I’d like to post something a bit different today. Everyone that knows me knows I keep a well-stocked pantry, and at home, I doubled up on many things, slowly throughout the summer of 2020. Had I stayed at home in Minnesota instead of taking off to Georgia last August, I know I would have been extremely grateful!
The question came up on a budget Facebook page I’m involved in, and the answers are compiled below:
“If you stocked up at the beginning of covid, what were your best purchases? What did you buy that wasn’t the best purchase?”
There were literally thousands of replies, many that went way beyond the original scope of the question. I thought it would be fun to take that inspiration and distill it here. So here is Coronavirus Pantry Stock Up – Best Purchases. If you’d like to see my suggestions for stocking up, check it out under Stocking Your Pantry for Coronavirus.
Multiple people reported there are still sporadic shortages of items in their stores as late as this posting in July 2021. Others reported much higher prices since Covid and were grateful their stocked pantries and freezers helped to insulate them. Many offered how grateful they were they had a stocked pantry, especially when they were ill or had a loss of income. Some, who were unable to stock up, reported going from store to store to find things.
Personally, I always shop sales and pick up larger amounts of items. I don’t ever pay full price if I can help it. I also keep out of stores as much as possible during cold & flu season (immunocompromised) even before Covid and love the luxury of not “having” to run to the store before blizzards or during cold spells.
I was shocked to find out that most Americans only keep a few day’s worth of food on hand!
From the Facebook Group: “Having a stocked pantry is a good insurance policy. It will help you stay out of the stores as long as possible or be prepared for if you can’t get to the store. You never know when job loss, illness, natural disasters, or other tragedies can strike. (Like a global pandemic.)”
From the Facebook Group: “If that’s something that someone in the house would eat anyway, I’d definitely lay a little back. It’s good on a hot day and even better when there’s no power.?
From the Facebook Group: “I’m from a hurricane and blizzard zone and have been stuck for weeks as a result of both. Now with COVID on top of everything, I think being prepared is the best practice. We have a bunch of canned, ready to eat ( just heat up) things for emergency situations.”
From the Facebook Group: “If it isn’t something that is in your normal menu/meal rotation I wouldn’t recommend buying a whole bunch of it. I would try to get things you normally eat, look at your recipes…do a lot of them call for spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce? If it’s shelf-stable and something you normally use, I would gravitate to things like that.”
Others are still stocking, slowly adding to their pantries bit by bit, taking advantage of sales. There was a lot of advice on this!
From the Facebook Group: “We brainstormed about 15 meals my kids would eat and bought all the ingredients. We had probably half of it already in the pantry, but we counted and planned.”
From the Facebook Group: “I have been buying things that were hard to find this spring, I am not talking enormous amounts of things, just an extra can or box or two of things with every shop: canned soups, ravioli, canned fruits and vegetables, canned tuna, chicken, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, yeast, powdered milk, toilet paper. I have a freezer full of meat, plus cheese and butter.”
From the Facebook Group: “I have just been trying to stock up based on the value later…..like a cheap box of saltines would be worth a lot more later if there’s a shortage! Going for a variety, but I’d start with soups and Chef Boyardee stuff, tuna, crackers, meat, and jerky. Then add cheap other stuff!”
From the Facebook Group: “I started adding a few cans of things I use often in every shop when there’s a good price. Things I use all the time. Just remember to rotate items.”
From the Facebook Group: “I always stock ‘things that go together because do I really want to eat just Vienna sausages or will I spend the whole time thinking I really want crackers?”
A few of the Best Items were a surprise, but for the most part, people chose basic pantry staples. I don’t have kids, so some of the choices wouldn’t be for me, but many items match my list almost item by item.
At the top of the list, with overwhelming responses, was that meat. Listed over and over were Beef, Ground Beef, Chicken, and Pork. More people chose meat than toilet paper, and that is saying a lot! There were a few outliers: Several people were glad for hams and whole turkeys and one enthusiastic poster loved his 10 pounds of Sam’s Club Bacon.
From the Facebook Group: “Definitely meat, microwave popcorn, ice cream, and soda. They may not be the healthiest things but I asked myself, Self, if the stores ran low on food, which things would you miss the most?”
Everyone seemed happy to have stocked up on these items, especially as in some areas, the prices rose sharply and shortages of ground beef and chicken breasts were reported. My advice is to choose items that fit well if space is short! Hams, Turkeys, and Ribs take up a lot of room.
From the Facebook Group: “It has been such a blessing and relief not to have to scavenger hunt for meat at five different stores every week just to come up empty-handed. Our freezer has been stocked the whole time!”
Many people on this site already had or purchased deep freezes and took advantage of buying in bulk, halves or quarters of beef or pork, butcher delivery services, store meat bundles (be careful of the pricing on these – they’re easy but often sale prices on the individual items are a better value.) A couple of people reported buying and butchering their own meat.
From the Facebook Group: “I stocked up on Yeast by the lbs, flour 25 lb bag, and rice 20l b bag. Flour and rice I’ve had to buy more already.”
There was universal agreement on baking items (although a few listed these as the worst purchase) and reports of shortages of some of these items in many areas. Listed over and over were:
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
From the Facebook Group: “One thing I did add was the muffin mixes that call to “just add water or milk.” I figured If things get really bad we always have water and muffins could be used for a dessert or for breakfast or even to maintain blood sugars. They are so inexpensive too.”
Other baking items listed as the best purchase were:
- Powdered Milk (It’s used in bread making, cooking and some cut half and half to stretch milk for drinking.)
- Powdered Buttermilk
- Boxed Muffin Mix
- Other boxed items, Pancake Mix and Baking Mix
I don’t think there were any areas of the country where these items were always in stock, and they were commented on a lot as a best Covid purchase – although some stated these same items weren’t used and people put them in the worst category.
- Lysol Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Ingredients to Make Sanitizer
- Cleaning Sprays
- Dish Soap
- Paper Towels
- There was one vote for Cloth Diapers for Cleaning (I swear by these, too! It wasn’t that many years ago that I tossed the last of mine almost in rags and my last child was born in 1991!)
One poster lamented that she couldn’t buy her pods for the dishwasher and had to use the liquid, which didn’t work as well. Same brand. I have found this to be true as well, especially in hard water.
From the Facebook Group: “Pasta and cans of tomato sauce! Used all of the pasta already and had to get more, only have a few more cans of tomatoes.”
From the Facebook Group: “The things I have used fastest – canned vegetables and canned beans, pasta, pasta sauces. We also used shelf-stable milk when we didn’t want to leave to go to the store for just one or two things. Butter, coffee creamer, and frozen cheese helped a lot too!”
- Dried Beans, Legumes
- Rice & Other Grains
- Pasta Sauce
- Canned Beans
- Canned Vegetables & Fruits
- Canned/Boxed Soups
- Chicken Stock, Chicken Bullion, Beef Bullion
- Peanut Butter
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Chicken
- Coffee Creamer
From the Facebook Group: “One of the biggest food storage “rules” I follow is only buy what we normally eat so it is easier to rotate. We are big into food storage and keep our pantry stocked with canned veggies, beans, chicken and tuna, soups, etc. Only what we eat. We do long-term storage, too, but that is not rotated as often…but we still only store what we like.”
I don’t know if I agree with the below~ I am not personally a fan of canned potatoes!
From the Facebook Group: “I am super surprised at how good and versatile canned potatoes are…”
Condiments were listed in general, but some people gave specifics. I didn’t see Ranch Dressing listed and I know that’s a must for many families. I personally stocked a lot of condiments with spice, pickled jalapenos, Asian chilis in oil, and so on.
From the Facebook Group: “If you have all of the basic baking and cooking foods, you open up the world of recipes spun in different directions :)”
- Salad Dressing
- Barbecue Sauce
- Mustard (a variety)
Snacks are probably the worst thing for me to have on hand and the thing that I missed the most. Personally, I’m not sure that buying more would have meant they would have lasted longer!
From the Facebook Group: “In an emergency situation, food is often one of the few comforts to be had so I find it worthwhile to have at least a small stock of things that are enjoyable, not just sustenance (taking room in the budget into account, of course).”
- Chocolate Covered Raisins
- Peanut Butter Cups (these would last 1 day at my house, regardless of the quantity involved!)
- Animal Crackers
- Ice Cream
From the Facebook Group: “Marshmallows. They were a fun treat and made us have more campfires!”
No one mentioned any premade store-bought and/or heat and eat items as being a Best Purchase other than ice cream. That was a huge surprise to me but might be because the Facebook discussion was a group of frugal people and/or many don’t like them. A couple of pre-prepared items did make the worst list.
From the Facebook Group: “Flour both all-purpose and bread flour, powdered milk, canned milk, sugar, toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing cleaner and wipes, baby wipes, soda, wine, beer, dish detergent, canned fruit and veggies, butter to freeze, variety of cheeses…”
- Rhodes Rolls (hint: more flavor if thawed overnight in the fridge)
- Ice Cream
Some beverages made the best and the worst list! That would be the Gatorade and Pedialyte. I picked up a dozen bottles of Gatorade on a deep sale, just in case I got sick.
From the Facebook Group: “One person reported buying 24 bottles of wine and a carton of cat-shaped cookies from Trader Joe’s – The woman who claimed this as her best purchase claimed she could “guarantee I had more fun than the people that hoarded toilet paper 😂”
- Various Shelf Stable Milks
- Canned Milk
- Dry Milk (see baking)
- Wine was listed several times
From the Facebook Group: “Another person lamented they hadn’t stocked up and had a hard time, but said “We’ve been fully stocked on booze though since the beginning, so at least we had that 😂”
Overwhelmingly, those who stocked up on these items were happy about it! The exception, listed in my next post, was hair dye! I would have taken any…though I’m not sure I’d look good as a blonde!
- TP – this goes without saying!
- Other Personal Care Items
So many shortages were reported on Wipes. I had friends asking me to keep an eye out. The issue? People without babies hoarded them to make their own sanitation wipes.
- Diapers & Wipes
- Formula and Formula Replacements
- Children’s Over the Counter Meds
Most were grateful for stocking up for their furry loved ones! Owning a dog, I made sure I had hydrogen peroxide for emergencies and ear wash.
From the Facebook Group: “In our home, if the cat’s not happy…
- Pet Food
- Extra Litter
Some people were downright serious about their food items! Lots of people put in gardens, bought canning supplies and a couple went Rambo!
From the Facebook Group: “I always have a certain amount of things on hand and normally have a rotating stock…. but I did grab an extra pack of canned chicken at Sam’s and 3 months worth of dog food, cat food, and litter so I wouldn’t have to get out again to get those things. My best purchase though was 6 live chickens
- Seeds & Garden Supplies
- Canning Equipment
- Guns & Ammo
- Milking Cow
- Six Live Chickens
One person pulled out her dehydrator, and if the note was clear, made the below. No one else commented with the same. I love dehydrating foods with kids and can’t wait to try with the grandchildren!
Some considered these their best items, others their worst! There was a lot of discussion about this being some of the healthiest times; illness, allergies, and asthma disappearing and meds not needed. For others, that wasn’t the case.
From the Facebook Group: “My best purchase was figuring out how to get 90 days of prescription medication delivered so I didn’t have to go to the pharmacy. I had never looked into it and didn’t realize it was actually a big savings.”
- OTC Medicines, including Tylenol, Children’s Tylenol, Flonase, Cold and Allergy Medications, and so on were listed. I would add Ibuprofen and I always keep Benedryl on hand in case of an allergic reaction.
- Several stocked up on vitamins and supplements for both themselves and their children.
From the Facebook Group: “Over the Counter Essentials for cold and flu, allergies, gas reflux, stomach issues along with multivitamins, Vitamin C, D, probiotics, and first aid.”
Freezers topped the list with various types of water filters coming in second! Most people commented on buying (or having) deep freezes, although several people bought extra side-by-side refrigerator-freezer combos. I have had both types of deep freezes, a chest and an upright. It’s said that chest freezers are slightly more efficient, but as far as efficiency in finding and getting items, you can’t beat an upright.
From the Facebook Group: “We have had no food shortages here but I’m happy to have my stocked pantry and freezers so I didn’t need to go to the store as much when things were crazy. But really my stick now is the same as it was at the beginning but I never stocked up specifically for this.”
- Deep Freezes
- Side by Side Refrigerator/Freezer Combinations
- Water Purifiers for Sink
- Water Filters
- An Instant Pot (because it saves on water; this person was from Flint, Michigan)
- Paper Plates – very handy for making multiple meals a day.
- Indoor and Outdoor Games, Puzzles, Art Supplies, Activity Items, Skates, and activities to keep kids occupied were listed over and over.
This pretty well ties up items that for the most part were considered the BEST purchases made during (or before) all the lockdowns that happened.
Next up? You got it, the worst purchases made for Covid! And some of them are the same! How about you? Did you have items you feel are the best things you bought? I’d love to hear about it!!