It is a dark and stormy night. Rain pelts the windows as tree branches scrape along the side of the house like fingernails down a chalkboard. The howling wind outside sends shivers down your spine. The lights flicker once, twice. Suddenly you are engulfed in blackness. Inside, the house has become silent as a tomb.
Where do you keep that flashlight?
Winter is definitely here. We’ve had a lot of windy, rainy weather lately, and snow is probably not too far away. Winter storms often bring frequent and sometimes lengthy power outages.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a coworker and I asked her, “What do you do when the power goes out? How do you feed your kids? What do you eat?” Her answer was, “We don’t eat.”
My outdoor cooking skills are great in spring, summer and fall when we’re camping, but in winter they become a life saver.
When the power goes out for more than a couple of hours, knowing how to whip up a hot meal without a stove or a microwave comes in pretty handy. When we lose power, we don’t miss a beat. Out comes the propane stove and/or a Dutch oven and in no time at all we have a piping hot meal to warm our bodies and our spirits.
In addition to keeping our camp cooking equipment handy, we also keep a well stocked pantry so that we can last a while without having to buy groceries in case stores are closed. It’s also good to keep a supply of water for drinking and cooking in case those systems are compromised due to storm damage.
Short-term emergency preparedness experts recommend 3 days, but we’ve gone without power for a week sometimes and we have family and friends in other parts of the country who have gone without power for more than a week at a time.
Going into winter, we make sure our propane tanks are full, the camp stove is handy, and we have a good supply of charcoal for the Dutch ovens. I do my cooking out in the garage or on my covered front porch. Remember! Never operate your propane stove or use charcoal inside your home or anyplace that isn’t well ventilated as it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
So, are you prepared for when Old Man Winter comes a calling? Just like if you get lost in the wilderness, your top three priorities are: shelter, and water and food.
Shelter is easy, you’re home, but make sure your camp clothing (polypropylene, fleece, and wool) are handy and layer up as temperatures inside your home start to dip. Remember to put on a warm hat. Sleeping bags can be pulled out and used to sleep warm.
Water and food are also easy, if you are prepared. You should have one gallon of water per day for each person in your household. That’s just for hydrating. Water used in cooking, cleaning, and bathing is extra. 55% of Americans have less than a 3-day supply of food in their homes. Is your pantry well-stocked? You should plan on eating 2,220 calories per day per person.
But don’t eat out of stress or boredom. Manage your supplies and be responsible and avoid eating just to pass the time.
So, what do you do to keep yourself and your children from going stir crazy without the television, DVD-player, and game console? How about pulling out your camping rainy day box of games? You do have one of those, right? Mine is stocked with traditional playing cards and poker chips as well as specialty card games like Uno, Skip-Bo, etc. How about chess, backgammon, cribbage? You can also head to the game closet and pull out Monopoly, Sorry or Life.
Just like camping, power outages can be beneficial in that they force us to unplug from all the electronics and reconnect to each other as a family. But the better prepared you are, the better you will be able to weather whatever nature throws at you.
Your camping skills and your outdoor cooking skills aren’t just for camping. They are good skills to have for survival.