In Case of Emergency...
Sitting here, smugly believing myself safe from flooding, being about 100 above sea level, and watching the appalling pictures from Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, something was brought home to me very powerfully.
One of the threats in the flooded areas is to a waterworks and to electrical substations - so it's clear that I may be safe, but the plants that supply my drinking water and power may not be. Neither may yours.
I'm not suggesting you rush out right now, and stock up on bottled water and candles, but if you see the torrential rainfall heading your way (see below), well, it might not be a bad idea to get some in. A camping stove wouldn't hurt either. It goes without saying - or at least it should - that, as people with ME, you routinely have enough food in stock for several days in case you are too ill to shop, or your carers have problems. You don't need to spend a lot of money either - you just need stuff that's easy to prepare and keeps well; it doesn't need to be haute cuisine.
In fact, if you don't have a few days emergency stash of food, it may be worth stocking up - ME can impair your ability to shop anyway, often without notice; you don't need floods for that. I always (well, mostly!), have about three day's worth of food in stock, as long as I don't come back from the pub and eat some of it!
There's no need to buy water, of course - if you have containers, or can scrounge some from bottled-water-using friends, tap water is perfectly fine assuming it's taken when supplies are OK. I'm not trying to alarm you, but as a group we're vulnerable, so taking sensible precautions if you think an excess of wet is heading your way makes perfect sense.
Don't be alarmed, just stay alert and, unless things take a dramatic change for the better, keep an eye on the Met Office website for extreme weather warnings, and the Environment Agency, for flood alerts, because floods can happen a long way from where the rain actually falls.
Don't take TV news warnings as gospel - at the moment I was copying that link from the Met Office website, BBC News 24 was claiming that the Met Office were posting extreme weather alerts, when in actual fact they were doing nothing of the sort.
The obvious starting point is food. If you have a freezer, as I have, then you probably have this covered anyway, but there are alternatives. The obvious solution if ordering online for delivery, but in case of floods (or even snow - remember that?), or power outages, it may not work. In addition, some online stores have minimum order values - Sainsbury's, for example (£25) - which is probably too much for one person living alone, and may cost too much for someone on benefits.
Canned goods are probably the first choice, as they need no special storage condition (though the need to be stored where they won't go rusty), and you need to ensure you have an opener that you can use easily. On the whole, avoid stuff that needs anything more than reheating.
There's a huge variety of meats, even complete meals in cans. The C&B Hunger Breaks are widely available - I take these on camping trips and while the texture is a little soft, they fill the hole and are moderately tasty. They come in four flavours, and with a hunk of bread make a reasonable meal. Avoid sweet and sour meals in cans - they have loads of very crude vinegar - otherwise it's pretty much whatever suits your palate.
I usually have baked beans in the cupboard, plus a couple of Fray Bentos steak and kidney puds (these need to be simmered for half an hour, so not good in a power cut, unless you have gas). Canned soups are obvious, and canned milk puddings can be good, as they are very good cold. As are canned fish. Sausages - normally franks - come in cans and jars - just be aware that in a power cut, storage facilities are limited. If you don't like franks then you're out of luck.
Bread isn't suitable for long-term storage, but many crackers and biscuits are, and overwrapping by putting them in a plastic bag helps. Jams and spreads keep for a long time unopened - if you like it, peanut butter is a good choice; PBJ on crackers is great!
Cheese, too, keeps for a a month or two in sealed packs, and Primula cheese in squeezy tubes keeps for ages unopened.
Long-life milk, while leaving something to be desired in terms of taste, is worth squirrelling away.
Don't forget - you don't need a lot of any one thing - we're only talking about a few days here, a week, tops.
Cooking and lighting.
I'm lucky - as a camper I already have a couple of camp stoves. I have one that will run on resealable gas cartridges or meths, and one that runs on gas only. A basic gas stove suitable for home use will cost you a tenner, and there are more choices for cooking, lighting and heating on that website. With a family, you'd probably need 2 or 3, but a singleton can get by with one, and gas can be had quite cheaply. Piercable gas cartridges are very cheap, but the equipment that runs on them is either a tad agricultural, or too expensive for our purposes. And, if put away part used, the gas will slowly leak away.
When heating food, a wide, shallow pan will be more efficient than a narrow, deep one.
As for lighting, a couple of cheap torches would be handy for moving around, but for area lighting, you need a lantern and, unfortunately, they can be expensive (£30+). I've got a large, double-mantle gas lantern that gives enough light to read or cook by, which cost £25 ten years ago, but more cost-effective is a headlamp. Not cheap, at about £25, but the batteries last for ages and, for one person, its a good bet. I've got this model, and it's fine for almost every activity, and for some, the dark doesn't matter...
Some cheap headlamps here.
Water, I've covered at the beginning, so that's pretty much it. Just bear in mind that these are suggested precautions for no more than a week - you don't need to stock up for a siege!