Using up food items
When a situation becomes unstable, the folks that control our utilities like the gas, electricity, water, phone service, the internet, etc may get nervous themselves. Their jobs will be relabeled as critical infrastructure, and it's always possible that they may not be allowed to leave their posts since they might not return. The same is very true of police officers or medical staff.
It would take real anarchy to exist for essential water and electricity services to go out.
If this occurs, then you'll be in a situation of having no refrigeration and clean water. I've already touched on clean water and its importance.
We're the microwave generation. We thaw and reheat. Many don't cook. Many are used to eating out or eating carry out several times a week. None of those things will be options.
The first order of business ,in the absence of power, is determining spoilage. What will go bad, stale, or spoil due to a lack of refrigeration?
The foods that you are used to, the order that you eat them, the manner in which you do it, and the variety will all be severely limited.
You must eat those things that will go bad first. For anyone who's grilled outside before, you know that meat takes time to thaw. Frozen meat is usually thawed inside a refrigerator, hopefully not in the open air, since it's a perfect medium for bacteria.
Food should ideally be well-done not rare at all. I know, sorry, I love my meat rare or medium rare. Getting food poisoning in an already weakened state could be disastrous, especially for children.
Try to catch as much of the fat drippings as possible as those are calories you need! Make a gravy, add it to the stew, whatever.
Once you get a fire hot, and we're probably talking a wood fire, then you want to cook all your meat since you're going to lose whatever is in the refrigerator or freezer, and you also don't want to start a fire three times a day to grill it. Pray a power outage happens in winter as we might be able to save some freezer items.
If you have charcoal or gas grills, there will be a real temptation to use that material. You may wish to wait on using them up as wood may be in short supply as your neighbors gather it up. Chances are they will use up their charcoal and gas up first. See?
If there is a power outage and you cannot consume all of your grilled meat, then try to barter it. Throwing a block party and trying to organize them might work well at this point. Your generosity will not go unnoticed. Trading grilled meat, which might be hard to acquire, for other food items or necessities is a very good trade.
If you're a canner, and you have the ability, know how, and materials, then by all means can it.
Next come foods that will go bad from becoming stale. Use those items like baked goods next. Fresh fruit and veggies without refrigeration don't last long. Even questionable veggies that are a little off will work fine in a stew or soup.
Canned goods should be used last. Don't be tempted to pull from them first.
All people can easily make bread. It just takes practice. The pioneers used recipes that worked from starter. Do a google search. There's lots of recipes. Generally they begin with yeast, in a modified dough, that you keep adding and subtracting from to get your leaven.
There are recipes for getting a bread dough going in the absence of leaven. Yeasts are in the air in our area. Great French wines happen due to the local yeasts in their climates.
Most bread requires a warm place to rise. Think where you could locate your rising loaves. Cooking it will require modification in the absence of ovens. You might have to use a dutch oven or something you rig up. Pita bread is not too difficult to do and far easier and in small daily potions. Research this. Personally I think it's ideal.
If you are making bread everyday and so is your neighbor, well that's pretty foolish, isn't it? It's a lot smarter to work out a division of labor. Pool your resources if you can.
Most recipes only require flour, water, salt, and yeast. It may seem totally daffy, but I think a desire to make an excellent delicious loaf is actually another ingredient too. Almost everyone I know that eats a fresh bit of warm bread immediately relaxes. It is truly a gift from the Source.
Waking up to prepare a meal.
Our ancestors modified their sleep cycles since they didn't have artificial light. In the absence of alarm clocks, the first week of getting up, especially without coffee or tea, will be terrible. An easy way to waken is to drink a lot of water, and timing it to coincide with when you wish to rise. Your bladder will wake you.
If it's cold, the lack of fire will no doubt wake you.
It goes without saying that having everything ready the night before, instead of stumbling in a dark kitchen, and trying not to disturb your family, is far superior. Better to make one really good meal once a week under these conditions with storytelling and laughter, then killing yourself to make too complex meals and grumbling and dour environments. Can I get an amen?
Get out a garbage bowl to minimize constant walking back and forth. The amount of food that you throw away will have radically changed by this point anyway. Most of that will go into the compost pile. Some may be used for any animals or pets.
Note that despite Madison Avenue, pioneers didn't eat eggs and bacon or large breakfasts. This is an idea created by marketing and adverting agencies to sell bacon. That said, a big breakfast can satisfy one's hunger in a deep way, and makes for a much more pleasant home environment.
If it's at all possible, make something sweet at least once a week. When people get together and the guests praise your cooking, they usually remember bread and desserts. Your morale will soar as will your family. It will make everything seem more normal. A little cinnamon and sugar will seem priceless.
If traveling, it is much more prudent to eat 5 small meals to prevent any cramping while walking a 5-10 mile hike. Eating induces sleepiness since it shunts blood to the stomach for processing. If someone takes the watch, and you can get folks to take a nap, you'll get far more work done. A nap, when so much hard labor is happening, will seem like the greatest blessing. A rested wife is far more affectionate.
Eating a huge meal, and stretching out to enjoy it, will induce so much sleepiness, that you've got to be careful about doing so. It can be terribly imprudent.
Naturally, the evenings are the times when a bigger meal should be served to get little ones to tun down for the night. People taking watch should be careful about eating too much as it may interfere with their responsibilities. Making them a special potion to eat after their watch is over will be an enormous treat.