Hey, we’ve got some scary stuff going on and more to come! Have you guys been seeing some crazy lists out there about what & how much food to have on hand for when you’ve caught the fast-spreading Coronavirus?
Last month the CDC basically said it’s not IF you’ll get coronavirus, it’s When, although more conservative estimates place the number of us that will fall ill (some may only have a mild case) at up to 70 percent. This is without mitigation efforts.
There are lots of practical things to do to get ready for the coronavirus if you haven’t already but start Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus – and do it now.
If you, like me, are on a budget, or even living paycheck to paycheck, or even if you’re just overwhelmed by it all, it can be really frustrating to think about preparing. Hey, I’m already past my spending limits, and I’m paying close attention to what I need to buy to ride out a possible crisis. And preparing for it isn’t just about toilet paper (there WILL be more) and bottled water.
Just a note, if you’re financially stable, keep an eye out for your friends. relatives, adult children, and neighbors who may be marginal. Help make sure they have enough to weather this crisis and you’ll not only be helping them but you’ll also be helping the community by keeping them at home and out of the stores and possibly out of the workplace when they’re sick. Now is a great time to donate in bulk to your local food shelf and of course, they’ll welcome cash even more. They can buy for pennies on the dollar.
First of All, Don’t Panic But Don’t Ignore It, Either.
If your community isn’t hard hit and you are well and able to shop, you don’t have to buy everything at once although there are probably certain things you’d like to get sooner than later, and if you haven’t prepared at all, it’s time to get on it. Like today on it.
Right now before Easter is actually a great time to look for bargains, with so many items, including canned fish, on sale during Lent and many items going on sale before the Easter holiday. You can check my list Easter/Lent Leveraging the Sales. I’ve yet to see stores in my area responding to Coronavirus at any scale; it would be nice if they would.
Of course, you will need to have an idea of what to plan for and that can be a little confusing. As coronavirus has spread, our response to it is morphing and there are a lot of terms being tossed around. I’ve noticed that even the administration, doctors, and the media don’t always get it right but the CDC put out a page to clarify just what’s what. They also have an excellent fact sheet.
How Does this Impact Planning?
I’m really concerned about situations that are going to keep you (and me) at home and how to stock up for them. And we’re all going to have to plan for multiple possibilities because when coronavirus knocks at your door, it’s going to be a “go to jail, do not pass go” situation.
You will have no chance to shop and prepare if you’re asked to quarantine or self-isolate (and all the conditions for “monitoring” include isolation) and if you’re asked to social distance, your opportunities are going to be more limited, too. You’ll want to be prepared just in case the situations below, happen.
- If under quarantine or self-isolated, anyone you’ve had contact with might not be in a position to help out. You may have exposed or infected them, or visa versa and they may be in quarantine or self-isolation as well.
- While some people have stated they can order and/or get delivery, either of meals, food, groceries, or supplies, those may be more expensive in the long run – and sometimes you end up with some real surprises!
- In some cases, there may be some kind of social help but in many areas, there isn’t; while the government is talking about a package to deliver some aid to those impacted by coronavirus, well, we all know how those things go.
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst and Assess your Risk:
No one is going to be unscathed by the coronavirus. The past focus has been mostly on a two-week quarantine but as coronavirus moves in everywhere, communities are calling for social distancing, quarantines can turn into isolation, and the general risk of becoming ill is increasing.
- Count on preparing for more than a two-week “staycation” of binge-watching Netflix if you have to self-quarantine or isolate. That’s your best-case scenario, especially if you remain well or symptoms are mild but there are no guarantees. (But maybe buy some popcorn. Ditch the microwave stuff.)
- Asses your situation, your risk, and the number of family members and plan appropriately. The more members of your household, the better (and possibly the more time) you should plan for. The same goes if you or a family member are high risk.
- You may or may not be able to fully stock up on all the foods and supplies your household needs (especially if your situation becomes long and drawn out) but you’re going to be more comfortable and a lot safer (and be out and about less) if you can do your best.
- Even if you’re stocked up, have some cash on hand if possible in multiple denominations, Just in case when you are quarantined or in isolation, and someone has to do grocery or pharmacy runs or other errands or chores for you and you need to pay or reimburse them.
Think of Stages When Planning for Coronavirus:
Of course, no matter how much you plan, how you’re impacted by coronavirus, and how long really can be just luck of the draw. Following all recommendations is really a good bet, but being aware and knowing when those recommendations may not be adequate is even smarter.
Here are some ways to think about possible scenarios that you might run into depending on your situation at home and your risk factors. I like to think of them as “stages” because it’s easier for me to wrap my mind around it that way.
The first stage is basic quarantine: In a quarantine situation, you are assumed to have been exposed to the coronavirus and told to remain home for 14 days or until cleared unless symptoms develop. This may or may not be under supervision. Best case scenario, you remain healthy if inconvenienced.
In some cases, you may be ill (could be a cold, the flu) and have not tested positive or are awaiting results, although more and more in those instances, people are asked to “monitor” (which means to self-isolate) or to self-isolate. In some states or counties, depending on your situation, children may not be able to remain with you. Check the rules upfront so you know, it doesn’t come as a shock and you can plan on how to handle that.
- Plan on having food on hand to get you through at least the two-week period. It’s likely most people (but not everyone) will have enough on hand to cobble together something for two weeks or so. You might try planning out two weeks worth of meals and shop for them, the same with breakfast and lunch.
- In that amount of time, you may be out of just about anything fresh, and you may have to do some pretty “creative” mix-ups if you haven’t prepared.
- If you’re able to plan ahead for possible quarantine, there’s no doubt you’ll probably be more comfortable and eat better. That’s much nicer if you’re stuck at home, amirite?
- Make sure you have some things that are quick and easy that basically require little to no prep or cleanup (heat & eat) in case you are ill or develop symptoms during the quarantine. Set items aside from your regular food if necessary.
- Keep in mind your situation could be fluid and if you do develop symptoms, usually four or five days after exposure, you’ll be moving right into isolation. Now, the time could be extended for you and the whole household. If you’re lucky, it could be shortened. You might go into quarantine, immediately develop symptoms and be clear in a week. Don’t count on it though.
The second stage is Self-Isolation and/or Monitoring: There are multiple scenarios that apply to self-isolation. At this point, you may be well and just exposed, but it’s likely that you or someone in your household (or everyone) could be ill, some slightly or others very much so. As noted above, in some areas children may not be able to stay with you.
There might be a lot going on: care & monitoring, cleaning, disinfecting. Cooking meals may be difficult or nearly impossible or might be no issue. What no one really seems to want to say is that this period of time will be brief for the majority of us or last for months. Let’s talk about what you might need to prepare for:
- Best case scenario. You don’t have coronavirus after all and are released after 14 days. But you might still have a cold or flu and might be miserable. Here we’re talking first stage planning.
- Another possibility is that you develop symptoms and recover in a week with no complications. That will be the majority of us, thank goodness, and you can really think of preparing for a short-term illness like this as first stage.
- If you’ve been quarantined, you may develop symptoms for coronavirus anywhere from one day to 14 days in. With symptoms normally expected to start after day four or five & up to 10 days or so, and if you have a mild case and recover quickly, your timeline can run from 11 days to three 1/2 weeks.
- If there are others in the household with you, and they come down with coronavirus, the illness may be staggered, with symptoms developing days or weeks apart. That increases the length of isolation. Now we may be talking some real-time even if they are mild cases. If you’re financially able to stock up for eventualities like this, you should be doing so.
- If you have a long recovery (30 days plus) the time period in isolation may be weeks long, especially if quarantined first and if you are dealing with multiple family members in the household. This is a situation that can be very difficult to prepare for and can be unexpected and can include hospitalization. This can happen to non-risk individuals and no one seems to know why but sometimes underlying factors have been found. Again, if you’re financially able to prepare for this, do so appropriately.
- If there are high-risk individuals in the household, both adults and/or children, 16 to 20 percent of us (keep in mind that people may have risks no one is aware of) prevention & social distancing are critical. You should be stocking up for the longer term and stocking up to keep yourself at home as much as possible to delay illness. Recovery can be weeks or months, with multiple or long hospital stays and a higher risk of death.
- Many high-risk individuals may be disabled and/or have lower incomes. Preparing, stocking up, and practicing social distancing may be an impossibility both physically and financially to manage on their own. They are going to need assistance and better that come in help preparing and protecting them than after they fall ill. Others in the high-risk groups may just balk at following recommendations. Urge them to be cautious and reduce risk for everyone.
Third Stage, Social Distancing: Social Distancing overlaps everything. Sometimes it’s a community edict and your community may have designated its own set of “rules.” This is happening all over the US now. Nationwide, as of March 6th, social distancing has been advised for the higher risk group, ages 60+ and/or those with underlying health conditions. That’s about 16 to 20 percent of the population.
There is a lot of confusion around social distancing, and there seems to be some misunderstanding. The biggest one is the belief that social distancing is meant to protect older individuals or individuals at high risk. Yep, some people think it’s all about them. And it is to an extent, but also it’s about protecting everyone who might be exposed to potentially longer and more intense illness or impacted by diminishing resources.
If we’re advised to social distance, we really need to stock up on food and medications as best we can, stick our butts at home, stop traveling whether the government tells us to or not (and now they have told us) even if we’re “not afraid.” We should be, if not for ourselves for everyone else. And somehow, you gotta realize that a tiny bottle of sanitizer hanging off your fanny pack isn’t going to protect you or ultimately, everyone else if you fall ill on your vacation or cruise and shed contagion, spreading disease in your wake over multiple areas and states.
If you are supposed to be socially distancing and have to be out, maintain a distance of six feet between yourself and others whenever possible. Read some great information on Social Distancing at the Atlantic, where they’ve queried experts on what it means in different situations. And even they don’t always agree. Use common sense. And prepare now if you haven’t for as many needs as you can to keep you out of the public arena as much as possible.
Update on Stockpiling, Hoarding & Empty Shelves:
This is an update, March 14th: I’m tossing out something that’s been bothering me. It’s rampant stockpiling and hoarding. I don’t know why people do this (maybe we’re all a little scared and it may be hoarding makes us feel more in control) but it’s crazy and potentially dangerous to us all. This is not the apocalypse; once panic buying settles down, there will be more food on the shelves! (And more TP.)
Hoarding & Stockpiling can harm us all. Our best hope is to “flatten the curve” by slowing the spread of coronavirus so as not to overwhelm the medical community & resources and buy us time to make/manufacture enough test kits, protective equipment, respirators, and tubing, not to mention medications, antivirals & vaccines.
There are legitimate reasons to stock up and we should be doing so, prudently, especially those who are marginal and high-risk. Unfortunately, those in that category are often the least among us able to do so sometimes physically and/or financially. Having a supply of available groceries is especially critical for them. And if they do not have that, it will impact everyone.
If you’re here and have a pantry full of food and looking to see if you missed anything, and I can’t appeal to your better nature, let me toss this out and appeal to your more basic impulses (no judgment, we all have them and they are some of our strongest instincts) to only protect your own.
- Assess what you need. Buy what you need but leave something behind.
- Those that are at higher risk are often those who have the least resources.
- They may not have a store of food to depend on and a budget to stock up.
- They might have to wait every week until payday, might have transportation issues that delay shopping, might have to depend on others and go by their timeline.
- If/when they are able to shop, shelves might be empty. They may have to go to multiple stores and/or make multiple trips.
- We now have a situation, in every community, where the highest-risk individuals are risking the greatest exposure. This is a dangerous situation and can tip scales drastically for everyone.
- Those with fewer resources are going to be the least likely to be able to seek immediate medical care and testing if it’s available, either because of cost or because they have to keep working and/or for dozens of other very legitimate reasons.
- In time (and it will be a relatively short time, weeks) they are going to be more likely to be in the hospitals in greater numbers and for longer periods. That puts everyone at risk, including our medical personnel, and puts a strain on resources.
So if or while you’re sitting on your crazy hoard of food & supplies, let’s just hope you or your family (or mine, frankly or anyone else’s) doesn’t need critical care for anything, coronavirus, flu, car accident, heart issues, or any other tragedy (or blessing like the birth of a baby) that might befall you because that’s a line you don’t want to be waiting in.
If you’re looking around your house and wondering if you’ve gone nuts, you probably have. Donate or provide some of your stash to someone in need of groceries and/or supplies. If you don’t know anyone in need, look around you. They’re everywhere. You see them every day. They might be your neighbor who has the child with asthma, your child’s teacher, your door dash guy or just about anyone else working one to two (or even three) jobs for minimum wage or not much more.
Take Stock of What You Have in Pantry, Fridge & Freezer:
First, though, before doing anything, take stock of what you have on hand in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. It’s likely that many of us have more than we think, especially as we might start to think of our food stores in light of what’s to come.
- As you do your inventory, start to think of how you might be able to utilize some of those items that have just been pushed aside. Most of us have things that are lurking that we haven’t used just because they aren’t exciting or were bought for a specific purpose that didn’t happen. (I’m looking at you, baby corn!)
- Pick up items you’ll need to round some of those things out into meals.
- At my house, those six cans of pumpkin might just become pumpkin soup rather than next Thanksgiving’s pies, those cans of Salmon will come out of hiding, and I know I have lots of canned corn that will probably become chowder. I’m still not sure about that can of sweet potatoes!
Don’t get hung up on “expiration” dates. 1st of all, there’s no such thing. You can read more and find some resources on my page on Food Safety & Expiration Dates.
- In canned, jarred or bottled food, most dates are “best if used by dates” and put on by the manufacturer/producer and as far as I know, are not “regulated” by any agency.
- Most canned & jarred products are fine, sometimes for years past that date if they’ve been stored properly. Sometimes quality (a slight change in color or texture) can be affected with long-term (we’re talking years) storage but safety isn’t an issue as long as the container is sound.
- Most pantry staples are just fine way past any dates. Dried beans that are years old may never rehydrate well, though; they’re cheap and easily replaced. Crackers and cereal can get stale even in packaging.
- With fresh food, like dairy, most dates are “sell by” or “buy by” dates and the product is fine, and is expected to last the normal amount of time past that date, sometimes for weeks beyond that date. Check the national board or the producer’s website.
- The dating on fresh meats and proteins isn’t really reliable. You need to use good judgment and your eyes and nose.
If you just can’t wrap your head around using items past any date, don’t toss them. Get them asap to an emergency food shelf where they will be utilized by someone in need.
Pantry Basics – The First Line of Defense:
As you think about what you’re going to stock your pantry with, you will want to keep in mind that the pantry is going to be one of your first defenses against Coronavirus and depending on your situation, could literally be life-saving. A well-stocked pantry can help you weather the impending quarantine and/or isolation and help keep you at home, away from exposure, especially if you need to practice social distancing. At the very least, having a well-stocked pantry can help keep spirits up.
When thinking long-term, your pantry may be more important than your freezer, especially if freezer space is limited or power goes out. Scratch cooking, if you shop well is always less expensive and better for you, but if you’re stocking up for a crisis and/or quarantine, the rules are going to have to change.
You need items that store well (fresh ingredients may not be available) and you need to take into consideration that you might have your hands full caring for ill family members or might be ill yourself. You’ll want to make sure you have lots of items that can be eaten with a minimum of prep and/or clean-up.
If you’re on a budget, know I’m gonna try to have you covered! I do want to note that normally, some of these items might not reflect my “normal” pantry or yours, but the situation we’re facing isn’t normal, either. I’m not sayin’ to buy all this stuff, of course, just giving you some options to think about. 🙂
- Rice & Grains: There’s no end to meals you’ll be able to cobble together if you are well-stocked on these items. Rice is definitely one of the cheapest of the items; maybe not the highest in nutrition (make sure to rinse it well) but for a few weeks, that’s not a big deal. Make sure you’re well-stocked on all kinds of grains if budget allows, especially quinoa which is pricey but is a complete protein. Just as important, make sure you have all kinds of sauces and seasonings to jazz them up, especially since fresh items may be limited.
- Pasta: You might want to make sure you’re stocked up on pasta, in a lot of varieties for dishes and soups and pasta salads. Think about what kinds of things you’ll want to make with your pasta and have those items on hand, too.
- Oatmeal: I’m giving oatmeal its own category just because it’s so healthy, easy to make and so inexpensive. Use it on its own, to make cereal like granola, in baked goods like granola bars, or a topping for crisps. Layer it with yogurt, make your own oat milk if you want. For the budget-minded, you can’t beat the larger cartons of old-fashioned oatmeal which is usually a better value than the quick cooking. Ditch those pricey packets and flavor with cinnamon, jams, peanut butter.
- Cereal: The price of cereal is insane and I can’t imagine stocking up on it for a family for weeks. Milk to eat with it might be unavailable or limited, although there are options. If you’re on a budget, try to transition to other items, like….oatmeal! You do you, though, and if we’re talking weeks oatmeal could get old.
- Beans & Legumes: Get a mixture of dried and canned in case you aren’t up to much cooking. Canned is pricier than dried but won’t break the bank. Dried aren’t hard at all to cook but do take some time. All of these are great sources of protein, especially when combined with rice and grains. Think of chickpeas, black and/or pinto beans, refried beans, lentils, cannellini beans, maybe baked beans.
- Basic Canned & Jarred Vegetables: I know many canned veggies aren’t always the first choice, but stock up on both those that you will use as a side and those that can be added to casseroles and/or soup. Many veggies can be disguised in pureed soups: peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and so on. Greens can provide a nutritional boost (and can be added to soup, too) and I’m never without artichoke hearts, Chinese veggies, and both pickled beets and jalapenos, Chipotle Chili in Adobo (a must if you like Mexican food), jarred peppers, pesto, capers if you lean toward Italian. Look around at all the possibilities.
- Tomatoes: Of course stock up on tomato products! Canned tomatoes of all kinds (whole tomatoes are great because they can be crushed or blended or diced) but don’t forget Rotel, tomato paste, or other tomato products. If you’re on a budget, buy what’s on sale and learn to be versatile in subbing one kind for another, and buy more than you think you’ll need. Tomatoes can be whizzed in the blender to make soup and if you have jarred jalapenos can be made into blender salsa (maybe for all those slightly stale tortillas you’ve stocked up on) and a few shakes of Italian seasoning will turn them into pasta sauce.
- Jarred Sauces: Don’t forget pasta and other jarred sauces (check the ethnic aisles) that might appeal to you. Variety is going to be so important if we’re talking weeks. Just be open to possibilities and browse the shelves. If you don’t have a lot of fresh ingredients, these will help tide you over.
- Basic Canned Fruits: No doubt fresh is best, frozen is usually next, but freezer space might be limited. While you might want to stock up on the kid’s favorites, think about applesauce for baking, pineapple for jazzing up pork or chicken, and apricots, pears or peaches for quick desserts. You can also use them for smoothies or freeze them and run them through the food processor for a kinda weird but kinda good “sorbet.”
- Canned Fish & Meats: You’ll never find a better deal right now than around Easter on canned fish. Stock up on tuna fish (albacore or white is usually more popular but has higher mercury; look for chunk light or skipjack), canned salmon, and others that are appealing to you. Take a look at what else might be around; canned chicken will be great in a pinch in things like enchiladas. Spam is having a “hey dey” but it’s pretty salty. Consider the old-fashioned canned hams.
- Cracker & Bread Items: You’ll probably want crackers and boxed bread crumbs for cooking, especially if you want to make something like salmon patties or salmon loaf; fresh bread might be limited. Stock up on lots of crackers and items that can be eaten with peanut or other nut butter as a snack (which could very well be a meal if you’re not well). Pick up the prepared pizza crust if you want; it has a long shelf life. Some tortillas keep well in the cupboard but really should be refrigerated, but hard shells keep forever.
- Nut Butters & Jams & Preserves: You can go far with a little peanut butter or other nut butter. Great for snacking, but peanut butter can also be used in peanut soup or as a spicy (or not) sesame sauce for noodles. Add tahini if you’d like to make hummus with your chickpeas. Jams and preserves can be used to flavor oatmeal or yogurt, on toast or crackers, or thinned for a dessert sauce.
- Prepared Canned & Boxed Items: Here is where we’re talking some expense but make sure to have at least some in your pantry, especially easy to make items that don’t require a lot of extra ingredients in case you’re ill or out of just about everything fresh. Make sure to have some open, heat, and eat items that you or family members can make if you’re ill. You’ll probably want canned cream soup for casseroles and recipes (you might not have milk for your own sauce), some cans or boxes of soup. If you’re on a budget, while not very inspired, maybe some mac & cheese and yes, Ramen! You can jazz it up. And of course, if you’re working with canned tuna or salmon, look at the flavoring packets. Don’t forget to add some sides.
- Beverages: Remember extra supplies of things you can’t live without like coffee, creamer, tea, maybe beer, wine, or your beverage of choice or pop! While hand sanitizer can’t be safely made with regular alcohol, it can be made with the higher octane stuff. Drink mixes, stuff for your soda stream if you have one. And I know juice isn’t recommended for children but stock up on that, too, if you use it. You might want it if you’re ill. Make sure to have on hand something with electrolytes in case you’re hard hit. Gatorade or Pedialite or something along those lines.
- Milk is covered below under Refrigerator and also under Preparedness Items.
Condiments, Herbs & Spices to think about when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
I would predict if you’re home for weeks, these are going to be incredibly important!! Check to see what you have on hand and make sure you’re well-stocked. Buying and keeping basic items will allow you to mix and match and create all kinds of sauces and concoctions to flavor all your pantry items and have some variety in your diet.
- Herbs & Spices: Make sure to have the basics, and you might want to make sure you have any mixes or packets you need. I have a list I put together for my son, What Herbs & Spices Do You Need, and also have a lot of different homemade blends and packet substitutes you can put together, most with common spices. That can be a big budget saver but you will need to plan ahead and have the basics on hand. Look them over and see if any makes sense for you.
- Stocks: Don’t forget to be stocked up on stock! Whether you buy boxes or cans or jars, they’re a basic if you’re cooking and having it will let you make soup, flavor your pasta or grains, and cobble together so many meals.
- Garlic: You can use garlic powder, but you might want jarred garlic in your fridge.
- Onions: While onions keep well you might want dehydrated or freeze-dried in case you run out and/or onion soup mix (check link on the homemade blends right above.
- Give some thought and planning to condiments. You’ll probably want the basics, mayo (and maybe a lot of it) ketchup, mustard (and pickle relish for any tuna salad) but also think about any Asian, Mexican or other favorite cuisines you like. Think about vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin, chili paste, sesame oil, hot sauces, jars of salsa (for snacks and as an ingredient) or other items to spice things up.
Oils, Butter & Fats to think about when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
I’m a butter person, but there’s no doubt that in a time of crisis, other options may prevail. If confined to the home for a long time, having the ability to cook or prepare many items like easy bread, quick bread, desserts, etc. if you’re well enough, might be more important than it is normally.
- Butter: You will want to stock up on butter if you use it and can afford to, and freeze it if you have room. Right now we’re weeks before a major holiday, Easter and butter are often on sale.
- Margarine & Similar Products: In normal circumstances, I would not recommend other buttery type products, but if money is an issue, it is something to consider.
- Oil: Your favorite choices, but buy more than you think you’ll need; it can be used in many baked goods as well as cooking.
- Shelf-stable products: If you bake, consider purchasing something along the lines of Crisco or a healthy alternative of your choice so you’ll have it on hand if you should you run out of butter.
- Applesauce can substitute for butter/oil and sometimes eggs in baked goods.
Basic Baking Items to think about when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
So many families rely on bread and purchased baked goods. Consider what you might run out of in your two weeks or longer period. Even if you don’t bake, there are so many easy options (like my five minute to mix, sit overnight no-knead Overnight Bread) that you might consider learning.
I’m a scratch cook but already picked up a couple of mixes just in case it’s all I can do to stir something together and pop it in the oven.
- Basic: Flour, sugar & other sweeteners (honey or syrups can be used to make granola) cornmeal (maybe Masa) cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, yeast (a jar is more of an initial outlay but is cheaper in the long run). vanilla extract, sugar and brown sugar or molasses to make your own, possibly powdered sugar, cocoa, chocolate in many forms.
- Milks: Condensed milk, canned evaporated milk, powdered milk, and/or buttermilk, though the buttermilk is expensive and can be made with milk mixed with vinegar. Alternative milk if you use (covered below in more detail under Preparedness.)
- Nuts & Dried Fruits: While you can use them for baking, they’re also great snacks.
- Mixes: Look for mixes, from cakes to muffins to pancake, both to have on hand if you’re ill and need easy options and if you don’t bake. Consider picking up a few that don’t need added eggs. Most will need oil. Bisquick, if it’s something you’ll use.
Pets & How to think about them when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
- It goes without saying you’ll want dry or canned foods, whichever you use for your pet; do stock up. If buying canned in quantity is difficult or canned is running short, start weaning them down to dry early while you still have enough to gradually transition them. Never abruptly change a pet’s diet; it can cause serious issues. Always start with adding just a bit of something and then increase a little every day as you reduce the other.
- Have an abundance of litter or other necessities.
- Make sure you’re stocked up on their medications.
- If you have a dog, have Hydrogen Peroxide on hand just in case they’ve swallowed something and there is an emergency situation and you are unable to get your pet to the vet.
- You might want to check on other reliable home remedies for basic issues and check with the vet about what might or might not be safe if the need arises. Dogs can’t have ibuprofen, cats can’t have Tylenol and all should be done under veterinary recommendation.
- Your vet may instruct you to emergency consultation services if they happen to be under the weather but talk to your vet about options soon if your pet has a lot of ongoing issues.
- And of course, make arrangements for your pets if you should fall ill.
Fresh Veggies/Fruits to think about when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
The items below will usually keep well for a good amount of time at a cool room temperature. You might set it up in a garage or basement or anywhere that’s protected and cool but won’t freeze. This depends on your weather, climate and time of year.
- Onions & Potatoes: Store separately, each in a dark and well-ventilated, cool space.
- Root Vegetables: Turnips, Rutabagas, Beets, and Parsnips can be stored in a cool place; they can last for a while at room temperature but will deteriorate faster.
- Cabbage keeps well in a dark, cool place but keeps longer in the fridge.
- Apples will last a good long time, keep them in a dark, cool place and check them. Remember, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.
- Hard squash (e.g. butternut, kabocha, spaghetti, and delicata varieties)
- Canned or frozen is the way to go.
The Fridge & What to Know when Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus:
It’s seldom my fridge isn’t stocked with fruit and veggies, but most have a short shelf life. The idea of not getting to the store every few days is just about killing me but I’m kinda warming up to the idea of playing a game with myself and challenging my creativity.
And of course, if for any reason we lose power, don’t open the fridge/freezer. Place blankets over them. If it goes for a day, then use what you can out of the fridge. The freezer if it’s not stand alone, if not opened will usually last two days.
- Vegetables: Other than the ones listed above, if you’re interested in eating something fresh beyond a week or 10 days or so, think cauliflower, snow peas, radishes, Brussels sprouts and other sturdy veggies. Some packets of mixed vegetables in the produce section have been treated and will last for several weeks, especially the ones with the carrots and broccoli. The same with some of the heartier salad mixes with zoodled broccoli, Brussels and/or Kale. And there is always iceberg lettuce.
- Fruits: Citrus: oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, etc. As for lemons & limes: Both will keep for a while but consider bottled or powdered forms for the long term. Melons keep well, first at room temperature then refrigerated as they ripen.
- Milk: Unopened, milk has a shelf life of about 10 days if stored well and in the back of the fridge; ultra-pasteurized milk, even longer. If you’d like to brush up on the different types of pasteurization, you can see my post on Homemade Whole Milk Ricotta. If you’re serious about having milk on hand, look for the shelf-stable ultra-high pasteurized and/or powdered milk or alternative kinds of milk. Some people freeze milk; it takes up a lot of room and doesn’t taste great. If you’ll use them, cans of evaporated milk will keep forever and are handy for baking. Have coconut milk for cooking f you like Indian and some Asian cuisines.
- Cream, especially ultra-pasteurized will keep for weeks as will half and half.
- Eggs: The date on the carton is a “buy by or sell by” date. Properly stored, they will be good for weeks past that date. They’re a little bulky but it’s likely your fridge won’t be filled with so many other “normal” items. Stock up. Any possible contamination in an egg (about 1 in 20,000 according to the CDC) will not grow at refrigerator temperatures. Have an egg around long enough and it will become denser and the insides will shrink. Air will move in because nature abhors a vacuum and it will eventually float. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; just not optimal. So while normally, I’d say discard an egg if it floats, you may not want to do so if under isolation. It could be likely each one is precious. Eggs can be frozen, out of their shell as well as yolks and whites.
- Yogurt: Lasts well weeks beyond the “buy by or sell by” date. It can substitute for milk, cream or sour cream in baking, can be used for parfaits with oatmeal or granola. Buy in the large cartons; they’re less bulky and cheaper; consider buying plain so it’s more versatile and can be used for both cooking or flavored with jam or jelly for eating.
- Cottage Cheese: Will last for a while, but once opened, it must be used promptly.
- Cream Cheese: This is another item good for weeks past the “buy by or sell by” dates. Can be subbed for milk in recipes if thinned.
- Cheese: Grocery cheese will last weeks, unopened, and can be frozen in a pinch (although it will be crumbly after.) Blocks are going to be easier to store than bags of grated. Cheese sticks are always handy. Hard cheeses are good for weeks. Any soft cheese has a limited shelf life. Cans of Parmesan or Romano will last just about forever in the cupboard or fridge.
- Preserved or Smoked Meats: Ham and other packages/preserved meats have a good shelf life. Corned beef is likely on sale right now! Keeps for weeks in the fridge.
The Freezer: It’s so important when Stocking up for Coronavirus:
Your freezer space may be limited or not. Next to the pantry, your freezer is going to be your best defense day in and day out for battling high grocery store prices but crucial if you’re unable to shop.
Just a quick note on freezers and dates on food – and this comes up sometimes, especially with those not used to cooking. Air exchange is the enemy of frozen food. It should be well packaged and how often the appliance is opened or closed and the temperature it is set at affect the length of time an item can be stored and the quality.
First of all, a stand-alone freezer (sometimes called a deep freeze) will keep items fresher, longer, than your refrigerator’s freezer. It will often keep quality on some items for much longer (by many months) than the “use by” or “best by” dates.
As far as the fridge’s freezer, the length of time items can be stored is dependent on how cold it is and how often it is opened.
- The dates on the packaging are for raw, unfrozen meat and are meant for optimum quality. Often meat is just fine for a day, two, or three (sometimes longer) past those dates.
- When meat is frozen, it basically becomes suspended in time, and those dates no longer have any meaning. The meat that comes out (as far as freshness or spoilage) will be the same as what went in.
- What you need to pay attention to is the length and quality of the storage and how that affects the quality of the meat item. Freezer burn, usually from improper wrapping, storage, and air exchange, causes damage and discoloration will cause food to taste awful. It’s not a safety issue, it’s a quality issue.
- If an item is in question, thaw and check it before tossing. Meats and other foods can look terrible when frozen but be just fine when thawed.
Again, the dates don’t really hold that much meaning, especially in a deep freeze.
- Veggies are a crapshoot. Some items like frozen spinach are fine literally for years, items like lima beans and peas seem to be more subject to freezer burn and broccoli and cauliflower don’t seem to last as long as others.
- Breaded items and bread: I do find these can taste “stale” if kept too long.
- Prepared items: Most will be just fine for much longer than stated on the package dates, and if in a deep freeze last very well.
First of all, you should have an alarm for your freezer. Battery operated, of course. They cost just a few dollars.
If you have a stand-alone deep freeze (and if you are budget-minded, you should) and the power goes out, cover with blankets (watch if the power goes on – a freezer does need circulation!) and don’t open it! You may need to check on your brand of freezer but a fully stocked freezer is generally fine for three days. Open it, even once, and all bets are off. Know where your coolers are if ice is available.
An inclusive list of what should be in your freezer would be exhaustive! But I can help out with some ideas to maximize your storage space and toss out a few suggestions.
- This is a great time to clean your freezer out to make room for needed items. Evaluate what you have in terms of what you’ll use if you’re stuck in the house and in terms of the space needed to stock up for quarantine and/or isolation.
- Consider if space used for more frivolous items (I’m so guilty of that) might be better utilized in stocking for the impending crisis.
- Thaw and use items that are bulky to make space for more food. Yep, cook those whole chickens, have those ribs now!
- Take large, oddly shaped cuts that take up a lot of room, like pork shoulder, cook, shred, and package in portion sizes.
- Thaw and reduce homemade stocks, especially if they have been frozen in ice-cube trays and are taking up a lot of room. Package them in Ziplocs.
- Consider taking fruit bought for smoothies and running it through your food processor, then package in Ziplocs to take up less room.
- Mash bananas rather than tossing them in whole.
- While you may store items like coconut or nuts in the freezer, they’ll be fine outside of it for several weeks if space is needed.
Stocking your Freezer:
- When stocking your freezer, think items that are compact. Whole or bone-in chickens, not so much. Oddly shaped or large items like ribs, not great. Ham will keep for weeks in the fridge. Some smaller and compact items to think about are bacon and sausages and boneless chicken and pork chops.
- Your fave fish products are likely at a great price right now during Lent.
- Whenever possible repackage items that are in bulky packaging; Open them, portion them in sturdy Ziplocs or use your food preserver.
- Prep items as you go if possible. Trim your chicken, pork and/or beef items into small, compact packages. Cut for stir-fries, stews and so on. Add marinades or flavorings now to make things easier later.
- Brown up your ground beef, with onions if you’d like. Package in Ziplocs.
- Stock up on butter if that’s your thing!
- Make sure to include vegetables and fruit but if space is limited, buy the more compact ones. Carrots keep forever in the fridge so you might not want frozen and cauliflower lasts in the fridge for a long time, too.
- This might be a great time to buy, roast, and package your favorite peppers whether red bell peppers or poblanos, jalapenos, and so on.
- Add in some bread if you depend on it, it freezes well (best when thawed overnight in the fridge) but loaves are bulky. Bagels, English muffins (repackage them). maybe tortillas (they could suffer a bit, wrap them well) & flatbread can be more compact choices.
- Eggs are easily frozen, take up little room. If space is at a premium, put in Ziplocs, enough for a meal or in smaller amounts for recipes.
- Ginger keeps for months in the freezer and takes little space and is nice to have on hand if you cook Asian dishes.
- If you have space, money and time, get some freezer meals stashed away. This is one of the best ways you’ll be able to eat meals you like for a reasonable cost and they’ll be very little effort to fix when needed.
- Of course, you’ll want your favorite items from the frozen section but if space is at a premium, keep in mind many are bulky.
- And don’t forget the ice cream! 🙂
Preparedness Items (Mostly Food Related):
I can’t cover any “real” disaster/emergency prep in a few lines, but here are a few mostly food-related things that might be in reach of a more casual prep, considering time is short and budget may be tight.
At least a short discussion on stocking for any emergency situation seems appropriate when stocking a pantry, although it seems unlikely our power grid would suffer during the pandemic.
- Toilet Paper: Need I say more?
- Paper Towels: Even if you don’t normally use, it’s nice to have on hand for really messy clean ups that need disposal.
- Tissues: A must when dealing with respiratory illnesses.
- Water: A gallon a day for people and pets, although you’ll be a better judge of how much you need. Buy it by the gallon. If your water is out, fill your tubs but don’t leave the water heater on and empty. Consider filters and a food-safe bucket if you need to collect. This is not just for Covid, but we ALL should have some extra water on hand.
- Milk: Beyond the usual, think about buying shelf-stable milk of whatever you use, whether it’s from cows or alternative milk. It can be a little pricey. Pick up powdered milk to use in recipes, if not to drink but you can cut your milk with the powdered to make it last longer and flavor it with chocolate or other mixes to disguise the taste. Powdered buttermilk is an option for baking; powdered milk can be used and a little vinegar added a cheaper sub. Canned coconut milk is a staple at my house.
- Powdered Eggs: They aren’t for me, but consider them if eggs are important to you.’
- Shelf-stable Tofu lasts just about forever.
- If you have the $ for freeze-dried food might be an option; consider drying some of your own.
- If you don’t take vitamins, if there was ever a time, it’s now. You may already be on a regimen of supplements and herbs but for the rest of us, Harvard claims a basic vitamin is one of the only proven ways to help increase the power of your immune system. They do remind us that the elderly should consult a doctor.
- As emphasized over and over, getting your prescriptions on a three month plan is ideal, and usually a good savings.
- Make sure to pick up over the counter meds that you will need and use.
- Spring is coming or here in some areas!! Add a garden!! It might be too late to grow some plants from seed but there are still so many options that are still viable and buying plants may make sense in areas with short growing seasons. Spinach and some greens grow quickly and like cooler weather, lettuce is fast, too. Some can be trimmed and will regrow.
- Think about what veggies will regrow in water or in a pot on the windowsill. Green onions are great for this and even a little green can help brighten up a meal.
- Fill up your propane tanks if you have a grill or camp stove (don’t use indoors) and get some wood if you have a fireplace just in case power is out. You’ll still be able to cook.
- Mouse Traps & whatever you may need for bugs; there’s no doubt if you’re storing more food than usual you might have had to get creative and might have had to put items in locations other than your secure cupboards! Make sure to protect it in tubs or secure locations.
- If possible, freeze any items containing flour or cornmeal for three days to eliminate the possibility of “peskies” before putting them in your cupboards or storate. It might be difficult if your freezer is getting full and if you’ve bought a lot of items, but you could isolate items from the rest of the food and freeze them a few at a time before putting it into your cupboards or storage area.
- Make sure to have a lot of garbage bags, sturdy ones. If there are issues with trash pickup, if someone is ill (you’ll want to securely bag all trash and refuse).
- You may wish to stock up on paper plates and disposable cups and silverware in case you have an ill person in the household.
- If it’s in your budget, consider a generator, not necessarily for Covid. One large enough to power your home is not for everyone, but a small solar one can keep your phone, laptop, and tv going for several hours a day if power is lost and can be had for under two hundred bucks. How is this food-related? Well, you can visit my site, then, if the power goes out! 🙂
I hope you’ve found something useful here on Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus. I know it’s late in the game, but I’m still talking to people who haven’t done anything to prepare, and if you haven’t been able to yet, maybe you’ll get some ideas.
I’ve been actually kicking this post around for weeks & weeks, but I’ve been so frustrated and so angry at what I view as our incompetence (the administration & individuals) with taking action to slow the Coronavirus that I just haven’t been able to finish! See, I’m high risk about five times over and it seems likely that my parents (in their late 80s and early 90s) won’t make it.
And most of all, I don’t get how someone can’t follow the CDC guidelines, below. It seems pretty simple to me. Or why tighter restrictions aren’t in place. With one exception, all of our Minnesota cases all confirmed this week involved international travel and/or cruises and all were reported 4 to 10 days after symptoms developed. It’s the same kind of thing everywhere, and this kind of ignorance is what causes the community spread. Ok, some did happen before anyone knew any better but my point is that even today it’s still happening.
I know to stay positive and take what action I can (even if it’s only a page like this) is always going to best for the spirit! And by the way, a positive attitude is good for the immune system, too! And I’m working hard to let some of these resentments go. If you pray, send some prayers my way, and if not, send as many good thoughts as you can, for me and everyone. I’ll be returning the favor.
Let’s keep in touch, and please share your favorite tips and tricks you’ve found or are using in prepping for the Coronavirus! I can only view this from one perspective, my own, and it takes a village! But most of all I’m glad to see you here. Let’s hope for the best-case scenario for all of us and do take care and be as safe as you can!