Winter is nearly upon us, which means we can look forward to blustery days, scarves and snowmen. It also means icy roads, electric bills skyrocketing and wishing for warmer days. Use this quick guide to help you prepare for the days ahead and make this winter bearable for your family.
For your Home
Naturally, you spend more time indoors during the colder months, meaning that you consume a lot more resources. Here are some ideas that can help you save money and make your winter safer for your family.
The first thing many people think of going into winter is, “How much will our heating cost us this year?” The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association offers these tips and tricks to lower your energy bill, some of which can apply year-round.
- Change your light bulbs, for both your house and holiday lighting. LED holiday lights can cut your costs by up to 90 percent!
- Change your air filter regularly.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees to save up to 12 percent on your bill.
- Insulate your water heater and pipes.
- Break out the weather stripping and expandable foam to shore up those cracks around windows, doors and electrical outlets.
- Using a low-flow showerhead can minimize your water use by up to 50 percent.
A winter storm could come up on us quickly in the winter months and be worse than what is initially forecasted. To prepare, make sure you know where your flashlights are, have ample batteries, and are stocked up on your medications and baby gear. There’s nothing more terrifying than to imagine being out of diapers or formula when there’s no possible safe way to get to the store!
Without a daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun, you want to make sure your family is still getting all the nutrients they need to be happy and healthy. Pick up lots of fruits and veggies on your grocery trips and make sure your pantry is stocked in the event of bad weather. You want to have bottled water and canned goods on hand, as well as a good manual can opener and camping propane-powered stove if you have all electric appliances.
Making the Outdoors Safer
When a storm hits, some of the first things that fly off the store shelves are shovels and sand or salt. Grab that when the weather is nice so you have it on hand. You also want to ensure your roof and gutters don’t get too snow clogged, causing a potentially dangerous collapse.
For the car
As residents of Missouri, you know the weather varies drastically from day to day in any given season. We can get a pile of snow in April and 70-degree temperatures in January. The beginning of winter here can be deceivingly warm, encouraging us to put off the preparations needed to get our cars ready for winter. Here are a few things to have ready in case an ice storm hits this year.
During your next oil change, make sure your mechanic checks your fluid levels, especially the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, as well as the battery, breaks and heater. Having those in tip-top shape will get you off to a good start this winter.
Do you have enough tread to keep you on the road in slick conditions? While your tires don’t necessarily need to be brand new every year, keeping them in good condition can make all the difference when trying to protect your family from accidents. You might also consider tire chains if you absolutely have to drive in bad weather.
Remember that gas can freeze in cold temperatures and an empty tank will make it more difficult for your car to start in the mornings. You can avoid this by keeping your tank at least half full at all times.
If you’ve ever broken down in winter, you know how quickly you can get cold inside the cab. Here’s a list of things you might want to keep in the trunk for your emergency kit: blanket, first aid kit, small bag of sand or kitty litter (to help if you get stuck), matches/lighter, a sweater, snack bars, bottled water, flashlight with batteries, ice scraper and car phone charger.
Road salt often damages a car’s paint if not properly washed and treated. On those warmer days, try to swing by a car wash that will rinse and wax your car, keeping it looking great throughout the winter and protecting it from oxidization.
For the Family
Being cooped up in the house for days or playing outside in freezing temperatures, it can be hard to take the chill off without sunshine. To keep the kids from bouncing off the walls, here are a few tips to winterizing your family.
When it’s too icy or cold outside, there are many games you can play with your kids to keep their minds active, in hopes their energy levels stay in check. Organize a treasure hunt or bowling party with water bottles and a rubber ball. Let them dance their hearts out with some “Dance, Dance Revolution” or squeal in delight with a sensory table—think thrusting your hands into a bowl full of cooked spaghetti while blindfolded! Schedule a crafting day or make your own Play-Doh.
Sledding and building snowmen are some of the hallmarks of winters in the Midwest. Make sure you talk to your kids about safety in the snow and cold by bundling up and not venturing out too far from home or near water sources.
During a Power Outage
Nothing is more boring than when the lights go out. Here are a few games to play in the dark or low light: 20 Questions, Name That Tune, shadow puppets, Charades (by flashlight or candlelight), or just break out the glow sticks. Just remember to have plenty of batteries on hand and talk to your children about safety with candles.