By Janine Pettit

Our grandparents knew how to get by and make do. They wasted not and wanted not, used what they had on hand and improvised in a pinch. Last year when the big freeze enveloped the country and many went without electricity for weeks, they also went without light, cooktops and heat. I was shocked to discover in a power outage that my fancy gas range did not have an override that would allow me to light it with a match. I was able to cook in my driveway on my camper stove which is not quite as fancy. Not everyone has a camper though or access to it in an emergency! It’s not a bad idea to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make any emergency a little more manageable. Just in case you can’t recharge your flashlight or light your cooktop, here’s a great trick to make an ordinary candle burn for a very long time. If you make these ahead of time, you can light up several rooms. 

What you need: 

  • Vegetable shortening 
  • A glass jar 
  • A candle the same height as the jar
  • Glass measuring cup 


  • Add shortening to the measuring cup and melt it in a microwave at 15 second intervals. 
  • Pour the liquid into the jar and place it in the back of the refrigerator to set up. 
  • Once the shortening is opaque, place your candle in the center of the jar. This will be your wick. 

The best part of these lights is that you probably already have the ingredients in your house and could make them even after an emergency starts. It’s not necessary to microwave the shortening, it’s just quicker and less messy. You can spoon it into any old jar, pack it down and push a candle into the center. There is no smell or black smoke when they are lit, and they will burn for days. Just be sure to trim the wick when it gets long. 

*This is an excerpt from an article published earlier this year in Girl Camper magazine. Subscribe here for more great content like this.

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