After the Outage – Restock Your Kitchen

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Last week’s storm cause lots of damage and of course wide spread power outages. Many of you are looking at empty refrigerator and freezer this week and thinking, “How on Earth am I going to replace all of this!?”

Whether your power went out because of a natural disaster, or you find yourself moving and need to start over with an empty fridge, here is some advice for how to restock on a budget.

Make a List of What You Had

When you finally open your fridge after a power outage, the smell can be totally overwhelming. You surely want to throw everything out as fast as humanly possible. If you can stand it, however, try to make a list of what you’re throwing out, or think through what you use the most.

Write down everything – especially things you wouldn’t immediately think of – until you reached for it and it wasn’t there. With your list of “what we had” (which might, by the way, come in handy for an insurance claim, too), you can start to formulate a list of what you need.

Prioritize Your Shopping

When you make your list, try thinking about what your family will eat that week. Make a simple menu plan and then create a detailed list of all ingredients that are required.

If you are serving pasta and sauce and your three year-old simply without grated cheese (for example), be sure to put cheese on your list. Whereas the pickles and horseradish that got tossed probably don’t need to be replaced immediately.

Be a Smart Shopper

Once you’ve made your list, flip through that week’s grocery coupons, if available. Are there any items you can substitute in that will cost half the price? Any items on your “Priority B” list that are on sale for a rock bottom price that week? An hour of prep time before you hit the store can easily save you 35% or more.

 Take Your Time

Your fridge didn’t get full overnight, and you don’t have to refill it overnight either.

Rather than trying to replace everything right away, try working through your list over the next three to four weeks. You may even discover some items that don’t need to be replaced at all!

Rely On Your Stockpile

Plan with extras in mind. Most of us have in our pantry, extra boxes of pasta, canned beans, tuna fish, etc. When you make your meal plan, be sure to factor all the stuff that you already have into the rotation.

Utilize a Chest Freezer

Losing the contents of your fridge is upsetting, but losing the contents of your freezer – especially if it’s stocked with meat and chicken could gut your budget for the month.

The good news is that during a power outage, a chest freezer will keep your food frozen for three days – whereas an upright will only stay frozen for one day.

You may be able to eat down your freezer in the days and weeks ahead of time, and then move a small amount of what’s left in a cooler chest, so you can have “free” dinner in your new place.

If you’ve experienced a three-day or less power outage, your freezer food should feature prominently in your menu plan for that coming week.

Stock Everything You Need in a Hurry for Under $100!

Shelf-stable pantry items

  • Grains: flour, oatmeal, rice, quinoa, pasta, grits
  • Seasonings: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, sea salt, black pepper
  • Canned goods: beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, tuna
  • Other: sugar, baking powder, vegetable stock, peanut butter, raw nuts, dark chocolate
  • Spices: Luckily we don’t live in the Middle Ages, where these were luxury items. Here are 10 spice essentials for starters. Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, Paprika, Coriander, Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom. Not all of these are essential to me, so you may have some substitutions.

Fresh Vegetables and Other Perishables
Thinking outside the traditional grocery store is a quick way to keep costs down and get more for your money. Don’t forget your local Farmers Market or Road Side Stand.

In the fridge:
Eggs, butter, yogurt, sour cream, and milk.

On your counter:
Lemons, onions, and bread.

The more the better. I like to buy fruit in season, right now it is apples, for a starting point. Eat seasonally, not only is seasonal produce more affordable, but it will always taste better.

Make sure to leave a little bit of your overall grocery budget, on hand for the extras – strong cheese, a great piece of meat. Balancing basics with indulgences is what keeps a broke kitchen frugal.