With Mother Nature showing us her power once again, residents of the East Coast are bracing for a potent storm. Hopefully, you’re well stocked with all the essentials you’ll need in case the power goes out (batteries, candles, flashlights). And if you’re stuck at home for a few days, you should be ready with extra food (don’t forget your pets!), water, and lots of magazines or board games.

But, after living for years in a blizzard-prone section of Massachusetts, I thought I could share a few tips for getting ready for when nature doesn’t cooperate with modern life. I’m going to assume you have done all that needs to be done as mentioned above. When you hear of a big storm, you should make sure your phone is fully charged, put gas in your car, get all your grocery and hardware store essentials (like a hand-powered can opener), and have a battery-operated radio ready. Once you have done all of those things, these tips will just make your life more pleasant as you ride out the storm.

1. Get It Together

After scrambling in my dark basement to find candles and hunting through the house to gather flashlights during one memorable storm, I now put everything in one spot. I gather flashlights and batteries, candles and matches, and a radio and batteries on the kitchen counter, so I know where to look. And I send each family member to bed with a flashlight, even if the power is on. It’s startling how much artificial light shines in our homes at night and waking up without it can be disorienting.

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2. Clean Up

Somehow when the power goes out, messes compound. And it’s much more annoying when you want to clean and you can’t. Take the time to make sure you’ve washed any dirty dishes, done whatever laundry you can, emptied the trash, cleaned out the litter boxes, and vacuumed the floors. If you have the time and energy, give the bathroom a quick cleaning as well. Trust me, a cleaner house now will be a more pleasant place to hunker down.

3. Cook Food

Really getting ready for a power outage means having extra food on hand. Since it’s winter and colder, you don’t have to worry so much about food spoiling as you can always put some outside (looks like you’ll have plenty of snow to keep it cold!). Make things you can eat either hot or cold. Meatloaf, pizza, quiche, lasagna or plain pasta, rice, salad, muffins, chopped veggies, pancakes, and even make-ahead grilled cheeses all go together quickly. If you have a thermos, heat up soup and put it in there. Canned food is great for when you have nothing else, but it gets unappetizing after a while.

4. Make It Easy on Yourself

Paper plates and paper cups are okay in a pinch. You’ll be amazed at how many dishes you go through in a day. If your water goes off in a storm like mine does, a sink full of dirty dishes is discouraging at best and nasty at worst. If you have a fireplace, use tinfoil pans and tinfoil packets to heat food up – no worrying about if your pans can handle the heat (note of experience here – they probably can’t unless they’re completely cast iron). No tinfoil pans? Even a cleaned-out soup or coffee can can work.

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5. Make Coffee

I’m not kidding – make a pot of coffee and put it in a carafe before you go to bed or when the winds start to howl. It will stay hot in the carafe for a long time and you will be so happy to have it. Not a coffee drinker? Fill a carafe with plain hot water for tea or hot chocolate. And if none of that applies to you, using the carafes for warm water is great for hand washing if you don’t have access to hot water.

Getting ready for a storm is habit for me by now, but it takes practice. I hope these tips help you get through whatever winter might throw your way. Stay safe!

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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