be eaten cold or heated, outdoors, on a propane or charcoal grill) and foods you regularly eat are all you probably need (just eat your refrigerated foods right away and the frozen ones in the next day or two, as they thaw). Just be sure you do still have a manual can opener and a way to heat food, especially in winter, when a cup of hot chocolate can make a long power outage after a snowstorm seem less threatening.
But if you are going to have to carry food with you, you won’t want to have to deal with heavy canned foods (especially if you are already trying to carry water for three days with you – your pack can end up over 25 lbs before any food is added). Many turn to either military MREs or freeze-dried hiking/backpacking meals, but those are mostly not an option for GF diets. Nearly the only GF item in MREs is the flavored milk drinks (well, that and the hot sauce and instant coffee), although they could have been designed that way, they actually add wheat protein to what should have been entirely GF choices. Few of the companies making meals for backpackers offer any GF options, either; again, you’ll find wheat flour added to rice meals and share equipment used even if an ingredient list looks like it might be OK. AlpineAire has started offering some gluten-free choices, such as this Freeze-Dried Sierra Chicken Meal, but I haven’t tried them due to the lack of any local store that stocks them (and we have lots of camping and hiking stores in the area; this brand just seems to be skipped in favor of Mountain House). They are also not cheap (although better prices than the one I linked to at Amazon can be found) and the portion sizes seem awfully small.
I have started to notice some gluten free choices in the emergency/food storage categories, such as the meals from Legacy Premium Food Storage (they are bit heavy on cheese, but at least contain real food and seem to have somewhat realistic portion sizes) and Augason Farms (lots of fake food with soy protein, plus I’m not sure if their oats are GF certified). The former can even be ordered, in some sizes, from our local Costco (if you are a member) and the company also makes a Side Dish Samples assortment pack that is gluten free. I haven’t tried these, but may order one of their smallest boxes, to see how they taste.
One of the items I keep on hand are the instant soups from Thai Kitchen; I first tried this brand years ago and have started noticing more variety in the local stores, but at Amazon you can order large quantities and get a great discount using a combination of Subscribe & Save and a membership in the Amazon Mom program. A 72-count container drops from 63 cents/serving to under 51 cents (rather than the $6+ of most hiking entrees). These are a lot like a non-fried ramen pack though – don’t expect to only eat them, especially several days in a row, and be satisfied or get all the vitamins and protein you need. They do, though, have a good variety of flavors, both in the small individual serving soups, their Thai Kitchen Noodle Kit (Pad Thai and Thai Peanut) and the Noodle Bowls that even have the container included – just add boiling water or zap in the microwave at work (a great emergency meal to stash in your desk at work). What I do is combine these with about 1/2 cup of freeze-dried or dehydrated veggies, such as the Crunchies Roasted Veggies or Just Tomatoes Hot Just Veggies (the freeze dried ones are much lighter, so these seem to work out to nearly the same price/package, just not per pound). Then, add a bit more water when re-hydrating or cooking and you have a meal that will stick with you a lot longer. If cooking at home or in an office with a can opener, you can add a can of cooked chicken, instead (I usually rinse it, to reduce some of the sodium).
And, of course, you could always just pack a jar of peanut butter and a spoon!
For those that wish for a little more variety and want a bit more control over the ingredients, perhaps due to additional allergies in the family, I’ll be posting a few of my recipes, that you can easily modify for size or ingredients.
You may also want to check out Gluten Free Food Storage, It’s in the Bag ($5.49 Kindle), by Trent Snow and Michelle Snow [Cedar Fort], which I recently ran across. I haven’t read the entire thing and understand it’s modified from their non-GF Food Storage book, but it does appear to have some good advice. The authors are a bit fanatical, though, with a year of food mixed into bags and on the shelf, ready to eat. But I think you can use their tips to build up a small store of food that will get you thru most emergencies.
Learn how to save space and time by organizing your food storage using this convenient new bag system. With over 100 gluten-free recipes for breakfasts and dinners, you’re sure to find something even your pickiest eaters will enjoy. When you’re finished, you’ll be able to simply grab a bag, follow the recipe, and enjoy a delicious meal your family will love!