Man, this business with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has gripped the entire world. You can’t scroll through social media or any news website without seeing something related to the virus, be it fear-mongering headlines, misinformation, actual scientific information and good advice, or the hilarious memes that this fiasco has sprouted. One of the more common trends I’m seeing is the stockpiling and hoarding of bottled water, sanitizing supplies, toilet paper (OH MY GOD PEOPLE), and non-perishable food.
With government-mandated quarantines in many parts of the world, I can understand some of the fear. 99.9% of us (yes I made up that statistic) have never experienced a situation where leaving your own home unnecessarily would be limited. For me, I’m not worried about the virus, since the data shows that the vast majority of otherwise healthy adults who contract it experience only a regular ol’ chest cold. A quarantine, though, would be an unsettling situation, even though that scenario is still unlikely in my part of the country.
I get it. The idea of being told to stay in your home, even when you aren’t sick and haven’t been exposed to anyone with the virus, is uncomfortable. We’re used to freedom, so having our movement limited does not feel good, even if we’re safe and happy in our homes.
So, how can we feel more comfortable during this weird debacle without behaving like crazy people? For me, personally, it’s simply not letting our supplies dwindle in between my weekly grocery trips. Depending on where you get your news, even the most strictly quarantined areas still have plenty of food with well-stocked stores – and people are allowed to shop for what they need – so it’s not like we’re all gonna starve. But wouldn’t it be nice to, in the event that a quarantine does affect your area, not have to worry about shopping for a while?
… and for a while, I mean having enough supplies for 2-3 weeks, not months. There is no need to dedicate a whole room of your house to hoarding food.
I think the current trend of panic-buying and stockpiling is doing more harm than good. It’s creating a shortage of basic goods, meaning many people can’t even complete their normal weekly shopping lists. This behavior is also causing a snowball of panic as people wonder, “If everyone else is stockpiling… should I be as well?” According to the CDC and WHO, there is currently* no need for such extreme preparations in the United States.
Instead, I encourage you to take this current madness as a chance to take stock of what you normally have on hand in your kitchen, and each week add a few extra things (a few, not a truckload) to your shopping list to, over the course of several weeks, build a well-stocked kitchen.
This is not a “doomsday prep” guide, but is meant to be a helpful list to keep your kitchen stocked with food so you always have enough ingredients to put together a meal or a great snack when you don’t want to have to run out and shop. Then, if something does happen that requires you to remain at home for a period of time – natural disaster, this virus business, injury, etc – you’ll be good to go.
Oh, and EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published an amazing guide regarding the current situation with COVID-19 as well as their recommendations for everything – travel, prevention, home prep, proper disinfection, what to do if you are actually sick, etc. After clicking, see that menu with all those categories down the left side? Click on all of them. Read them. And turn off the other garbage sensationalist media outlets who just want to rile people up for views and clicks.
But go ahead and laugh at the memes. Because they are hilarious.
Now let’s get to the fun part – creating a sane well-stocked kitchen to keep your family fed ‘n happy (that happy part is important) at all times.
The following is a list of basics that are always in my kitchen and pantry, virus or no. I don’t stockpile, I don’t hoard, and I’m not buying truckloads of food. But if a quarantine is handed down in my area, we’ll just snuggle up and hang out knowing we’re already good to go without having to shop for a few weeks.
One More Note: I’m not trying to make statements regarding which foods are healthy or not, nor am I trying to exclude those with certain food allergies. Please use this list as a starter and customize it based on your own dietary needs and personal tastes.
*Because the situation with the virus is ongoing and ever-changing, this information is only current up and until the time of publication of this post. Please remember I’m not a healthcare official and I’m just sharing my own opinions and approach for dealing with possible future quarantine
Dry Goods & Baking Supplies
Rice – white and brown
Pasta – several shapes. I keep macaroni, spaghetti, rotini, and bowties.
Oats – keep a big ol’ cylinder of regular oats around. Oatmeal is nutritious and filling, and oats can be used in many other ways as well.
Dry beans – pintos, black beans, and kidneys are my faves to have around
Popcorn kernels – bulk kernels last much longer than microwave bags because they are not stored with oil.
Flour – all-purpose is fine
Cornmeal – because we love homemade cornbread in this house.
Sugar – white and brown
Baking powder, baking soda, and salt – powerful trio for many sweet and savory baking recipes
Basic extracts – vanilla is all you should need, but I find almond, orange, and peppermint useful as well.
Packaged dry yeast – if you ever run out of bread, make your own in a pinch
Chocolate chips, cocoa powder, etc – not a necessity, but you can store the chips in the freezer long term and c’mon, always having the ingredients for brownies or cookies is certainly a win, right?
Salt & Pepper
Garlic & Onion powder
Cayenne Pepper and/or red pepper flakes
Assortment of common dried spices: oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
Chicken or beef bouillon – powerful tool for easily flavoring rice, pasta, or soups. I keep this at all times in both chicken and beef flavors. Saves pantry space over buying tons of cans or boxes of broth/stock.
There are certainly many other spices and seasoning mixes available and you can tailor this list to what you like to use, but I find that the above list is a well-rounded start for folks who are stocking their cabinets for the first time.
Chicken – thighs and breasts
Ground beef/turkey or beef/turkey patties
Pork roasts or tenderloins
Fish fillets and/or shrimp
Assorted vegetables – peas, carrots, corn, broccoli, and cauliflower rice are what I like to keep in stock. I prefer frozen veggies over canned.
Assorted fruit – bananas (I freeze from fresh), or pre-frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries for protein smoothies
Extra bread products – sliced bread, hamburger/hot dog buns, and/or bagels. Pull out only what you need and let it thaw on the counter for 30 min or put directly into the toaster.
Chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, pizza etc – quick comfort foods that my kids love
Corn or Flour Tortillas – yup, you can freeze them, they thaw quickly, and man is it handy to have them ready for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, etc.
Waffle/Pancake mixes – the “just add water” kind are lifesavers if you run out of milk and/or eggs (or you can make your own)
A few other assorted baking mixes – muffins, bread, cake, etc
Syrup & Honey – your favorite, maple or regular pancake syrup. Use for breakfast carbs obviously, but also for flavoring savory dishes and oatmeal
Shelf stable milk or dry milk powder – I keep boxes of almond milk in our pantry for protein shakes (refrigerated after opening), but you can use it in most anything that calls for milk
Oils – Canola/Vegetable and Olive oil are good ones to have on hand, with the former usually available in large containers. I also keep sesame oil around because I love Asian-style meals.
Vinegar – White, balsamic, and apple cider vinegar (with mother) – used for making dressings and sauces, modifying acidity in sauces, and a number of other handy things
Shortening – handy if you run out of butter, and it lasts a long time in the pantry.
Canned tomatoes – cans of crushed and diced tomatoes are incredibly versatile for creating sauces (pasta, pizza, etc) or bases for stews
Canned tuna – I know other canned meats exist, but tuna is the only one I can stomach.
Applesauce – I’ll either have individual cups or large jars of unsweetened applesauce – great for snacking and baking
Onions – I buy onions every week (usually the sweet yellow ones). They are invaluable for adding flavor to just about everything from breakfast to dinner, raw or cooked.
Potatoes – sweet and white, when stored properly (dry and dark) they will last for a long time
Coffee – I always keep a couple extra bags beyond what we’re using.
Condiments & sauces – extras of basics like ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hot sauce, salsas, and even a few jars of pre-made pasta sauce are quite useful.
Jam/Jelly/Preserves – spreading on toast, flavoring oatmeal, making PBJ sandwiches, etc.
Nut butters and all kinds of nuts – calorie dense and full of healthy fat and protein. Keep extra nuts in the freezer to extend their shelf life.
Protein Powder – mixing up a protein shake (also using some nut butter, frozen fruit, etc) is a perfect meal replacement.
Drink powders, hot cocoa/chocolate milk mix, etc – you can find natural/lower sugar versions and this is a comfort item if all you have is water and you want something more.
Variety of crackers – saltines, Ritz, Wheat Thins, etc are a comfort item that lasts a long time and can be used for snacks (with all that nut butter, mmm)
Chips or other favorite crunchy snacks – more comfort items, but mental health is important too, right?? (and uh, if you have kids, these may very well be a necessity)
Pet food and cat litter – can’t forget our furry ones!
I’m not including items that start out in the pantry but are refrigerated after opening.
Butter – I always have at least two boxes of stick butter, unsalted
Buttermilk – it lasts a long time in the fridge, and I use it for cornbread or homemade biscuits (in a pinch, mix 1 cup milk with 1 TBS white vinegar as a substitute)
Milk – though we mostly use almond milk, I keep a half-gallon of 1% for the kids or for some cooking uses.
Eggs – I keep at least 3 dozen eggs in my fridge at all times, sometimes more.
Yogurt – I buy low sugar Greek yogurt for me and regular low-fat yogurt for the kids
Cheese – I keep cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, and a couple varieties of sliced cheese for sandwiches and burgers.
Fresh Fruit and Veggies – apples and baby carrots are always in our fridge, though we also enjoy a changing variety of other fruits and veggies. This is a weekly purchase and not a ‘stocking up’ thing though.
Everything Else: I really only covered food items here, but also note of other things – aluminum foil, soap, deodorant, garbage bags, diapers, female supplies, prescription medication, basic OTC meds, etc – that you’d need to have at home for about two weeks. And for the love, please don’t fill up a truck with toilet paper.
Will Over Stocking My Kitchen Lead To Food Waste?
It doesn’t have to! Don’t think of your extra supplies as off limits for daily use. Rather, do a check-in of your stock every few months and take notes of items that will be expiring soon (but keep in mind that dry and freezer goods can and do last well beyond the printed date). When making your meal plans for the coming week, start working in some of those things to use them up. Then, you can replace them with newer versions so your extras are never depleted.
What would you add to this list? What are some things you’d like to keep around to keep you and your family happy in the event of a quarantine? Do you think this coronavirus business is overblown madness?? Leave me a comment below!