I turned off our electricity for 48 hours this week as one of my challenges for National Preparedness Month. And once again, just like with my Living Without Running Water experiment, I learned a lot!
If you joined me in the challenge or have experiences of you own, I’d love to hear them! I’m by no means an expert in this area. In fact, this is the first time in my adult life that I have lived without electricity for any extended period of time. So, while I believe my experience will be helpful to those similar to me, I’m also sure there are many of you with quite a bit more experience, thoughts and ideas. I’d love to hear them!
An Important Note: The Food in my Fridge / Freezer
I shut off all the breakers in our house except those to our fridge and the freezer in our garage. I did not want to risk losing any food for the sake of an experiment.
However, if I were to experience a real power outage, I do have a plan:
I would move 3 days worth of food to a fantastic cooler that we have. We take this cooler camping and it keeps our food frozen / cold for up to 5 days. I would also include two 1/2 gallon containers of frozen water (I have these in the freezer in our garage). The cooler would stay in our cold storage in our basement and be opened as seldom as possible.
I would then move the rest of the food from my indoor fridge / freezer to the large freezer in my garage. The idea being to get it as pack as I could so that the food all stays cold / frozen for as long as possible. There are an additional eight 1/2 gallon containers of frozen water in that freezer as well that will help with that goal.
After three days, I would open the freezer again and move just what I needed for the next three days to the cooler. I would continue this until either the food was bad or the power was back on.
What I Learned:
My Kids Are Too Reliant On Electronics!
When I told my kids that we had no water a few weeks ago, they panicked over not being able to drink, bathe and brush teeth. When I told them this week that our electricity had gone out, their first comment was:
“Well, so that means…(big pause)….we just have to…(another big pause)…play?”
Yes kiddos! No TV. I’m not re-charging the iPad. No CD player for dancing. You will need to just play!
I actually think I do relatively well with limiting my kids electronic time. Of course, I have my days where I use it as a baby sitter. But for the most part, it is very limited, both in amount and in type. They are only allowed to watch / play “educational” shows / games for the most part. In addition, their use of electronics is tied directly to their responsibilities / chores. They earn fake money for their chores and can use that money to buy media time. They have “kids play time” each day as well as “mommy play time” and “quiet room time.”
But that comment was a bit of an eye opener! They found it overwhelming to imagine “just playing” all day long. They were overwhelmed by it! I will be working a bit harder on fixing that! I want to raise fun, creative children who enjoy spending time together using their imaginations.
All in all, they ended up just fine and had a fun two days. When it came down to it, I was actually more stressed than they were. Which brings me to my 2nd point:
Modern conveniences allow us to get so much more done!
Living without electricity (and water a few weeks ago), was stressful for me! I was more on edge and grumpy with my kids. I will still trying to do everything I normally do, but it was taking me more time. Dinner, blogging, cleaning, etc….all the “normal” life stuff took longer and it stressed me out! So, again, I am grateful for my modern conveniences!
But I want to be prepared for the stress that a real disaster / power outage / water shortage would bring. Stress is a real thing and can affect family life dramatically. I want to be able to stay as calm and happy as possible in such a situation. My kids will need me to! I believe that the more prepared I am, the less stressful things will feel and the calmer I will be able to be. So, my motivation to be just a bit better prepared was increased!
I need more battery clocks!
This is kinda funny, but all of our clocks are electronic: the microwave, the range, alarm clocks etc. I found myself constantly wondering what time it was!
I keep all of our “power out” supplies in a hall closet upstairs. But I don’t keep batteries in our flashlights b/c that drains the batteries. I just add the batteries when we need to use the flashlight. But I store the batteries downstairs! That would be a problem if the power went out after dark and I had to make my way in the dark all the way downstairs to get the batteries. So, I moved the batteries up into the closet with the flashlights. I also put one flashlight (with batteries in it) in my top dresser drawer. That way I could quickly jump out of bed and have light if needed (for whatever reason).
I found that even though I’d read (or at least scanned) the instructions to all my various “power out” supplies, I couldn’t really remember how to use them properly. I was glad I’d kept all the manuals. They are actually all in a gallon plastic Ziploc right near the rest of the supplies (behind the lantern in the picture above). I used them to learn how to power our solar lantern, use our small generator for my computer / internet router, and some of our goal zero supplies.
One I would definitely suggesting having there is the manual to your garage door. Many have a battery back up that would allow you to still open them during a power outage. But if the outage is extended or you don’t have a battery backup on your door, you will need to know how to disconnect the door from the powered carriage, but keep it on the track. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get your car out! Your manual will have instructions for how to do this.
Test Products Beforehand!
I have two Goal Zero Light a Life lights. These are extremely high powered lights that I had planned to use instead of candles etc. during a power outage. Goal Zero products are solar powered and I like these light b/c they are SUPER bright. I would be able to charge them during the day and use them at night indefinitely. Well, I opened them up and got them out of their box after the power was out only to realize that they didn’t include the necessary battery to power them, so I had no way to use them. I had assumed the batteries came with the lights, but they didn’t which made them useless! Needless to say, I will be buying the battery soon!
I’m Glad We Have Satellite Internet.
We were able to use our small generator to power our router and my computer which allowed me to have internet access and still run my business. Even in a true widespread power outage, it is unlikely that the power would be out nationwide / worldwide. I have people who follow this blog, email me and purchase from me from all over the US, including Hawaii and Alaska as well as Canada. The work I do brings in a significant portion of our income. If the power outage were to last for more than a day or two, I would need to be able to continue to work.
In addition, having internet access would allow us to communicate with worried friends and family even once the cell towers back up batteries ran out of power.
I’d like a solar generator
The small generator we have now is battery powered. I’d have no way to charge it during a power outage. Once it ran out of “juice,” that would be it. No more computer / internet.
So, I’d like to get a solar generator. Of course I’d love a really expensive one that could actually power my appliances, but for now, I’d settle on this one: Goal Zero Escape 150 Adventure Kit. It comes with a the 150 (a rechargeable battery), the light I love as well as a solar panel to re-charge the battery. I will likely get two eventually so we could use one while the other was charging. It would power my computer, our router, our phones, a small CD player etc.
Are there things you use regularly that are on your computer that you don’t have printed? For example, I needed my recipes. I didn’t want to turn on my computer and waste precious power just for something I could have had in a printed form.
My Kids Loved Having Their Own Flashlights
These were crazy inexpensive…so much that I almost didn’t buy them, but I’m glad I did. My kids loved having their own right around their neck. Kinda silly, but something I learned!
I’d Like More Solar Powered Batteries
We have a few AA sized ones and the Goal Zero pack to charge them, but I’d like to get something that can charge large D sized batteries (for our flashlights).
If the Power Were to Really Go Out, I’d Bathe Right Away.
We have two water heaters and we had a hot water supply for the entire first day and even into the 2nd, but it did eventually run out as the water in the heaters cooled. Those with only 1 water heater would run out sooner. I prefer warm showers, so if the power were out, but we still had running water, I’d shower immediately so that my chance of having to take a cold shower were put off as long as possible!
The disposal Won’t Work in a Power Outage.
Duh, right? Well, that was something I’d never thought of and dumped food scraps in our sink just like we always do! Fishing them out after the sink was full of water b/c it couldn’t drain was pretty gross. Next time, I will remember that and we will immediately start putting food scraps in the trash instead.
Seriously! Why is the Sun Oven so tough for me? I can get it to preheat just fine. It got up to 400 degrees within just about 30 minutes. But then I put the food in and it started fogging up the window and dropped to about 225 within just a few minutes. It never did come back up. I think some of it may have had to do with the pan I used too. I need to get more small dark pans. We still ate our dinner and it was fine….just took a lot longer to cook. But darn it, that happens to me every time!
I also cooked up some instant brown rice on our camp stove and it turned out great! I did an experiment as well. I wanted to see if I could hydrate the instant brown rice without heat. It totally works! I added 1 1/2 cups of water to 2 cups of rice and stirred it occasionally over about 90 minutes. It hydrated just fine, but was cold. But at least I know I could use it without any heat if I needed to!
I also remembered that I had bought a Volcano stove about a year ago. I’ve never used it. I’d actually forgotten about it and so I didn’t plan to use it during this outage. But I’ve heard incredible things, so I need to use / practice that some more.
But I am good at Dutch Oven cooking! My Dad taught me that growing up and it is something I’ve always loved. We had great chicken & black bean tacos as well as some mighty fine cobbler! I was going to post the recipes here, but I think I’ll save it for another (not quite so long) post!
In addition, I plan to practice outdoor cooking a bit more. I think fall is the ideal time: not too hot or too cold, so expect a few posts from me as I learn & experiment!
I need some powerless appliances
I needed a food processor for our dutch oven dinner, and I have to admit I cheated. I didn’t realize before hand that some of the ingredients would need to be blended. So, I just flipped that breaker on and used my electric food processor, but I’d love to get some powerless appliances like a food processor or blender. I do have a powerless wheat grinder. (-:
We Need A Game Plan For Our Powerless Cooking
I would like to create a list of at least one month’s worth of meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) that I could make with entirely shelf stable ingredients as well as without power. I plan to start working on this and will share what I come up with here!
We Need More Fuel
As part of the “game plan” I mentioned above, I will be better planning exactly how much fuel we should store. We have the Volcano Stove, a propane gas grill, dutch ovens, a camp stove, the Sun Oven, and will soon have a fire pit. So, we will store:
- Charcoal (Volcano stove, Dutch Ovens)
- Propane (Volcano stove, gas grill, camp stove)
- Firewood (Volcano stove, fire pit)
- Quickfire Pucks (Volcano stove, fire pit, and the Quickfire stove if I decide to get one)
How About You?
I’d love to hear from all of you! Did you take my challenge as part of National Preparedness Month? Or have you ever lived without electricty for a period of time? What did you learn? Do you have additional tips for my readers and I?