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More Tips For Feeding The Family, Hurricane Edition

Our readers were buzzing with ideas after yesterday's post on keeping the family well-fed during Hurricane Sandy-related power outages. What topped their list of topics? Egg safety, coffee preparedness, and what to do with pantry goods.

So we thought we'd round up some of the best of your suggestions, plus a few new tips, as we plow through Day 2 of the storm.

Early on yesterday, Salt reader Lari Robling of Philadelphia tweeted her pre-storm priorities: "Grind your coffee beans while you have power. Give that hand can opener a good cleaning — bacteria thrives in those crevices."

Robling knows hand can openers. She's the brains behind , a book and website dedicated to tapping our grandmothers' forgotten recipes, and she works on a healthy food project for member station WHYY called Fit. She tells us storms remind her that in many parts of the world, hauling water and makeshift cooking are the norm.

Many other readers agree that the hand can opener is a storm cook's best friend — for eating beans, tuna, and evaporated milk right out of the can. Crackers, bread and cold cereal are your pairings with these items right now.

And Robling has more ideas on what to unearth from the pantry:

"I always have buttermilk powder and egg white powder in my pantry. They are shelf stable and good not just for emergencies but for when you just don't feel like going out to the store if a recipe you want to do calls for them. Also, canned evaporated milk in the 5-ounce cans. It substitutes for cream in soups and if you melt some cheese it is a decent cheese sauce and mixed with cooked pasta is a decent mac and cheese substitute."

Of course if you have a gas stove or a gas grill outside and it's safe enough to go out, you can cook just about anything on it, as reader Dave Baldwin noted in the comments yesterday. "You don't have as much control, so you have to raise/lower pots to get the temperature right, but it works. You can even bake, in a Dutch oven, although again you don't have anywhere near the control you would in your nice gas range," he wrote. Just be careful about keeping the cooking area well-ventilated.

Other options readers suggest include sterno cans and chafing dishes, but we'd recommend against cooking raw meat on them. You might want to keep a thermometer handy and remember to ventilate if you're considering breaking them out. And check out the video below of how to set up a sterno and portable stove.

For the Boy Scouts among us, our pals over at Serious Eats did a round up a couple of years back about sternos, butane burners, and survivalist camp stoves. And former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl tweets that she's using her fireplace to fry eggs this morning.

As your frozen items start defrosting, think soup, many readers tell us. And invite the neighbors over to use up leftovers or have a group cookout, once you can go outside safely.

Whether you get outside or you're stuck inside for awhile, lots of us are going to have to throw out some food after the storm. There's no way around it if the power's off for several hours or days (see this list to keep everything as safe as possible).

But one of the more heartbreaking issues new moms face during power outages like this one that can last for days includes losing frozen breastmilk. Over at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, they report that breastmilk can stay safe in a full freezer once the power's out for 48 hours, sometimes more, plus they have some helpful tips on storing it longer.

Speaking of longer storage, a few of you weighed in on the eggs issue. In yesterday's post, we listed eggs among the perishables to use up, in addition to milk. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers eggs perishable, folks in other countries sometimes store them in the cupboard.

Anna Vigren reports on the science that shows eggs are pretty disease resistant and that there's no need to store eggs in the fridge unless they're known to have been laid by a hen infected with Salmonella. Cook them thoroughly, in any case.

And if you're still stuck at home with kids and there's power and pantry items aplenty, here's Food 52's list of projects like soft pretzels and peanut butter cookies.

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April Fulton is a former editor with NPR's Science Desk and a contributor to The Salt, NPR's Food Blog.
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