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Stocking Up for a Pandemic
My first disclaimer is this: I am not the person taking all the toilet paper. Those folks have enough to last a lifetime, I bet. But even as we are experiencing beautiful autumn weather where I am, mentally I am preparing for a long, lonely winter due to the flu and pandemic. My son’s medical needs make him high risk, so I’m nutty about germs and stuff even in a normal year. Now, I want to stock up to minimize my outings.
Previous pandemics have shown that another wave comes just as flu season is kicking off. This means a sharp increase in cases of the virus and the possibility of shortages again. But, unlike the beginning of this year, we have time to prepare. With job losses and a recession, money is tight in some households, to say the least.
I want to show you how you can stock up before the second wave while you’re on a budget. The goal here is to spend just $20 extra every week. I’ve even put together a second article to help you get that $20 if you don’t have them to spare. (coming tomorrow!)
What Should I Stockpile for a Pandemic?
Before you get started in buying extra supplies you should have an idea of the sorts of things your family likes to eat. Buying food that your family won’t eat or has never tried before is of no use, no matter how cheap it is. You might even want to experiment with a few food items before you stock up on them. You can also look online and find cheap but hearty recipes, for things like chicken and rice soup.
Keep in mind that you’re buying these foods not for use right now, but to use in the Fall or Winter when cases of the virus are predicted to be much higher.
It is possible that we will see shortages as we did earlier in the year. So, with just a little bit of money every week you can get your family ready to weather whatever comes our way. I don’t want to have to come into contact with people any more than is absolutely necessary, probably from Christmastime until Spring.
I’ve broken it down into 10 weeks, focused mostly on food. If you have pets or babies you will want to add in some extra weeks for them as well.
Stockpiling Plan for Food and Things
You may want to change the order of how and when you buy these items. If my local grocer offers a great chicken breast sale, I will definitely be buying and freezing that week. But having it planned out ensures that you will hit most foods and other categories before winter gets here.
- Week 1: Rice, Oats, Pasta, and Flour. Start off by adding $20 worth of rice, pasta, and flour to your weekly shopping. What combination you do this in and how much you will be able to get will depend on your area and your tastes. If you and your family aren’t big on eating oats then skip those, or just get one bag. You never know when you’ll want to make oatmeal cookies or throw some into a meatloaf. Balance the four items in a way that makes sense to you and your family. Go for a good all-purpose flour so you can do a lot of things with it like making bread, pancakes, or even making your own pasta if you’re feeling adventurous. Or, if your family is addicted to rice, maybe you’ll want to just get rice. Go for white rice, it has a longer shelf life. With $20 you should be able to get about 40 lbs of rice, which is about 100 servings.
- Week 2: OTC Medicine-Now is the time to stock up on your over the counter medicines. Make sure you have cough drops, pain relievers, as well as cold and flu medicine for both the adults and children in your family. Unfortunately, these medicines aren’t cheap so you won’t be able to get very much. But at least it will get you started if someone in your house does get sick.
- Week 3: Coffee, Tea, Drinks-Week 3 is all about the drinks, and once again, it depends on what your family likes. I recommend getting at least one hot drink, one cold drink, and one herbal tea that will help you sleep. But, you can decide for yourself what fits your family best. I also recommend you pick up a couple of gallons of water to have just in case. Stay away from anything that is already made for you or things that have added flavor. This includes flavored water, soda, and fruit punch. You will pay a lot more for these kinds of drinks. Did you know that Milk can be frozen? It can!
- Week 4: Canned/Frozen Veggies-This week it is time for you to stock up on vegetables. The healthiest way for you to get your veggies is frozen. But, they can take up a lot of freezer space which for most people makes up the smallest storage area in their house. Also, if your power ends up going out because of a storm then all of your frozen veggies will go bad. This is why I recommend a combination of frozen and canned vegetables. When you’re shopping for canned vegetables be on the lookout for salt and sugar content as they can be quite high sometimes. This is also where you should be buying the store brand to save money. You can also save money by just getting a single food in one can. I’m talking about just getting plain corn vs getting a can that has corn and peas together. It’s really important here to only get vegetables your family will eat. There’s no sense in buying a bunch of veggies that no one will touch. Also, keep in mind that canned veggies have a different taste and texture to fresh or frozen. If you have any fussy eaters or someone with ARFID in the house you might want to experiment with just one can before you go out and stock up.
- Week 5: Toilet Paper/Cleaning-This is your week to make sure that your family won’t immediately run out of TP. Depending on the brand you prefer $20 might not get you very far. So, for that reason, I suggest you consider downgrading slightly. I’m not talking about going one-ply or anything nuts like that. Just a slight downgrade so you can get more. This is also the week where you should grab extra baby wipes if you have small children. If you had any money left over from previous weeks, this is where you should spend it, just to have a little bit more. My family gave up paper napkins and paper towels years ago. But both those items were nowhere to be found last spring!
- Week 6: Meat-Were you starting to get worried that meat wasn’t on the list? Well, worry no more. We have arrived at meat week, the first of two in fact. This week is all about canned meat, frozen in bulk. This will be things like canned fish and chicken, perhaps a few of the big bags of nuggets. Be sure to compare the prices by weight between pouches and cans. More often than not cans will be cheaper. Also, be sure to compare the different ways the foods are presented. Tuna in oil, water, and no-drain are all priced very differently.
- Week 7: Beans-Joining the party this week is beans! I would recommend you lean heavily into the dried beans this week. Why? Beans will help you feel more full and they are pretty cheap. What kind of beans? Well, that all depends on what your family likes! Pinto beans are what refried beans are made out of, red kidney beans are what you would find in chili, and black beans are a delicious bean that goes well with everything. I would recommend getting a combination of all three plus another bag of rice as well. Avoid canned beans. With them what you’re paying for more than anything is convenience, and boy do you pay for it.
- Week 8: Flavor (Herbs, Spices, Salt, Sugar)-So, at this point you’ve got lots of rice, pasta, beans, and veggies. But what you don’t have is anything to flavor them with. This week buy an extra bottle of your favorite herbs and spices. Also get stock cubes, salt, and sugar. Are these things going to help you from going hungry? No. But what it will do is lift spirits. Try to stay away from expensive blends or packets and instead find some recipes for spice blends for your favorite foods and put them together yourself. Be sure to grab a bottle of ground cinnamon too. Maybe it’s just me but cinnamon always makes me feel happy.
- Week 9: Sauces-Week 9 is the time to focus on sauces. Is your family addicted to ketchup? Make sure you have a bottle. Pasta sauces are great for more than just pasta and they can be incredibly cheap. So grab at least a few jars of those. Salsa? Get that too. You might also want to pick up a gravy mix if your family loves gravy-like mine does.
- Week 10: Meat-Finally, it’s time to stock up on fresh meat. But, you’re going to take this meat home, cook it up and freeze it. Personally, I recommend getting a combination of chicken and beef. Specifically, go for whole chickens (which are way cheaper) and ground beef (which can be added to anything). Cook your chicken in the oven without any spices or flavor added on top then once it has cooled pull all the meat off and separate it into freezer bags in meal-sized lumps. Don’t throw the bones away though! You can make a delicious chicken broth with it in the slow cooker that you can store in the freezer for 3 months. Also, cook up the ground beef and separate it into meal-sized piles in freezer bags.