Saturday morning, we headed out to the Kirkland Costco as planned to stock up on our regular essentials as well as a few others in the wake of COVID-19 in our town and the first US death here. My husband had planned to go after work the previous week, but that hadn’t happened, so the three of us went together Saturday morning after he opened up the work job site.

We were in the store right after it opened, and immediately we noticed that things didn’t seem normal. The crowds were thicker than we’d ever seen them, Kirkland Brand toilet paper was out of stock, Lysol wipes were being rationed one pack per customer, there were more than a few people in masks and/or gloves, and we only spotted a single open sample counter.

Full cart ahead of us, we got into the checkout line within a half hour of opening. Or, we got into line a few aisles back because ALL of the lines looked like it was Christmas Eve or worse. At that point, we realized how much our community would be impacted by the Coronavirus, even in the best of scenarios.

Every single line was 20+ deep

Friday’s Frugal Five

1. While we are generally reasonably prepared – though not quite to the level of That Frugal Pharmacist and her family – Costco made us realize that we might want to consider stocking up a bit more. While there’s still a split personality locally between laughing off COVID-19 and wanting to shut down the whole state entirely, we decided we would err on the side of caution; prepared, but not panicked.

While some people attempt to reassure people that “only” the elderly or people with underlying conditions are at great danger of succumbing to the novel Coronavirus, we have people we love very much and see regularly who fall into those categories. And even if we didn’t? The idea that only the young and healthy are safe is a pretty disdainful reason to decide you aren’t worried.

While we spent a decent chunk of cash over the weekend, all of it was for food or supplies we needed in the current or will be consumed at a later date. That also included things like de-mosser for our roof and a (reasonable) amount of toilet paper for our family – a single Costco sized one.

Being debt free besides our mortgage and keeping our regular monthly expenses well below our current income means that we don’t have to worry how we are going to stretch ourselves to pay for unexpected expenses – like extra food and supplies in case of a quarantine or supply chain shortage due to a spreading viral infection.

Again, like so many things, it is going to be the people who can least afford it who are likely to be most affected by this current world issue.

This happened at ALL the local Costcos

2. It feels fitting that I wrote a post not too long ago about our emergency fund not being just money. The realization that it isn’t just our W-2 paychecks that keep us in a decent place helps calm some of the anxiety surrounding the possibility of being recommended or mandated that we stay home.

We have flower and yeast to bake bread and pizza crust. We have an emerging spring garden full of greens and other edible plants that are just starting to put in new growth. The rhubarb has pushed through the soil and the raspberries and blueberries have buds on their bushes. Our unpaper towels, napkins, handkerchiefs, family cloth, and cloth pads mean that even in a toilet paper emergency or other paper shortage, we’re okay.

It’s not just our non-monetary emergency fund that makes me feel more secure; it’s also the realization that many of our zero waste lifestyle choices mean that we need a smaller influx of new things to keep our household running normally.

At least he can fend for himself

3. I went home sick from work mid-morning Monday with the sniffles (and now a slight cough) and have been working from home since then. While it’s not an ideal situation compared to being in the office, it’s doable, and for that I’m very lucky. The kiddo has been home with me as well, which means my work days start earlier and end later, but I still get work done.

Considering our childcare situation is 3/5 women over the age of sixty – up to eighty-five, we realize we have to be extra cautious. The Coronavirus is most dangerous to older adults, and our county’s public health department announced Wednesday that anyone who is higher risk should consider staying home and away from crowds for the next few weeks. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Boeing, among other companies large and small have implemented sweeping work from home policies. The Northshore School District – right next to us – has closed for 14 days.

The weather, however, has been quite lovely

I don’t know what the coming weeks will bring, but I’m very thankful for the flexibility I have with my job. There are so many businesses that can’t operate remotely, or only partially – usually the better paid portion. Just like with stocking up and being prepared with extra emergency supplies, it is mostly the people who can’t afford to stay home sick who will continue to have to work even in less than ideal situations.

The same is true for our small businesses, who have been suffering in the wake of the outbreak. To do something from them remotely, I’ve purchased a couple of gift cards from local businesses (surprisingly hard because many small local businesses don’t have gift cards), donated to Hopelink, and bought some Girl Scout cookies online from a troop who had to cancel their events.

4. I’ve especially appreciated the access we have to nature, considering we’ve been attempting to stay away from crowds right now. We have miles of trails behind our house, and they aren’t terribly busy, especially during the day. While it means we’ve been sticking to the quieter places (see: not the playground), we have a lot of area to roam regardless.

This week – other than purchases over the weekend – has been almost entirely zero spend. Movie night via Netflix, meals at home, and play in and outside the house. And not a single take out our restaurant meal to be seen.

Working in the garden + hanging out with the dogs

5. The kiddo and I have spent a decent amount of time out in the garden, both cleaning up the dead plants from last fall and planting new ones for this spring. The weather has actually been quite cooperative, which makes staying close to home feel a lot nicer. We’ve pruned the hazelnuts and blueberries, mulched the rhubarb, planted peas, lettuce, and carrots.

The dead hops vines, herb shoots, and asparagus plants gone to seed that have been sitting in the garden beds for far too long have finally made it into the yard waste bin. The bright spot of this week has definitely been the outdoors: both wandering the trails and exclaiming over new growth in the garden.

Exercise Update

Sunday through Thursday saw walks through the woods and time in the garden. While we avoided businesses since I’ve had a slight cold, we’ve gotten outdoors – and I’ve at least hit my 12,000 step goal at minimum every day.

Monday I decided to look up some line dancing videos on YouTube and ended up spending an hour dancing to them. My friends and I used to go to Little Red Hen regularly for line dancing on Monday nights, and I’ve missed it. Dancing to the videos made me realize I should at least do more of that, and then when everything settles back down again, head back for a Monday night out.

Has the Coronavirus impacted your town yet, or are things mostly business as usual still?

46 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (COVID-19 Edition)

  1. Sounds like you’re handling things well and calmly. I agree that our emergency funds are about more than money. I can understand that living in Florida and getting through hurricane season. Take care and enjoy those nature trails.

    1. Yeah, in the silver lining of things, a lot more families are prepared for our someday maybe big earthquake.

  2. We have stocked up somewhat on food and supplies just in case, but the hysteria hasn’t hit KY yet. I assume once there is a confirmed case, people around here will act the same way. I was just thinking of what you said about those who are more insecure as far as income. It has to be tough on those who cannot do their jobs from home, or who cannot afford to stock up on food or supplies in advance. Good idea to buy a few gift cards to try and help out! Stay healthy. Being able to work from home is definitely a blessing.

    1. Being ahead of the curve in KY is super smart, from the opinión of someone who didn’t get as far ahead as we’d meant to.

      1. Thinking of you all and hoping you’re weathering the at-home time ok! We’re pretty well stocked routinely and have done one trip to pick up a few items locally (no big box stores for us for awhile until this outbreak is under control). It’s been a great time to be working in the garden and I’m also thankful for a job that can be done remotely.

      2. Thank you! No more big box stores for us either.

  3. Wow, I wonder if that explains why my trip to Costco last weekend was so nutty too! I’d never been to that particular Costco before, so I’m not sure if it’s always that nutty, but it seemed ridiculous with people pushing and shoving everywhere.

    Your reduced spending, especially with no takeout/restaurant meals, is impressive. You’re going to hit that high savings rate again this month! 😉

    1. No, probably extra nutty where you are too. And we did also buy tickets to Hawaii for June this month, so not a super high savings rate I don’t think – but that’s okay.

      1. I just a CVS with signs posted about being out of masks, sanitizer, and gloves! I think you’re right that it’s nutty here too. What?! You didn’t travel hack that? Hawaii sounds awesome, even if it means not reaching that super high savings rate. 🙂

      2. We’re actually pretty lax travel hackers. I paid attention to flights and no ugh this when they were super cheap + used my Alaska companion fare. Will use points for other travel 🙂

  4. All I can say is avoid the media and stick 100% to WHO for all accurate updates, todays update was very key on the biggest problem we are facing.

    An “INFODEMIC” as they call it;


    “Infodemics are an excessive amount of information about a problem, which makes it difficult to identify a solution. Infodemics can spread misinformation, disinformation and rumors during a health emergency. Infodemics can hamper an effective public health response and create confusion and distrust among people. To manage infodemics, WHO has developed an innovative communication initiative called the WHO Network for Information in Epidemics

    This is the source to learn, educate and stay informed.

    1. Well, locally, our city neighborhood Facebook group has been super informative – but clearly that’s different because we’re at the center of it.

  5. I’d really be careful about going to a big box store in an infected city. The risk that not having some of those supplies could hurt your family has to be weighed against the risk of getting infected at what has to be one of the best places on earth right now to find the Corona virus, in an overcrowded store that almost certainly has infected people in it. There is an irony in that it is possible that trying to get last minute supplies may be a primary route for spreading of the virus. If people are in a hot zone and must have some supplies I’d recommend Amazon or taking a drive out in the country where there hasn’t been any recorded infection yet. I’m sure your family is safe, these risks are tiny after all for healthy no senior people and even lower for children. But the risk of not having toilet paper is pretty small too.

    1. If you’ll read the post, I’ve been clear that we haven’t been out since Saturday to anywhere around groups of people – and things looked very different here even six days ago.

      1. My bad, I did read it but misinterpreted the local panic to mean it had been in your area for awhile. Sorry for missing the details.

  6. Thank you for your solidarity in taking this seriously. It is actually the people mocking this epidemic that is sending my anxiety thru the roof. You are a reminder that there is still compassion in this world.

  7. Interesting how different it is even over the course of a few days, and across different parts of the country. So far, it’s mostly normal here but CO has very few (known) cases at this point. Good luck to you and your family, especially keeping the little one entertained as the novelty of no school and work from home wears off.

  8. things are business as usual here in buffalo so far. i have one coworker in my building they ordered to stay home a couple of weeks as i think he had just gone to italy. we also had one friend explicitly cancel on mb’s art opening tonight because of virus fears. we’ll see how the turnout goes. stay well out there and take care of the extended family.

    1. Yeah, very different in the place where we have a ton of cases and deaths.

  9. In 2010, when my kiddo was a little over 2, the Haiti earthquake happened followed closely by one in Chile. I was a single Mom and those two events definitely got me freaked out since I live in earthquake and fire country. I put together go bags, always have 5-6 gallons of water, and have a supply of freeze dried food which come to think of it, are probably expired at this point. More than enough to get us by for a few weeks. I’ve not had to use the stuff ever, but it eased my anxiety and got me to a place where I was comfortable that we would be ok. Because I had all this stuff already, I didn’t feel like I needed to do more than our normal grocery shopping this week! But, I will take a look at the supplies and see what’s expired shortly. I think everything you did was super reasonable and if you feel anything like I did, I felt comfortable that I took care of the things I could control, and didn’t stress about what I couldn’t and it allowed me to let go of that anxiety!

    Here’s a question: Are you noticing every person’s cough or sniffles this week? I sure am. I’m trying not to… but I’m definitely a bit more vigilant.

    1. Thanks, friend. And I agree.

      Re: coughs and sniffles, absolutely. Like my own cold – a normal week and I doubt I would have even identified myself as sick.

    1. Exactly. My biggest worry is for my 85 year old grandmother and others like her.

  10. We went to Costco last weekend as well didn’t notice anything unusual until we went to the section where all the toilet papers and wipes were displayed. Literally every package of toilet paper, Clorox disinfection wipes and paper towels we’re gone. I haven’t seen a section of Costco that empty like we saw it last weekend. We found out that SF was declared in a state of emergency that morning which prompt people to go out and buy them.
    Luckily we’re already set with a six pack of clorox wipes and a good amount of toilet paper since we we’re out of it a few weeks ago.
    Glad to hear you guys are set as well.

  11. I hear you on the (it feels like) constant repetition of ‘primarily elderly people are at risk’. I’m like, that’s great, but both my parents are over 60 and I’m really quite fond of them (sarcasm).
    I hope you and yours all stay safe and well, and that you the working from home/child at home cabin fever stays minimal!

  12. It’s easy to catch panic from others. I am avoiding the store because seeing other people clearly stockpiling makes me do the same. I’m coming off a month of trying to get the grocery spending as low as possible so that meant I am low in the freezer, pantry and fridge. I’m spending the weekend doing things I love-taking my dogs on a long walk, having dinner with friends and going to worship with my family tomorrow.

  13. We have not been impacted by coronavirus yet but we did just have a group of students return from a trip to Italy (they went on March break) so…it feels a little inevitable at this point. Things are business as usual right now, but I suspect that is going to change in the coming days.

    Also, I definitely ended up doing a couple dance workouts this week, too! One class at the gym and one online video! Hopefully this means your foot is feeling a bit better?

    1. My foot is feeling better! Not 100%, but thinking in the next week I will attempt a *very* short run and see how it goes.

  14. Speaking as a 64 year old married to a 71 year old, albeit, thankfully in good health, I hope we will weather any virus, Corona or any other, but who knows? All we can do is ‘prevent’ as far as possible. My one big prevention measure is that I have changed to single use towels in the bathroom, instead of a shared hand towel. Rather than paper, I am using small towelling facecloths, with a box to catch the used cloths, which can then go straight in the wash, without being handled. We haven’t panic bought, but the freezer is full, and we have plenty of everything we need for several weeks. A few days with no fresh veg won’t hurt us….

    1. Oh, that idea of single use hand towels is a good idea. I’ve been switching them out daily, but we have enough to make that doable.

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