A couple weeks ago, I began reaching out to friends to ask about the status of their food and supplies at home – if they had the minimum two weeks as recommended as a standard rule of thumb for emergency preparedness. For the most part, I got lightly brushed off and business continued as usual, especially for those outside of the Seattle area where we were already experiencing a serious COVID-19 outbreak.
In the last week, though, and especially the last few days, those conversations have started to change. While it wasn’t enough for most people to take serious notice when it was *just* the Seattle area dealing with the outbreak, as things began to spread to much of the United States, especially New York and California, preparations began in earnest. I’ve begun to get requests for suggestions on what to stock up on and details of what it looks like here at home, as we’re ahead of most of the country.
I first considered writing this post last Thursday, but it felt that maybe Monday would already be *too late* to share, until I realized that not everywhere looks like the Seattle region yet, and even here at home there are a lot of people only now starting to take this seriously.
So, this post is for you, if you need help figuring out what might be a good idea to purchase in preparation of being home for two weeks (or really, three weeks or longer). Even in Italy, grocery stores and pharmacies have remained open, but if things get that restricted, do you really want to be relying on your turn to go shop? Better to be able to hunker down and stay home.
And – of course – if you feel sick AT ALL, do not go shopping. Order delivery. Ask friends or neighbors to do your shopping for you. If you’re sick, even with a mild cold, stay home and do not interact with the general public (though I would definitely still recommend some outside time – but with good social distance).
I’ll begin with this note: If you don’t have the funds to stock up fully, try to think clearly about what you really need for a two week supply. Make an inventory of what you already own. Dried beans and rice go a long way, as do boxes of mac and cheese and ramen. It’s okay if you aren’t eating super healthy right now. Comfort foods will be very appreciated right now, and you won’t need to eat this way forever. And reach out to your local food pantries and other local resources – many have expanded their rules to encompass more people right now. (And donate to them if you don’t need them and have the means!)
While perishables won’t last long term, we’ve bought some to get us through a week or so at home (and longer for other refrigerated items). Many of foods considered “perishable” can last a month or longer in the fridge, and they will be very welcome if you’re no longer grocery shopping.
- Coffee creamer
- Orange juice
- Sour cream
- Beef, chicken, pork (in freezer)
- St Patrick’s Day meal ingredients (corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread)
A quick note on perishable foods. Most expiration dates are WAY conservative. I am not an expert, and will not give advice on this, but Google has a lot of information on this to decide for yourself if something is really expired and needs to be thrown away or if it okay and safe to eat.
Non-Perishables (Shelf Stable Items)
These are items that are a great idea to have on hand for general disaster preparedness. While this current Coronavirus pandemic makes it starkly clear that we need to do this now, let’s remember when everything goes back to normal that having a decent non-perishable food supply is always a good idea.
And no matter what – please make sure you are buying what you will actually eat. Food waste is no good, and neither is forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like while you’re already stressed about being stuck at home. So this list here is what our stock looks like. Yours will look different based on what your family enjoys.
- Chicken/beef broth (and bouillon)
- Canned fruits & vegetables (peas, corn, creamed corn, tomatoes, olives, peppers, mandarin oranges)
- Peanut butter and jam
- Yeast (lots of baking to be done)
- Almond Milk
- Wine and beer (yes, my husband did also buy some Coronas)
- Tomato sauce/tomato paste
- Granola and protein bars
- Spices (the ones you usually use)
- Hot sauce/Condiments
- Canned soups (for the roommate)
- Olive oil (and others like Camolina and vegetable)
- Canned fish
- Chips and salsa
- Lemon/lime juice
- Candy/snacks (if you’re stuck home, make sure you have some non-essentials to make things a bit more fun too)
- Backpacking meals / MREs (husband takes them hunting)
- Water and water purification supplies (basic preparedness, not specific to COVID-19)
- POPCORN! I completely forgot to list this one but thanks to Kristine’s list, I’m making a note here now. We do have plenty for the air popper. Essential.
Supplemented by take out to support our struggling local businesses
Kid Comfort Foods
If you’re stuck at home, now might not be the time to try and force your kids to eat stuff they don’t like. Life will be in enough upheaval as it is (six weeks minimum school closures here), so favorite snacks can be a comfort.
- Macaroni and cheese
- Chicken nuggets
- Hot dogs
- Breakfast sausages
- Shelf stable milk (the non-zero waste individual cartons of “normal” cow milk)
- Kid juice boxes
- Clif bars
Clearly, the bulk of this list is food supplies, but there are certain key household items that you most definitely don’t want to run out of if you aren’t leaving your home for an extended period of time. Again, look at the “what we aren’t stocking up on” list below for reasons why we don’t have more than our typical amount of certain things you might otherwise expect to be on this list.
- Hand soap (though perhaps it’s time for me to learn to make my own)
- Toothpaste/dental floss
- Dishwasher soap
- Laundry detergent
- Clorox wipes
- 90 day supply of my anxiety medication (had to pay out of pocket to get more than 30)
- Cold medicine / Ibuprofen / Acetaminophen
- Batteries, as needed
- Pet food / medication / dog poop bags
- Library books / movies (our libraries are now closed, and they have extended due dates for as long as that lasts)
- A few new fun toys/games for the kiddo (kept in reserve for now)
What We Didn’t Need to Stock Up On (Zero Waste):
Thanks to our everyday lifestyle focused on getting closer to zero waste, there are certain items that we haven’t worried about, which is especially nice when those are the items that tend to be flying off the shelves (ahem, toilet paper). While you’re home more, it might be the perfect time to consider more reusable options – they don’t run out at the store in the same way.
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper (only used for #2, otherwise I use family cloth at home)
- Feminine hygiene products (I use reusable pads, and a Diva cup is another great option)
- Garden seeds (I save my seeds, so we’ve been able to plant quite a bit for our spring garden already. If we really are stuck home for a longer period of time, having fresh things to eat in the yard will be very much appreciated).
The Importance of Community
Part of why our list is so long – and why we’ve slowly purchased more over the past few weeks – is looking out beyond just the four of us who live in our home. We want to be able to support our neighbors if necessary: even in a quarantine, odds are good we can walk down the street and drop things off.
In the meantime, I’ve offered and been able to pick up medications for neighbors, drop off snacks to others, and otherwise chat and stay connected with people during this more isolating time (from a social distance of course). I haven’t left Kirkland since the end of February at this point, but it has been okay, much because of the close connections we have with the people who live just houses away.
Now would be a good time to get phone numbers for your neighbors. Check on your elderly or immunocompromised community. Pay attention and help if others don’t have the means to stock up themselves. After all, we are all in this together.
I hope this was helpful. Is there anything else you’d like to know! We don’t consider ourselves “preppers,” but as I wrote about last Monday, we tend to be reasonably well prepared for emergencies.