A former casework specialist at the American Red Cross turned author of “The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals” (Ulysses Press; April 9, 2013), emergency preparedness is Pennington’s life.
She has a hard time watching fictional characters navigate a new world. She can’t help but analyze what the characters should have done to put themselves in a better position for survival.
“It really ruins the shows,” Pennington says with a laugh.
Being prepared is in Pennington’s blood. Growing up in Houston, Texas, she says her father was a “prepper” before the term was coined.
“When Hurricane Alicia hit in the 1980s, we were the only ones in our neighborhood to batten down and ride it out,” she says. “Everyone else was holed up in hotels while we were comfortably living at home.”
Yet she didn’t realize the importance of her father’s foresight until Hurricane Ike in 2008.
“Grocery stores only hold three days’ worth of food; something I didn’t realize until I was trying to buy the same things as everyone else,” she says.
Determined not to put her family at risk again, Pennington started researching emergency preparedness, with an emphasis on food and nutrition.
“From what I’ve seen, there’s a cycle: The pending disaster, the disaster itself and then the recovery period,” she says.
It’s the recovery period that leaves families struggling. Depending on the emergency, recovery could drag on for months, making it difficult for people to maintain a sense of normalcy without enough food or water to meet their basic needs.
Planning and preparing for an emergency, from a short-term power outage to long-term recovery, takes away the stress and fear of what you can’t control, Pennington says.
Pennington started her website, Ready Nutrition, to organize the information she gathered. She didn’t expect thousands of followers or that she’d write a combination resource/cookbook.
“There’s so much I haven’t really explored,” she says. “I’m still learning.”
Pennington and her family moved to northern California, where they grow a lot of their food, raise chickens and embrace self-sustaining practices, such as canning.
Pennington said most people should start by making a list of foods your family normally eats, especially those that are shelf friendly.
From there, pantries can be stocked as slowly or as quickly as food budgets allow. Buying in bulk, or when items are on sale, helps, as does tracking how long something’s been in the pantry.
“Preparation starts at home,” she says. “If you want your community to be prepared, you need to be prepared.”