I just returned from the grocery store. I needed to grocery shop. There’s little food in the house after we returned from vacation earlier this week. Today’s shopping trip was a little different than normal — it was a panic shopping trip. I was not alone. At 8 a.m. on a Friday morning, the store was packed.


A natural disaster is imminent. Here on the East Coast, we call a serious snowstorm a French Toast Storm because everyone runs out and buys milk, bread and eggs. We’re not sure what to call a serious hurricane, though. It rarely happens to us. But on Sunday, Hurricane Irene is supposed to come ripping through my region, threatening power outages and mass hysteria.

Into my shopping cart today went things that I would never buy ordinarily. Bottled water. Lots of packaged foods that can be eaten immediately but don’t need to be refrigerated — nuts, granola bars, crackers, bread, peanut butter, pretzels, cookies along with fruits and vegetables. My cart definitely didn’t look like the cart of an “eco-friendly food blogger."

I usually don’t panic shop for storms. Not that I’ve never panic shopped. My husband loves to tell the story about how on Dec. 31, 1999, I ran to BJ’s to stock up on nothing but infant formula and water. I didn’t believe that anything was really going to happen with Y2K, but what if I was wrong? I had a 4-month-old — who was set for the next six months with formula. (I’m not sure who would have given it to him if a disaster had happened because my husband and I would have starved to death within a few weeks.)

Then there’s the time I stocked up on duct tape. I had a toddler and I was pregnant, and there was some threat that duct tape was supposed to help with. Was it anthrax? I don’t remember exactly. I do know that we’re still using that duct tape, and that toddler is now 12.

But I’ve never panic shopped for a storm before. I have thoughtfully shopped before storms. I’ll use the fact that we’re going to be snowed in to try new recipes, and I choose the recipes before the storm hits and shop for ingredients. Today, I panic shopped.

Why? Maybe it’s because we already had an earthquake hit this week. You know what we get even less often than hurricanes here in New Jersey? Earthquakes. But I was sitting at my desk on Tuesday when my desk, chair and house started swaying. And I was unprepared. I had no clue what was happening. It occurred to me that if the quake had been more serious, I wouldn’t have known what to do to keep myself and my family safe. I wasn’t so pleased with myself when I realized that.

So now I feel like I’m prepared for the hurricane. If I think too long about it though, I know I’m not. A few gallons of water and a case of individual bottles of water, along with flashlights with fresh batteries and some non-perishable food is not really going to prepare me for the big tree in my front lawn coming through my living room wall or a week of no power. I don’t think I’ve ever been without power for more than a few hours before. I live a pretty cushy life. I am not really prepared for a natural disaster. Is anyone?

Here on MNN, we’ve got some great tips to get prepared for this weekend’s hurricane beyond buying water and batteries. If you’re in Irene’s path, you should check them out. I wouldn’t have thought, for instance, to turn the temperature in my refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting so that if the power does go out, the inside will stay colder longer.

I’ll be trying to prepare myself today and tomorrow for what may come on Sunday. I’m hoping that the worst that happens is my children will bicker over which movies we’ll watch as we wait out the storm. If anything more serious happens, perhaps today’s panic shopping will make it less serious, perhaps not. But at least I feel sort of prepared.

Are you expecting Irene at your doorstep this weekend? Do you feel prepared? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Hurricanes and panic shopping
As Hurricane Irene threatens to disrupt our food blogger's cushy life, she buys bottled water and lots of packaged food in an effort to feel prepared.