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Last-minute tips to weather the storm

If you’re in the path of the 'monster blizzard,' use these tactics to get ready.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 8, 2013 11:45AM

Logo: Cars on icy road (Don Hammond/Design Pics/age fotostock)The "monster blizzard" bearing down on the East Coast is already being compared to the Great Blizzard of 1978. That storm's swift, relentless drifts stranded thousands and killed several people, according to CNN,


Hey, East Coasters: How's your storm prep coming along?

Haven't done any? Get going. Yes, the store shelves are likely to be somewhat bare of basic supplies at this point. But there are workarounds for disaster supplies, and you probably already have some of what you need.

Start looking for supplies now, rather than stumble around in the dark and wonder where the extra flashlight batteries are stored. 

Figure it's all a bunch of hype? You may be right. You may also be wrong. Think about the people who struggled after Superstorm Sandy -- and they weren't facing subfreezing temperatures right away.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends storing enough emergency supplies to last you three days.  If you're not there yet, then read on.

Nor any drop to drink

Start with water, since it's so vital and therefore likely to sell out the fastest. You need up to one gallon per person per day. If you're reading this from home, fill all the pitchers and other large containers you have. Got a nearly empty jug or carton of milk? Pour what's left into a small container, rinse out the jug and fill it.

Check the cupboard for plastic containers and jars (especially quart-sized canning jars), and the recycle bin for two-liter or even 16-ounce bottles. If you've got any buckets that can be cleaned well enough that you wouldn't mind drinking from them, fill 'em up.

If there's room in your freezer, put in a couple of nearly-full jugs. They'll keep perishables fresh in a cooler (more on that in a minute) and when they've melted completely you can drink them if the power stays off that long.

Go ahead and buy gallons of water at the market, if any are left. Avoid buying by the bottle if you can; it's probably cheaper just to buy a few more pitchers or a collapsible five-gallon jug if you're near a sporting goods store.

What's for dinner?

Sporting goods store are a source for freeze-dried or instant foods that can be prepared with boiling water. Then again, you can also get some of this stuff while you're in the supermarket: flavored mashed potatoes, bouillon cubes, rice or pasta bowls, and instant soups, ramen and oatmeal.

Check the health-food or gourmet sections for better-quality instant soups and things like just-add-water hummus or bean dips that make a decent lunch when served with pita bread (buy some!), carrot sticks and fruit.

Buy and boil at least one dozen eggs for accessible protein. When it starts to snow in earnest, put them into the cooler with those frozen water jugs. Put in other stuff from the fridge, too: cheese/cream cheese, mayo, sandwich meats, a jar or container of milk. The butter or margarine, pickles, catsup and mustard will be fine on the countertop (especially if the power goes out).

Useful foods you probably already have (or should buy right now): peanut butter, jam, honey, tuna, granola or protein bars, nuts, any kind of chocolate, and canned soups, stews, fruits and vegetables.

Choose the no-salt veggies and  use the liquid to dilute canned soups; the liquid from canned fruit can be used to sweeten cups of tea, or sipped to soothe an upset stomach. Oh, and make sure you have a manual can opener.

Heat and light

Collect and test all the flashlights in the house. If the supermarket's out of batteries look for them at auto-supply stores, drugstores and office-supply stores.

Round up all your candles, too, but be darned careful using them. Burn them inside wide-mouth jars, set high up so kids or pets can't knock them over. Buy extra matches while you’re out shopping.

You're in luck if you’ve got a gas stove, a wood/pellet stove or a fireplace insert. A camp stove or hibachi would do in a pinch, but don't ever use these indoors -- out on the balcony, the front step or the sidewalk with you. Right now, before it snows, make sure you have fuel or charcoal.

Never underestimate the power of a hot cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or bouillon. Not only do they warm you physically, they're very comforting emotionally. It's also nice to wake up to oatmeal and tea, or to dip that cheese sandwich into a mug of tomato soup.

Any time you boil water, make extra and fill a thermos. That way you'll always have makings for the next hot drink/instant meal.

As for staying warm, here's hoping the power doesn't go out -- but assume that it will. Dig through dressers for that long underwear you bought for a ski trip, and for any wool socks you own. (No long-handles? Buy some while you're out and about. Layers are essential for warmth.)

Pick the smallest room with a door that closes and make that the place everyone will sleep -- and share body heat -- should the power go away. If there aren't beds in the room already, bring in mattresses and sleeping bags (or all the comforters and blankets you own).

And if you've got that wood/pellet stove? Lucky you -- you can sleep in that room. Bring in all the fuel you have, versus trudging through the snow later on.

When you've gotta go . . .

OK, let's talk toilets. If you're on a city sanitation system you're probably OK. Those with wells and well pumps won't be able to flush if the power goes out.

Be ready for that with a sturdy bucket lined with several layers of garbage bags, and maybe some shredded newspaper or cat litter at the bottom. Keep it in the mudroom or garage if you have one; if not, place it in the room that's farthest from where everyone is sleeping. Oh, and test it for leaks now versus being surprised later. (Trust me on this.)

You'll need hand sanitizer in that room, and maybe a package of baby wipes. Before I headed off on my Seattle-to-Alaska trip I bought a packet of 70 baby wipes (made in the USA) for a buck at a dollar store. Check your own dollar store if you have time, and see if you can get your hand sanitizer there, too.

Best-case scenario: The place you live isn't hit too hard, the plows keep running and your lights never even flicker.

Second-best-case scenario: You lose power but you manage well enough thanks to your last-minute prep.

Worst-case scenario: You don't take this seriously and you lose your heat and lights. Have fun eating semi-frozen peanut butter off the spoon while you shiver in the dark.

More on MSN Money:

Feb 8, 2013 4:51PM
We fill the bathtubs and keep a bucket handy. Just refill the tank after you flush. 

For water I keep a stash of empty gallon water jugs and fill them with fresh tap water before the storm gets bad. 

For food we keep pbj, tuna, bread and any other goodies around.  I have made scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, coffee, among other things on my outdoor grill, even in the dead of winter.  

When the power goes out is when I pack all refrigerated and frozen food into coolers and set them out on the deck, which is kept clear of snow.  No need for ice packs then.

Oh, and pull out the monopoly game and play by lantern light.

Feb 8, 2013 4:30PM
If you are on a septic you can flush the toilet if you have water to flush with.  I fill old laundry detergent bottles.  Don't rinse.  Just fill with water and use when you flush.  Lots of people, 
you might not want to flush each time you do #1.  You can also melt snow for this.
Feb 8, 2013 4:42PM
Feb 8, 2013 5:04PM
Plan and stock up now for the next emergency.   Doing it the day before is just stupid.  Y ou should have  7   not  3  days supplies on hand.   And stored where you can use them up on a reqular basis and replace them  when used.    Go to     "" for more info.
Feb 10, 2013 1:03PM

All pretty good comments and suggestions, along with the Article,Liz...


The best is don't wait until the day before disaster hits, like poster said; That is stupid.

Some people may have trouble storing, large amounts of anything ? Reasons being...

Lack of space, lack of freezers or other storage area, and lack of money to purchase...??


Loss of power is the biggest problem facing many today, then others can be flooded out if in the wrong locations??...Then of course, being totally wiped out because of a Hurricane or Tornado; The worst.

Snowstorms are pretty much a known consequence, depending where you live, like Hurricanes.


Living in the Country, you become more self reliant...Eventually !!  Sooner or later you buy a Generator and have enough fuel to last for a couple days..After that, you syphon from vechicles.

Having well water and a 80 gallon tank helps for a few hours/day.. Even if losing power..

Most city areas have water pressure unless of freeze, in pipes or in home.

Worst for us, snowed in/out for 8 days..Cabin fever; We can do 2-4 days standing on our heads.

Did not lose power in storms (8 day) of the late 70s...Two years.

Have lost power twice for 4-5 days..One time about 7 days(ice storm).

Only thing we would run out of is Milk in a week...Because of wife and cats.

Unless we hadn't been to store for at least a week.

We have large chest freezers...They will usually hold for about week, maybe a little less.?

We garden and freeze many other items we buy and raise(the kids now) some hogs and chickens.

No beef lately.

I go to discounts and sales, to buy 3 months of staples at a time, canned goods and flour mixes.

We keep a full pantry and freezers...Day old bread store, about every 3 weeks..Freeze.

So we don't worry much about storms.

And are self reliant like I said, for about 2-3 months, without a bunker mentality.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.