I grew up in Southern Arizona, so winter was never really a concern. Yeah it got cold, yeah I don’t like the cold, but even on it’s worst day you don’t typically see snow or ice. I joined the military back in 2004, and left Arizona for good. Not that there is anything wrong with that state, I just never have been back to stay.
Now that I haven’t lived in Arizona for quite some time, I’ve realized that winter alone is something to prepare for!
People who have grown up in winter climates don’t need me to tell them how to prepare for winter, heck, most of you probably have more experience doing it than I do!
Instead of trying to tell you what you should be doing to prepare for the cold season, I’m going to share with you what I am doing this fall. Maybe I am doing something you hadn’t thought of, or just maybe, you will have a comment that I hadn’t. Either way, I hope that somebody finds some benefit to a little planning for the coming months.
Cleaning and inventory
I spent a little time the other night going through all of our canned goods and pulling out long expired cans. Some sources state that canned goods can be safely used 2-3 years past the expiration date. I make it a rule-of-thumb that 1 year past expiration is too much for me. I figure that since we aren’t in a disaster situation right now, risking health is not worth it, when I can pull that can and easily grab another to add to the rotation. Should SHTF, I might be singing a different tune, but in the mean time, I keep my cans stocked with unexpired foods because, why not?
In clearing out those cans I found that we did much better this year than in previous years as far as waste goes. Last year, we didn’t have a canned food rotation system. We just stuffed cans into a cabinet, and grabbed cans willy-nilly as needed. Last year, when I did my winter-cleaning, I threw away about 30 cans of food. *sigh*
This January, I made a Wall-Hanging Canned Food Storage and Rotation System that organizes all of our canned goods in a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) manner. This year, we lost 3 cans of food. Three!! That’s a huge plus. I wrote a post about building the Wall-Hanging Canned Food Storage and Rotation System, and if you sign up for my Email Newsletter, you can download and print the full step by step PDF plans!
Awhile back I posted about using Unlikely Storage Containers for organizing your preps. In our case, we used empty kitty-litter bins. I then created checklists using the Preparedness Checklist Generator and placed them on the front of the bins so that I could easily identify the bins contents, and expiration dates. We just slid the checklists into some of these page protectors that we had taped to the front of the bin.
This worked out extremely well, and our only loss this year was a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I decided to keep it. Chemistry tells us that hydrogen peroxide will react with air and turn to water over time, so the worst that could become of an expired hydrogen peroxide, is that it becomes a small bottle of water. I’m not sure I would drink it, but it certainly isn’t hazardous to our health, so why toss it?
I spent a little time printing new checklists, and performing a re-inventory of our preps.
Obviously, I could go an and on about getting your garden, or lawn, or yard ready for winter, but I wont. All I’m going to say is that I have learned to mulch the fall leaves before the first snow or the compacted leaves under the snow will kill off everything beneath them. The only other thing I have to add on this topic is that compost can continue to mature during winter if you can keep it from freezing solid. We keep ours covered from falling snow, rotate it daily, and keep it near our fireplace stack to help prevent freezing. Why lose the maturing process through the winter? Worth a consideration at least!
I find it best to plan your water rotation so that your water gets swapped before the weather gets really cold. You aren’t going to want to be handling cold water, or using hoses if it’s freezing out because not only will it be uncomfortable, but you might freeze hoses/pipes, or get yourself wet and possibly sick. Get it done now while it’s still comfortable out! I did mine quickly one afternoon in no time. Aside from the fact that they stack, my favorite thing about these Water Prepared barrels is that they drain from the bottom so I don’t have to mess with a siphon pump! If you haven’t seen the review, I covered my thoughts on these barrels in a previous post.
Heat & Energy
Just prior to winters arrival, I put a little special emphasis on energy usage. I like to do a walk-through of our home and determine where we lose most of our heat, and see if that place is a project we can tackle that year. This year we’re replacing our worn out back door that is so warped, it allows air to flow right through as if the seals didn’t exist.
I like to fill a couple propane tanks just in case we lose power and/or natural gas and are relegated to cooking on the propane grill. We have options such as the Emberlit Stove (which I reviewed here) for smaller meals, but since we don’t have a wood-burning stove, I don’t store very much good, dry wood prior to the first snow.
I have a kerosene heater that I like to use in the garage during winter, so I always fill up a few cans with kerosene, and a few cans with gasoline for the snow-thrower.
Hopefully, if I have enough time, I’ll get these garage doors insulated before winter as well, to make my winter-prep projects in the garage a bit more comfortable.
I also make sure to run the generator with a load for a bit of time just to get it moving, since I probably won’t do it much throughout the winter.
I frequently consider the reliability of natural gas as our source of heat and cooking fuel. You may find my research in the Natural Gas: Can You Depend on It? article I wrote.
I spend a lot more time indoors during the winter. Remember I grew up in Arizona? Not a fan of the cold, myself. If I’m not working on preparation projects in the garage, or working on Survivehive, I like to read survival or preparedness books just to stay sharp. One that I read this last year, that I highly recommend is Countdown to Preparedness: The Prepper’s 52-week Course to Total Disaster Readiness by Jim Cobb (which I reviewed here)
I also just recently picked up Angela Paskett’s book: Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival: The Essential Guide for Family Preparedness. I hope to polish that bad boy off this winter!
I am an avid Ham Radio Nerd, and winter brings it’s own special challenges for that world as well. I will be working on a new wire antenna that I can string up before it gets cold. I’ve chosen wire, because I can support it under the eve of the house to protect it from heavy ice buildup which would otherwise snap, or damage an antenna. Winter is a time of coffee, and indoors for me, so being able to warm up this monster radio beside me and talk to Germany will help pass the time!
Winter isn’t this horrible monster coming to freeze our toes and kill our crops.. Wait, what am I saying? YES! That’s exactly what winter does! Be smart, make some easy preparations for your winter survival now and enjoy the relaxation of knowing that you’re all set for these cold months to come.
I’ve covered MOST of what I’m doing to prepare for winter here in Utah. I’d love to hear about what unique things you have to do based on your climate, as well as hear any suggestions/ideas I may have overlooked! Leave a comment below, and try to stay warm!