It’s starting to cool off out there. While we enjoy the last breath of summer weather and start to enter fall, it’s an excellent time to start checking items off your fall and winter preparedness checklist. As we head into winter, many parts of the world, especially the USA, are experiencing high levels of civil unrest. Many businesses have closed or are shut down due to the pandemic. People are flowing out of the cities—many permanently. Settling down in a new place takes time, and it’s doubtful that many have thought beyond just getting out and getting settled.
This winter could be a difficult one. Between unrest, the pandemic’s effects on the economy, and the morale of people worldwide, supplies could be strained. People are likely to have to stay home more than they’re used to during the winter months, and there will not be many places to go to get out of the house. Many parents are facing the fact that they are going to be responsible for educating their children at home.
This list is an overview of what you should think about and do to make sure that fall and winter go as smoothly as possible for you and your family. Although it’s impossible to plan for everything, you can take care of some basic needs and tasks that will make things easier, no matter what.
While many are not driving as much as they once were, some may find that they’re driving more due to work and school changes.
It can be easy to neglect your vehicle when it’s not used that often. Maybe you have the opposite situation and are racking up the miles due to a new or part-time job.
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Traveling in the winter can be hazardous but necessary. Your winter car kit will vary a bit based on your climate and driving habits. You can get a base winter car kit and add to it or create your own from scratch. Here are some suggested items. Your needs may vary based on regional factors and how far you generally travel.
Make sure you have the supplies needed to change a spare tire. A can of fix a flat or something to inflate a flat is another good idea. A small tire patch kit doesn’t take up much space.
The list above may sound like a lot but you would be amazed how well you can fit it in a vehicle. There may be some stash points in your car that you are not using very well if you take the time to look.
Who hasn’t put off repairs and maintenance at one time or another? Sometimes you can get away with it without causing extra work, but often, it leads to a much higher repair bill. Just ask anyone who has ignored or not noticed a small leak or water intrusion issue.
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Utility companies seem to be going the extra mile to repair things as soon as an outage is detected in my area. With so many people working from home and using computers for educational needs, they’re being more careful about the maintenance of the grid in some areas. Here are a few things you can keep on hand to be prepared for an outage.
A power center can provide some backup power during brief to moderate outages. If you have a solar panel to hook it to, you can enjoy some power for the duration of a prolonged outage. Many power centers can be charged using your car’s 12V system, so you can plug the power center in when you’re driving to charge it. Around our house and farm, we use Jackery power centers. They are very reliable, lightweight, and easy to use.
My new smartphone was a mere $80, and it will function as a hotspot with just one click. If you have decent cell phone service, this works very well for internet backup. When I combine my phone’s hotspot with my laptop, and the Jackery power center, I can keep working at home even if the power is out entirely. We also have some solar power for additional electricity.
If you have a desktop computer that you use to work from home and don’t have a laptop for backup, now’s the time to consider investing in a Chromebook or laptop just in case. I’ve worked from home for many years, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to have even an inexpensive Samsung Chromebook on hand for when your main computer kicks it. A refurbished computer is a good option if you’re on a budget. Desktop computer towers offer more powerful processing for your money.
Shortages are common, and this is likely to continue. That doesn’t mean that food and other items needed to run a household aren’t available. Even during the worst of the pandemic-related panic-buying shortages, it seemed that at least part of the outcry was from those who could not find a particular brand they preferred. At the same time, there were shortages of some things even if you were willing to buy a different brand. At the moment, it seems that the online availability of many items is much better than it was, and shipping seems to be somewhat reliable. With food costs rising every day, you need to inventory what you have and make a note of items you are low on or lacking.
I’ve found that ordering direct from manufacturers is one way to find what you want. Look for local and regional grain mills for flour and cornmeal products. In my area, we have a cheese factory that will ship. It’s only a few hours away, and the prices are reasonable.
Here’s a short list of some inexpensive staples that you can add to your stockpile right now.
If you want some fast and easy-to-fix food in case of an emergency, I recommend purchasing freeze dried foods from Mountain House, Valley Food Storage, or Legacy.
While the pandemic has leveled off and cases are decreasing in some areas, like any flu-like virus, there is a decent chance of a second wave during the colder months of the year. This could lead to another surge in demand for cleaning and hygiene supplies. Although it’s important to have these items on hand, I advise not overbuying. I’ve been writing about prepping and preparedness for many years, and it amazes me how many people go overboard when it comes to toilet paper and bleach. Toilet paper takes up too much space to hoard the 2,000 rolls that one lady claimed she had. Buying a pallet of bleach is not advisable either, considering that it degrades over time. Bleach tablets last longer and take up much less space.
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At our house, we like to go through all of our medical kits at least once a year. Doing so allows us to replace items that are out of date and replace anything that we’ve used up. If you or anyone in your home requires prescription meds, you should get them refilled as soon as you can, just in case.
It’s always important to consider water. With inclement weather a common occurrence in the winter months, it’s wise to keep some water storage containers filled just in case. Make sure you have a water filter on hand in case you come under a “boil water” advisory. Many cities and small towns have very old water systems and pipes that regularly have issues. I live in the South, and it’s not uncommon for towns to have 100-year-old or older pipes and water systems that are still in use. Water main breaks happen at least a few times a year in the town closest to us.
During an emergency, you can store a lot of water in your bathtubs by using a WaterBob.
Many people rely on electric heat, and most have no backup heat source. Electric heat is excellent. We have an electric furnace in our house, but we also have a wood stove that we use often in the winter. The electric heat is nice, so we don’t have to get up three times a night to stoke the fire. My husband and I spent many nights getting up and doing that before our house was finished and we had that nice electric furnace. Backup heat can be tricky. Propane and kerosene heaters work, but they can be smelly, and they require ventilation and care to use safely.
If you can manage a backup heat source, then do so.
No matter what your heat source, if you own or rent a house, chances are that some maintenance is required.
Chimneys can accumulate a lot of creosote during the winter months. Set a reminder to look up your chimney with a flashlight every few months. A good time to do this is when you are cleaning out the ashes.
This winter may be one in which many of us are stuck at home for most of it. Everyone needs something to do that they enjoy. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, many people turned to vices that can be harmful when not controlled or indulged in moderation.
I like to read and write, so I’ve put together a nice rotating library of new and used books over the past year. I donate or give books to others when I’m done with them as I don’t have space to keep more than 100 books. E-readers are great for some books or if you don’t want to deal with paper books. Used copies are less expensive than electronic books, so I tend to buy older paperbacks.
If you have a hobby, budget for some supplies or gear so that you have something to do that will support your overall health and well-being. Keeping a healthy mindset and outlook is an often overlooked part of being prepared. Attitude can make the difference between surviving or not.
Kids and teens also need things to do that are not dependent on computers.
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The school situation varies by state and even by county, but it’s clear that many parents will have to homeschool. I was homeschooled from 7th to 12th grade and went to college afterward. The biggest challenge is that many parents have to work outside the home or have jobs that, while done at home, require them to not be distracted during certain hours. Some parents team up with other parents to share the responsibility of watching and teaching kids during the day.
Regardless of how your family chooses to deal with homeschooling, you must consider what supplies you need. Computers and tablets were sometimes hard to find at the beginning of the pandemic. You may also want to plan some fun educational activities.
A desk or workspace that is comfortable and not overly distracting to children is essential. Each child needs a space, even if it’s small.
Pet food can become scarce during times like the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. At one point, I was aware of millionaires who claimed they couldn’t find food for their dog. If meatpacking plants shut down again, the shortage will be worse.
Pet foods keep longer than you might expect. I keep our dog food in sealed plastic barrels with diatomaceous earth mixed in. Fancy pet foods with many fresh or low preservative ingredients do not last as long in storage as others. During a SHTF situation, you’ll be glad to have something to feed your pets. I like to feed our dogs Diamond Naturals, but for long-term storage, I get Purina Dog Chow. Freeze-dried pet food is a good choice if you don’t want to compromise quality and can afford it. However, I’ve found that it’s only practical for a small dog unless you have a lot of disposable income.
If you have a small dog or just a few cats, you may want to buy larger bags of their food and vacuum seal it into smaller portions to extend the shelf life.
Hay replacer is a good choice for those with sheep, horses, goats, or cattle. You can order it online in pellet or cube form for about the same cost as getting it from a brick and mortar store.
It is easy to put back a lot of food for small pets like rabbits and hamsters. Since these pets eat so little at once, it is best to store food in smaller containers. You can vacuum seal foods in freezer bags and open as needed or redistribute into regular freezer bags. This allows you to buy in bulk and keep food fresh.
If you don’t have backup heat, emergency blankets are an affordable choice that can help out. Wear a lot of layers of clothing. Don’t forget to wear a hat. Gathering everyone in your home into 1-2 rooms and closing any adjoining doors can help.
You can set up a tent inside your home and stay in that. It is much easier to stay warm inside a tent in an unheated home than just sitting in a room with a blanket. Now would also be a good time to get out any sleeping bags or camping pads. Cuddling with loved ones will help out too.
If you have a gas stove you may be able to use a lighter to ignite stove eyes but you will not be able to use your oven. A lot of people use their gas powered grills outside to cook during power outages. Never use a gas grill inside! Of course you can use a wood stove to cook on if the power is out or even build a fire outside. Small camp stoves can be used outside as well. Sterno cans are ok to use inside to heat up pots of food.
A lot of the shoes and clothing that we all love is made in China. Although they’re still making it, that doesn’t mean that it’s being produced at the level it once was. When stores were closed, there was a lot of excess consumer goods sitting in shipping containers and warehouses. Right now, you can get some great deals on winter shoes and clothing.
Staying warm is important. I try to keep fleece or wool blankets on hand. I used to make quilts, but I just haven’t had the time over the last few years. Fleece is nice because it is inexpensive and comes in various weights. I like wool but often buy cotton blankets that can be layered because I live in a southern climate. Our temps can dip to –10°F, but our cabin is well insulated, and with wood and electric heat options, wool blankets are too much.
Civil unrest is occurring in small towns and cities all over the USA. Now is a good time to go over how well you can defend your home. Create a defense plan with your family and make sure that everyone knows it.
Samantha is Ready To Go Survival's lead editor, a life-long outdoorswoman with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies. She learned the foundation of preparedness from her father who saw heavy combat in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. An avid outdoors woman and survivalist, her articles have appeared in various homesteading magazines such as GRIT, Back Home, Backwoods Home, and Countryside.