Blackout Recipes

My parents were born in the Great Depression and took the church’s program of self reliance seriously. We kept a cow, goats, pigs and chickens and had a big garden and an orchard of peach, plum, apricot and pomegranate trees. What we called the back porch was a room the same size as the eat-in kitchen that was dedicated to food storage. There was a chest freezer big enough to hold butchered animals and shelves of food storage featuring white five-gallon buckets of wheat and textured vegetable protein as well as the canned goods and preserves.

My parents lived full lives without ever needing to actually rely on their food storage, but I’m glad I grew up in a household where we at least practiced self reliance for several reasons. Here are just a few: First and foremost, a sun-warmed peach picked from the tree at peak ripeness is a bit of heaven on earth—definitely add this to your bucket list. Second, having thrown numerous chickens into cardboard boxes to contain the flailing following their decapitation and prior to dunking them in boiling water to prepare for plucking, I have developed a healthy respect for the suffering that the meat on my plate represents. Third, crystallized honey and peanut butter makes an excellent snack in times both good and hard.

You see, when you buy your honey in five-gallon buckets, you’re never going to eat it all before it crystallizes. Sure, you could dig some out, put it in a jar and warm it until it turns back into a liquid. Or you can mix it with peanut butter for a calorie-rich—to say the least!—snack that it a pleasure to eat.

An ideal stage of crystallization

But it’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed this childhood treat (mostly due to a dearth of five-gallon buckets of honey in my life, I suppose). In fact, it’s been decades since I’d even thought about it. But a couple of weeks ago a high councilor came and gave a presentation on emergency preparedness. He pointed out that there are a range of emergencies to prepare for, with a blackout being among the most severe, and that not all of the food we end up storing is ideally suited to long periods of limited access to energy sources. Noodles, for example, are a common staple, but they take a lot of energy (and water) to prepare the traditional way: add dry pasta to a boiling pot and cook for 10 minutes or so. So he recommended thinking about blackout-proof recipes that are high in calories which can be stored and prepared with little to no energy input.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to think of one: as I spread honey on a piece of toast, the crystals forming on the side of the jar released a flood of memories—I had my blackout recipe, which I will reproduce here:

  • Add one part honey (doesn’t have to be crystallized, but it adds a little pizazz if it is) to two parts peanut butter to a bowl you plan to eat from (adjust quantities to taste).
  • Mix with the spoon you plan to eat with.
  • Enjoy!

Both honey and peanut butter keep for ages at room temperature and the only energy input required is a little elbow grease; they supply plenty of calories in a compact form; plus, the combination is downright tasty.

I realize that most of us are not likely to face an extended blackout, though the request we received this week from the Kyiv stake to supply gas stoves and power generators reminds me that not all are so fortunate and that circumstances can change dramatically and unexpectedly. And so I’d like to turn the time over to you—how blackout-proof is your food storage? Do you have a blackout recipe you’d like to share?


  1. LaJean Carruth says:

    I spent the summers I was 8, 9, 10, and 12 at Boy Scout Camp, Camp Fife, Washington state – my father was the camp director. For much of that time we lived in a cabin without running water and electricity. I learned about kerosene lanterns and am really good at building fires. One summer my mother hauled cherries, canning jars, and everything else up to can cherries – it was the only way she could do it. My sister and I had to hut up the fire wood for that project, and for everything else. My mother taught us to make toast by putting salt on the top of the cast iron range, to keep the bread from sticking, then put a piece of bread on it, and turn it when brown, then brush off the salt and butter it; this is the best toast I have ever eaten. Those summers in those rustic cabins were by far the best months of my childhood.

  2. My best blackout recipe is a sufficiency of hand-operated can openers.

  3. My grandmother is a southern belle–North Carolina, to be exact. We always had peanut butter and syrup (not honey). Better eat it all, though, because otherwise it turns to concrete in your bowl.

  4. We had a 9 day blackout in CT after Hurricane Sandy (which also meant no running water, as is often the case). In an attempt to save meat in the freezer from spoiling, we cooked an elaborate meal on the outdoor gas grill. I quickly realized that cooking meant cleaning pots and dishes in a blackout–way more difficult. So my new blackout strategy was born–fill the bathtub if you anticipate one to flush toilets, always have lots of bottled water on hand, figure out a place to shower (the local Y in our case), lots of flashlights and batteries, and then get take out, served on paper plates. Although peanut butter and honey doesn’t sound like it generates a lot of dishes, I don’t think I could do 9 days of it. Also, my daughter and I would take phones and laptops to Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbuck’s etc. which have free internet and charging. (Many more places have free internet now–not back then). Wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t the end of the world. For some, storing large amounts of food, especially with ever evolving views on what constitutes a healthy diet, doesn’t make sense for some people. Preparation is always good, but that will vary according to regions, incomes, and family situations. The Cold War inspired year to two years of the survivalist food storage model just might not be the best thing for everyone. In a real apocalyptic event, only our cat Leonard will survive ( he hunts).

  5. Grilled peanut butter and honey sandwiches. (You’re welcome.)

  6. Buckwheat honey. Not as sweet as typical honey, but pairs very well with peanut butter.

  7. Crunchy peanut butter, semi-crystallized honey, ripe banana, and homemade bread.

  8. I am a British cycle tourist. One if my favourites is a cheese toasties. We have non stick bags to put the sandwich i and place the bag on a frying pan on a little single ring lightweight gas stove. We have these in our home storage. Pizza can also be made in a frying pan on a little gas stove. It’s one of our favourites on tour but does require rising time for the dough

  9. Not Eugene, not even close. says:

    A plague on food storage😊

    We decided to pretend Y2K was a convenient excuse to buy a few thousand dollars’ worth of food to store in the basement. Not wheat but stuff we might actually eat over time. It attracted rats. Wife and kids are allergic to cats. I thought I had them under control through trapping. Apparently not.
    While on Christmas vacation a rat chewed through a plastic port on the dishwasher causing it to pump hot water into the kitchen for the 3 weeks of our absence. It filled the basement with almost 2 feet of water (the height of the toilet which then drained it beyond that level). It ruined the carpets and hardwood on the first floor. The humidity screwed up our thermostats, so the attic furnace blasted hot air constantly and the basement furnace quit working, but leaked gas. Fortunately the circuit breaker for the basement electricity kicked off first. The house was at 110-120 F most of that time. All the walls were warped and supported an amazing array of various molds, only a few of which were toxic. All the carpets were damp and moldy, and all electronic devices were ruined.

    Worst of all were the rotting carcasses of about a dozen drowned rats. The rats had quite the party in our food storage. They chewed through any kind of plastic and aluminum cans. The shelves tipped over and shattered most of the glass bottles. The paper labels around the cans were contaminated and had to be removed and the cans dipped in bleach before use. Like we could keep track of what was in each can. They chewed through walls in the pantry and walls in upstairs closets to raid the kids Halloween candy stashes. They pooped and peed on the insulation in the attics and under the second floor to the point where it all had to be replaced. I found a construction flaw under the deck about 4 inches wide which was the port of entry for the furry demons. The size of the rat pack became large enough to trample small paths visible in the lawn.

    We camped in the back yard for a few days until the upstairs was stripped to the wood and made safe to occupy (no walls or carpet) and the rest of the house sealed off. To move would put the kids in other schools and or add a couple of hours to commute times. They were in grade school and we made this into an adventure they will never forget. The mold busters took 9 months to decontaminate the place. We lived a winter and a summer without heat or A/C and without a kitchen. Insurance contractors were more skillful at family prayer with us and lying to us that any of the skills of carpentry. I ended up re-doing much of the work myself over the next 2 years. Then the lawsuits between our insurance company, our wrecking crew in green trucks, the CDC approved mold busters, said wallet contractors and us. Eight of them.
    The cost to us was about $20k, plus eating out once a day for most of a year. And all our spare time for a year. The damage to the house was in excess of $200K. But it remained structurally sound and supposedly cost about $300K to rebuild. So a year of inconvenience to the home owner was worth a hundred grand to those holding the money bags. And we are grateful to still have our home.

    During that first year of living without the food we stored and battling rats, I contemplated the doctrine of food storage in a deep and angry way. The biggest reason to not store food (which one rotates into their regular diet) is TIME! Grown and stored food usually takes much longer to prepare and our current culture of agenda cramming mixed with frequent binges in cyberspace leaves us with little time to grow, pick, can and fix foods. The logical flaw that allows us to not appreciate this is based on a collective memory of the pioneer economy of Deseret where cash and materials were scarce and valuable. And with a constant large flow of impoverished immigrants, time and effort (labor) was close to free.

    It is the same logical flaw that drives my ward leaders to flog a zealous attorney friend of mine, who bills $2K an hour for professional consultation, to spend 6 hours several Saturdays a year cleaning the church. Putting him to work for the church doing additional legal consults during that time would pay for a janitor with money to spare. (Raising his tithing to 11% would also do it. Hee. Hee.) And the feelings of inspiration he gets could be just as easily be had (by me anyway) with a brick smacked against the head.

    I say, if you store food, store it in ways that rats cannot get to it. Behind a tight steel door in concrete walls. Wood, aluminum, plastic and paper have no place in a secure food storage program. And not in the basement where water can accumulate. And definitely store live aggressive cats along with the food, keeping them a bit on the hungry side.

  10. I have a strong aversion to rats. I had to eradicate a packrat colony in the past year in a remote cabin. One day found me bashing a rat’s head with a rock while a rattlesnake came at me from behind. That said, I still have food storage and grow an end of the world garden. I enjoy it.

    Manual labor is inherently good even if you have a high billable rate–my Mormon and protestant ancestors’ blood makes this assertion unassailable.

  11. I’m here to say 3 things after reading the comments:

    1. Amen to toasted bread with honey, crunchy peanut butter and honey. Add a culinary torch to your kitchen to make it when the power goes out.

    2. Uh, frying pan and a plastic bag?

    3. Jesus makes more money than your lawyer. I wonder how we’d do if he acted that way.

  12. Extra honey… should be banana… but extra honey is never bad.

  13. My local emergency agency asks people to have one week of ready to eat food (and the governor asked everyone to have sufficient to last two weeks during the pandemic). We always have PB&J at the ready but also enjoy an easy dehydrated backpacking meal when camping, so we keep about a week of these meals on hand. We’ve also enjoy chicken salad in a pita made using canned chicken. Or smoked salmon on crackers.

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