In a quest to be a more intentional, prepared homemaker, here are 25 car essentials I’m stocking in our minivan! You never know when these car must-haves will come in handy, but when you need them, you’ll be grateful you planned ahead!
One of the best tricks a homemaker can have up her sleeve is to be prepared for whatever day-to-day life might throw her way.
This means having a “next step” for minor emergencies. Power goes out? Fetch the battery-operated lights. Child falls in muddy ditch at the park? Whip out that extra change of clothes!
This also means being ready for the good surprises. Let’s say you want to go for an impromptu walk during an errand run. Your family can handle the longer excursion because you’ve got water and snacks in the car!
My mom and grandmothers were masters of this Mary Poppins, whip-it-out-of-your-bag magic, so I’m taking my cues from them. They had those snacks and band-aids and “why don’t we…?”s ready to hand. From a child’s point of view, the result of this is a comfortable confidence in the adult; you begin to take their genie-like ability for granted.
Taken for granted then, yes, but never now. Now I’ve been a homemaker for ten years–with kids for six of those–and I think it’s going to take me at least another ten to master all the virtues and skills my role models displayed. Thankfully, I believe that the art of being prepared is a skill you can learn. And just as with many areas of homemaking, you can learn it faster if you’re intentional about it.
So, this year one of my goals is to be more prepared as a means of caring for my family and the people who come into our sphere.
As our family has grown (three kids under our roof now!) I’ve noticed the way we have to take home with us in our increasing comings and goings. We became a minivan family last year, so one of the first ways I’m going to be a prepared homemaker is to stock our van with necessities and nice-to-haves.
What follows is my car essentials checklist, which I hope you will supply more ideas for in the comments section!
Useful things to keep in your car
Items 1 through 17 should be kept in the main part of the car for easy access. The other items will likely be fine in the trunk.
Get lightweight blankets or throws that you can roll up tightly and stash under a seat, and make sure you have one per family member. Essential for temperature control, getting kids to fall asleep in the car, or if there’s a dearth of blankets at your destination. Also useful as a makeshift curtain to partition off a dressing room in your van. (Been there, done that on family road trips!) This is our #1 most-used car item!
Because sometimes technology fails you (what a shocker)!
Being pregnant or nursing more often than not these past several years, I’ve often found myself in dire need of sustenance at the most inopportune of times. And imagine if you were caught in stop-and-go traffic during a mealtime! Dried fruit or substantial granola or protein bars go a long way towards keeping the hangryness in check–for you or the kids. Just avoid melty chocolate.
4. Quarters and cash
Plastic doesn’t get you into everything!
Keep books for your kids, such as activity books or read-alouds, to pass the time in the car, or to fill wait times at your destination. Keep a book of short stories or essays in the car for your own benefit.
6. Hand sanitizer
Experts say it’s a good idea.
7. Roll of toilet paper
For wiping either end.
8. Paper towels
Use as napkins, to clean up spills, or for checking the oil.
9. First aid kid
Be sure to replenish after you use an item!
10. Plastic bags
You’ll use these all the time for trash, storing wet clothes, etc.
11. Pen and pad of paper
For writing stuff down, you know?
Have a specific pair that always lives in the car, so they’re handy when you need them.
So the folks in your car can always look a little less ragtag, no matter what you’ve been up to.
Pop one before you hug a relative; they don’t want to know you drank your coffee on the go.
Just don’t open it inside the car, because that’s bad luck. Also, you probably wouldn’t be able to get out if you did that.
16. Care package for panhandlers
I don’t always have this stocked in our car, but if I’m going somewhere that I know there will be panhandlers–like Atlanta–I try to put together a bag. Items could include protein bars, coconut water, socks, things like that.
17. Boring stuff
This includes vehicle registration, insurance, and car manual. We also keep an index card in the glove compartment that has the date/mileage of the last oil change, tire change, and other maintenance notes.
18. Car emergency items
Stow a bag with jack, jumper cables, wrench, etc.
19. Swiss army knife
In case you find yourself in a survival situation(: Or simply need to open/pry/cut something.
A gallon jug is good for rinsing off sandy feet after a drive to beach. You can use it for drinking water in a pinch, although filled stainless steel water bottles might be better for this so you don’t have to worry about drinking from plastic that’s been in a hot car.
For checking out car problems in the dark or peering under seats for lost pacifiers. You can get a crank-up flashlight for longevity. If you want to go the battery-operated route, just keep in mind that you should check your light from time to time, as temperature ranges will drain the batteries faster. A little research turned up that lithium batteries store better than alkaline.
22. Change of clothing for each family member
You never know when you’re going to get wet/muddy/soiled in some way, and a change of clothes can save your outing!
23. Wipes and diapers
Even if you always bring a diaper bag, it’s very smart to keep back-up items in the trunk. And you can use wipes for many things besides behinds.
24. Picnic blanket
For covering grimy picnic tables, for spreading on the grass, or for sprucing up a hotel-room table.
25. Cold-climate necessities, if applicable
Like an ice scraper and brush!
Updated to add: After reading this list, my mom also suggested adding a hammer in case you need to break a car window during an emergency.
This whole theme of being prepared is a big one, and there are lots of areas I plan to work on here. I’m not sure I’ll write blog posts on all of them, though, so here’s a quick overview if you are curious about this topic for your own homemaking!
Other areas to be prepared:
- Medicine Cabinet
- Kitchen (with items for super-quick meals, unexpected guests, and shelf-stable/nutritious staples)
- Emergency supplies (for power or water outages)
- Household dry goods (cleaning and personal hygiene)
- Family safety procedures (fire, tornado, exiting a car, getting help when lost)
- Grandparent/caregivers’ house (backup clothes, pajamas, diapering supplies, comfort items)
- Guest room (I already have a detailed guest room checklist for that!)
Its an ongoing process to stock and be prepared for these areas, but any progress is a step in the right direction!
[question]How are you working to be more prepared for contingencies? Know any Mary Poppins types in your own life? [/question]