The COVID-19 Pandemic: What should you really be stocking up on?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world—and our lives—resemble nothing of what we knew just a month ago. As most of the country is now on some kind of lockdown (stay at home, shelter in place, self-quarantine) our urge to be prepared is understandable, and smart. We must, however, remember that we are part of a larger community and that our actions affect others (read: don’t hoard!).

So what do you really need to be stocking up on as you and your loved ones prepare to hunker down for the foreseeable future? Panic buying things like your pharmacy’s entire stock of toilet paper or face masks is not necessary and can actually be damaging to others in our society (especially medical workers). In general it’s a good idea to have three to four week’s worth of food and key supplies. You’ll still be able to go out periodically to restock essentials during a lockdown (and depending on where you live, you may have access to grocery delivery services). 

Here we have assembled a list based on expert recommendations for stocking up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What you need:

Food

Experts are recommending stocking up a two-week to four-week supply of food. As much as possible, think non-perishables: goods that will keep on your shelves for a while (and are also easy to pull together into a meal in a pinch).

  • Dry goods, like pasta, beans and rice. Cook large portions of whatever dish you are making and freeze extra servings. 
  • Canned foods, like tomatoes, beans, tuna, soups, vegetables and fruits all have a long shelf life. They can also help complete a dinner in no time.
  • Frozen foods. Frozen peas and corn are great and handy for adding to kids’ meals. Frozen pizzas make a quick and easy dinner. 
  • Fresh produce. As much as possible, keep eating a healthy share of fresh fruits and veggies to boost your immune system. The World Food Program calls these GLOW foods, as they are colorful and help fight off illness.
  • Bread (keep a few extra loaves in the freezer) and cereal.
  • Snacks, like granola bars, peanut butter and jelly, and dried fruits: healthy, easy and kid-friendly.
  • Here is a helpful, more detailed grocery list
  • If you have pets, remember a two-week supply of pet food as well.

Prescription medicines

People are being advised to keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications on hand, when possible. The Department of Homeland Security has recommendations about checking your prescription drugs to make sure they are up to date and that you have a supply at home. The Drug Enforcement Administration has made certain exceptions to allow people to get additional refills of prescriptions, which is not normally permitted, in order to have enough medication for the duration of a quarantine. They advise residents to call their insurance companies and check their state’s current guidelines.

Pharmacy and baby supplies

If you are sick, the CDC recommends staying home except to seek medical care. You’ll want to have what you need on hand to rest and recover at home. Minimizing the need for anyone in the household to go out to the store is important to reduce COVID-19 spread. 

  • Pain and fever reducers. Make sure to check with your health care provider about the latest medical recommendations for what to take for a fever if you may be ill with COVID-19.
  • Cough medicines and any other over-the-counter drugs to treat a cold or other common ailments for adults and kids.
  • A standard first aid kit (or the contents of it: bandaids, gauze, antibiotic cream, etc).
  • Baby diapers, wipes, and other baby items: keep a month’s supply on hand.

Cleaning and hygiene supplies

Have enough to last a few weeks, but don’t buy out your local store’s whole supply of disinfectant wipes. Others need them too. Make sure you have:

  • Disinfectants and household cleaners for surfaces, counters and door handles (especially if there is someone sick in the house). The EPA has a list of disinfectants for use against the Coronavirus. 
  • Hand soap. Wash your hands often and for 20 seconds!
  • Hand sanitizer (only for when you go out or don’t have access to soap and warm water).
  • Dish soap and laundry detergent. Again, have enough for a few weeks, mainly to minimize the need to take another trip out to the store.
  • Shampoo and other basic bath products.
  • Toilet paper (but don’t hoard!).

What you don’t need (to hoard):

  • Toilet paper. Stacks and stacks of toilet paper sitting in your garage depletes supply and causes more people to panic buy, leaving others unable to find even one roll on the shelves. Buy what you need for a few weeks and leave the rest. 
  • Face masks. More and more hospitals across the country are running out of critical medical supplies, like face masks. The situation is dire: the CDC released a statement advising medical professionals to use bandanas to address the mask shortage. Please, don’t hoard masks. Unless you are sick and recommended by a medical professional to wear one, don’t go out to buy them.
  • Bottled water. If you have access to clean tap water, your water will remain safe during this pandemic, and you don’t need to worry about stocking up on bottled water. If you don’t have safe, drinkable running water at home, having a two-week supply of bottled water makes sense. 

In general, please don’t hoard anything. Stock up and be prepared, but remember you are part of an entire community trying to stay safe in this pandemic.

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