As mentioned in the last article, this is an El Nino year, and while the first few storms are out of the way, more and probably heavier are on their way. Winter in Colorado can last well into May. Add to that it being a hard year for crops due to wetness – both home and commercially, and a bad year for chickens on the commercial front, this is making things more expensive. And our own chickens are just finishing out molts in time for low egg laying.
Sometimes, even those set on sustainable living have to resort to the commercially packaged foods.
In the last article, how to survive the weather while out in your car was talked about, but what happens if you get in a storm where you can’t leave home for several days? It is tempting, when money is tight and prices are high, to keep a low level of food in the house, waiting for prices to go down. But in a winter like this promises to be, what you really want is to have a stock of food on hand for about two weeks worth for each family member. This can be done on a tight budget. Here’s some tips and tricks to make winter storms survivable.
– First and foremost, only buy things you know your family will eat on a regular basis. Foods they like. And I don’t just mean candy bars and chips – good, hearty, solid meals. For the winter, higher in protein meals are good as well. Don’t buy that can of sauerkraut just because it’s on sale. It’s worthless if everyone in the house hates sauerkraut!
– Plan meals ahead. Make a list of ingredients and how much you need for each meal – buy those and ONLY those. Double recipes – a huge pot of chili can be eaten as leftovers, lunches, and you can freeze portions.
– Buy bulk if possible. If you don’t have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, ask your friends. Likely someone will have one. Go along with them, and those stores have the best prices on things like flour, sugar, oats, beans, meats, cheese, rice, spices, soup bases, oils and shortening. If you have freezer room, a 10 lb bag of chicken breasts can go a long way.
– Now is the time to buy canned goods – for instance, King Soopers has Kroger brand chicken broth at 2 cans for a dollar. Canned veggies and fruits are on sale right now, a whole variety. Pre Thanksgiving and Pre Christmas tends to be the best time to buy these type of foods. Potatoes, onions, squashes are all at a very good price right now. Store these items at home in a cool, dry place where mice can’t get to them – a shelf in a closet can often be a good spot, in baskets that allow the air to circulate around them.
– Don’t forget to throw in a treat that you can’t make at home that everyone loves. This can smooth out a home bound family in minutes.
– If you don’t already know, learn how to make certain foods at home – breads, cookies, pasta are all staples and all can be expensive. But getting the ingredients and making them at home can be much healthier and much tastier. (BTW, using a bread machine is not a shame – you can still be a homesteader and save time with that bread machine! You can often find perfectly good ones at thrift stores, and the manuals and recipes are easily found online.)
But what if the power goes out? If you own a grill, make sure your propane tank is full and maybe have a spare to hang. If it’s a charcoal grill, get a couple extra bags. If you have a camp stove, that works just as well. PLEASE do not use any of these inside your house – you can cook outside the door. If you have a woodstove in the house, you can cook things on top of your woodstove as well. The recipes don’t change, but your cooking time usually will..
Other tips for potential power outage –
- Make sure you have enough water for each person to drink – according to the Red Cross, that’s a half gallon per person per day. You want to try to have at least 72 hours worth on hand; ideal prepping for a storm says 2 weeks worth.
- Have water put aside for washing – dishes, bodies, etc. and for flushing toilets. The old saying “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” applies. Easiest way to do this is to wash out your milk and juice containers when empty and fill them with water, store them somewhere out of the way like under beds. You can heat the water on your grill or cookstove for washing.
- Use the food in the fridge first. That’s what will go bad first. Then, on to the freezer. You can, with a sturdy clean trash can, put freezer food out into the snow or unheated garage. However, if you do put it outside, make sure it is somewhere safe from animals, or you could lose all your food.
- -DON’T FORGET YOUR PETS! Same amount of water supply, and they need food put aside as well. Since they don’t use a potty like us, make sure you have sanitary methods for pets – in a pinch, you can put down pee pads or newspapers for dogs. Make sure you don’t make your dog feel bad for having to use these instead of going out in a blizzard. Money saving tip – human pee pads cost a LOT less than those marketed as puppy pee pads.
- Same goes for your livestock – make sure you have enough water and food stored for them. Chickens may be unhappy being stuck in a coop all day, but they will be happier and warmer for it.
- Pay attention to the forecasts – if you know a storm is coming in a day or two, get that laundry done. Cook up a bunch of meals that could easily be reheated on a grill or cookstove, make sure to get everyone through a shower or bath early on in the storm – it will keep you healthier, and happier too.
- Non food wise, time to stock up on some dollar store coloring books and crayons – even the grownups can color too. Glue and construction paper, clay, dolls – all things that even the adults can get in on and the whole family can enjoy. Board and card games are a given. Books to read. Make cookies together .
- Make sure you have flashlights and batteries; things can be dome by candlelight or oil lamp as well. You can often find old fashioned oil lamps in the thrift stores, and wicks and oil can be found at most hardware stores fairly inexpensively. Worst case, as it’s getting dark, everyone eats and goes to bed early. Dishes can wait til morning. If it’s cold, everyone can cuddle together in one big bed, or a big pile of blankets and pillows on the floor. Footy pajamas and decent sweats and thick socks are a great investment.
- Even of the power is out, if it’s not a blizzard, bundle everyone up and take them outside. Play in the snow. Build a fort, make snow angels, sled, have a snow ball fight. When you come back in, not only will you feel warmer for having exercised, but the kids will be mellower for having had the opportunity to spend some energy.
Most people are not without power for more than a few days, even in the worst storms anymore. Being housebound can be not only survivable, but can bring your family closer together.
Your author spent the Blizzard of 1977 in Upstate NY with her family. Luckily, power was on most of the time, but it was an experience never forgotten. Thanks to my parent’s preparedness and skills, we kept busy, make some great family construction paper sculptures, climbed on drifts over the height of the plows, visited neighbors and very much made the most of our family time. Proof a huge storm can not only be survivable, but enjoyable as well. Have a great winter and great holidays!