How to Prepare Your Home & Stock Up for Illness Quarantine

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“Let’s say NO to panic or denial and YES to information and preparedness”! 

That’s what a friend said in response to our Coronavirus post that went viral. We whole-heartedly agree, which is why we’re trying to share information we’ve learned and prepare for the potential of quarantine. (So, if you haven’t already read that post, it might be best to start there to get see where we’re coming from & get all the Coronavirus info we shared). After mentioning that we’re doing some things to prepare, multiple people inquired wanting to see our list. So, we put together this guide to help you prepare your home & stock up for illness quarantine.

Sooner rather than later

The WHO officially declared COVID-19 pandemic today (March 11, 2020). The declaration has logistical consequences and it also heightens people’s awareness.We’ve all seen what’s happened with the hysterical rush on toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and rubbing alcohol in the past week or so. It is now difficult (and actually impossible in some places) to find those items. As more people buy things, other items are may become harder to find as well. So you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you can’t find the items that you need.

Furthermore, if an announcement of different shut-downs is announced in your community, there may be a rush at your local stores. I’d prefer to not be caught up in any of that craziness. We also don’t know how far-reaching quarantines and lock-downs may be. Saying this not to scare you, but just to arm with you information – though I get that nervous feeling you might be feeling, I’m feeling it too. This is a very complex and rapidly evolving situation, something most of us have never experienced before.

Additionally, as the virus spreads more throughout your community, you want to limit your potential exposure as much as possible. SOCIAL DISTANCING. So, even if the grocery stores don’t ever shut down (at last check grocery stores and pharmacies are the only businesses still open in Italy) you don’t want to have to be shopping unless you ABSOLUTELY have to. So, a little smart preparation may go a long way.

Preparing NOT hoarding

Before we get into any lists, I want to remind everyone that you should be preparing your home for realistic needs of what your needs for at least two weeks, possibly up to 4 weeks at this point. But,  NOT hoarding. Will you need toilet paper in a 2-4 week time span? Of course! Do most households need 10 Costco-sized cases of toilet paper or paper towels for a 2-4 week time span? NO!

So think realistically about your family’s individual needs before heading out to the store. Would cough syrup be good if you don’t have any? Probably. Do you need 10 bottles? Probably not. Also, be mindful of expiration dates and perishable items that go bad quickly. You don’t want to be wasting money on things that will go bad long before you will use it all. This is where coming from a place of mindful preparedness, not panic, is important.

With that in mind, here are the major categories of items that you will want to take inventory of what you have already and buy items to fill in the gaps based on your family’s particular needs:

What to Buy to Prepare for Home Quarantine – Basic List:

  • Food & Beverages (for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry)
  • Household items (for the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, etc)
  • Personal hygiene products (soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc)
  • Medications and basic medical supplies (over-the-counter and prescription items)
  • Special situation categories:
    • Baby supplies if you have a baby at home (LOTS of diapers, wipes, baby food/snacks if applicable, and formula. *Note – even if you are an exclusively nursing mom, I recommend buying at least one container of baby formula just in case you need it. If you never redeemed those free baby formula coupons and they’re still good, now is the time to redeem those)
    • Pet supplies if you have pets (Just like people – Food, hygiene/bathroom supplies if applicable, treats, medications, etc)

Again, this is just the basic category list of things that you may need to buy. Below, I break things down by categories, giving you TONS of ideas for things that might be good to have on hand.

Take Inventory Before You Buy

To save money and space at home, take an inventory of what you already have BEFORE you go shopping for any of those above categories. Remember too that everyone’s “preparation shopping lists” will be different based on what you already have at home and your own household needs, personal preferences, and dietary restrictions/allergies. Have 3 teenage boys? Those grocery carts needs to look very different than a single person’s cart or the empty-nester couple’s. It’s important to keep all those things in mind before blindly following any “checklist”.

So, keep your personal preferences and real needs in mind. If you’ve never served your kids rice and beans before, it might not be right for you to buy a 5-lb bag of each. If you loathe canned tuna, don’t buy it. Quarantine and social distancing is likely going to take an emotional toll on people. And this whole situation is already stressful enough.  So you want to be as comfortable as possible at home – eating foods you enjoy, cooking things you enjoy, doing things you enjoy, etc. Remember this is different than natural disaster prep! It’s ok to have and buy some treats & “luxuries” too. Like I bought a few bags of Easter candy! 🙂

NOT Natural Disaster Prep

Based on data from other countries, there is NO reason to think we are losing the grid or that municipal services would be shut off. NO REASON. That means, barring a different sort of major disaster, any type of quarantine should not impact basic services like electricity and running water. So, in that sense, this preparation is DIFFERENT than natural disaster preparation.

Those of you living in earthquake, hurricane, snow storm, etc areas might already be used to that planning. But this isn’t exactly the same thing – most notably, in this case most people should NOT need stockpiles of bottled drinking water (have a 3-5 day supply is always a good idea), nor only non-perishable, pre-cooked foods. Everyone should still have access to utilizing their refrigerators, freezers, and cooking appliances.

So, plan to make the most of your refrigerator and freezer. Our freezer is completely full right now as there as SO many foods that freeze surprisingly well! So, definitely use up any available freezer space you have.

Now, with all that those basics covered, we’re going to do a deep dive into ideas for the different categories above based on what I’ve purchased, what my friends have purchased, and what experts have been saying are good items. Remember, THIS IS NOT A CHECKLIST. You do NOT need to go out and buy all of these items. Instead, this is a big list to give you IDEAS! So, if you’re overwhelmed, can’t think straight, or are worried you’re forgetting something, use this to help you take inventory and plan your own checklist.

Food Stock Ideas List

For the fridge: 

  • Eggs – remember that eggs are generally good 4-5 weeks, sometimes up to 2 months beyond the sell-by date. They are so versatile and used in so many recipes, so this is something I’d buy a fair amount of if you eat them – as many as you have room for.
  • Milk – buy a couple gallons now (with the LATEST expiration dates). Or, if you’re able to spend a bit more money, you could buy milk in smaller containers like half gallons or quarts since the size is a little more manageable for fitting into different places in the fridge. Milk can also be frozen.
  • Cheese– Kept in the fridge, most cheese keeps A LONG time before opening. So, our meat and cheese drawer is currently full (with mostly cheese). Ideas include:
    • Cheese blocks
    • Bags of shredded cheese (which also freeze well by the way)
    • String cheese
    • Cream cheese
    • Cottage cheese
  • Sour Cream  – unopened, the expiration date on sour cream is usually MONTHS out. It’s good in so many recipes and can be used to make dips with.
  • Yogurt – unopened, yogurt also has a long shelf life in the fridge usually. So, if that’s something you normally eat, you’ll definitely want to stock up on multiple containers.
  • Butter (which you can also freeze)
  • Deli Meat – Ham, turkey, etc. This isn’t something that will keep as long though, so don’t buy a ton. Just enough maybe to get you through the first week. Also consider things will a little longer “shelf life” – salami, pepperoni, bacon, etc.
  • Fresh Produce- stick to “heartier” produce with a longer shelf life to buy extras of. Some lettuce might be fine for the first week, but it won’t keep for 2-3 weeks usually. So, don’t stock up on that. Similarly, items like berries don’t keep as long as other fruits like apples. So, here’s some longer-lasting fruit & veggie options that I have in the fridge:
    • Large bag of whole carrots
    • Celery
    • Onions (whole sweet, white, yellow, or purple. Not green onions – those won’t last as long)
    • Whole Garlic Cloves
    • Avocados (totally hard and unripe so they’ll take longer to get soft)
    • Apples 
    • Citrus – oranges, mandarins, limes, lemons, grapefruit

That’s the basics of what I stocked up on for the fridge. Remember, you want to save room for leftovers of meals you make, pantry items that need to be refrigerated once opened (jelly, pickles, some peanut butter, juices, etc). So, don’t have the fridge be 100% full at the start.

For the freezer:

I feel like this list could honestly be never-ending. SO many foods freeze VERY well. There’s actually more you can store in your freezer than not. So, definitely make the most it and fill it up!!!!

  • Frozen veggies – Whatever you like! Our top picks included lots of broccoli (my kids’ favorite), green beans, stir fry mix, riced cauliflower, chopped onions
  • Frozen fruit – Whatever you like! Perfect for making smoothies and baking!
  • Frozen potatoes – hash browns, diced, french fries – whatever!
  • Raw Meat – whatever you like. It ALL freezes well.
  • Precooked Meats – deli meats, meatballs, sausages (like keilbasa, etc), hot dogs!
  • Shredded cheese
  • Frozen Pizzas
  • Frozen Meal Items – things like orange chicken, ravioli, perogis, potstickers, etc. Like the big bags of things at the grocery store/Costco that you can use to put a meal together
  • Waffles and/or pancakes
  • Breads – Seriously, you can freeze just about any bread item. Tortillas, loaves of bread (sliced or whole loaves), rolls, fruit breads, bagels, muffins, etc. Freeze it all!
  • Juice concentrate/beverages – in addition to the frozen juice concentrate, you can freeze bottles of juice and containers of milk. The milk will separate so you need to give it time in the fridge (like 2-3 days) before opening to thaw and then slowly recombine a bit.
  • Sweet Treats – Save yourself a little freezer space for something you really enjoy. Ice cream, ice cream bars, popsicles, etc. Also, chocolate chips store great in the freezer!

For the pantry:

Just like the freezer, this one could be never ending too! Pick what you like and your family eats and stock up. TIP – if you don’t have a large pantry or have a big family and need more stuff, see if you can carve out space anywhere else (ie. the garage, the basement if you have one, a linen closet, etc). Right now our downstairs linen closest is serving as an overflow make-shift pantry.

  • Canned vegetables – Corn, peas, green beans, etc – whatever you’d eat
  • Canned tomatoes – Crushed, whole peeled, diced, tomato paste, RO*TEL
  • Canned beans – Refried, black, kidney, garbanzo, etc.
  • Canned fruit – Peaches, pears, pineapple, fruit cocktail, pie filling fruit, etc. – again, whatever you’d eat
  • Canned meats – Tuna, chicken, Vienna sausages, SPAM, etc.
  • Soups – canned and/or dry (like Ramen)
  • Soup Stock – boxes of chicken broth, vegetable broth, etc.
  • Potatoes – some fresh (but not too many. Few things smell worse than rotting potatoes), some boxed (like Instant mashed potato flakes), and potato chips!
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Dried pastas – in every shape & size you want. Spaghetti, penne, lasagna noodles, whatever!
  • Jarred Pasta Sauce
  • Dried beansmake refried beans with pinto beans, use them in soups (like ham and bean soup), etc.
  • Large bag of rice – good for SO many things!
  • Boxes of Mac ‘n Cheese – especially if you have kids!
  • Peanut Butter – has a long shelf life and can be used in multiple things. If you like it and have no allergy issues, stock up!
  • Jellies/jams
  • Jars of applesauce
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Baking supplies – bulk flour, sugars (various types – brown, granulated white, and powdered), specialty sweeteners you normally use (Stevia, etc), baking powder, baking soda, yeast, vanilla, etc.
  • Basic spices – salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, Italian seasonings, etc.
  • Baking mixes – pancake mix, brownies, etc.
  • Cooking oils – whatever you use (olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, etc).
  • Vinegar – SO versatile! Use it too cook, use it to clean. You can buy HUGE containers of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar for low cost.
  • Condiments/sauces – ketchup, mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, etc.
  • Oatmeal  – this is one thing good to buy A LOT of if you like it because it is SO versatile. Make a vat of overnight oats in the slow cooker for a hot breakfast, ground the oats down to make oat flour to use in recipes (like these delicious oatmeal muffins), make oatmeal cookies, etc.
  • Shelf-stable milks
    • Milk “juice boxes” for kids (like these Horizon ones here)
    • Powdered milk (sold in the baking aisle – my stores were already out)
    • Evaporated milk
    • Sweetened condensed milk
    • Coconut milk
    • Almond milk
  • Salsa
  • Velveeta
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruits
  • Jerky
  • Crackers
  • Cereals -on this, ones that are good to eat without milk or can be used in multiple recipes are extra fantastic. So, I stocked up on Honey Nut Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and various Chex
  • Tortillas/Taco shells and Tortilla Chips
  • Boxed Puddings/JELL-O
  • Snacks
    • Popcorn
    • Pretzels
    • Bars (granola, nut bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, etc)
    • Fruit snacks/fruit strips for the kids
  • Beverages
    • Bottled water
    • Electrolyte drinks (Gatorade, Pedialyte, etc)
    • Soda (cans or 2-liters)
    • Teas (bottled or tea bags)
    • Coffee
    • Juice
    • Beer/Wine/other alcohol if you drink it
    • Powdered drink mixes  (powdered lemonade or flavor mixes for water)
  • Treats
    • cookies
    • candy (Easter candy is out & on sale right now)
    • chocolate
    • mini marshmallows

Household Items Stock up List

  • Toilet paper (I hate even typing that given the craze, but it’s true. You will need that – just probably not 500 rolls)
  • Facial Tissues
  • Other paper goods (paper plates, paper towels, etc)
  • Hand soap
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cleaning products (bleach, lysol spray, toilet bowl cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, vinegar, etc)
  • Household Cleaning Gloves
  • Matches or lighters (just in case)
  • Batteries
  • Food storage items (plastic bags, containers, glass jars, etc)

Personal Care Items List

  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Body wash/soap
  • Shaving products
  • Contact Solution/Eye Drops
  • Lotion (remember that all this hand-washing REALLY dries out hands. So lotion up)
  • Lip Balm
  • For the ladies: Tampons and/or pads
  • Incontinence Underwear if needed (Depend, etc)

Medications/Basic Medical Supplies List 

As another reminder, this is NOT suggesting that everyone will NEED these items. Everyone’s medical needs are different. These are just some ideas of things you might want to double check your medicine cabinet for and grab if you don’t have it or think you might need it.

  • Prescription medications – talk with your doctor and pharmacist about your particular needs. Get extra/early refill/etc if possible
  • Over-the-counter medications
    • Pain reliever – Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc. (Be sure to get the kids’ liquid suspensions if you have young kids in the house)
    • Benadryl
    • Cough Syrups (be sure to get the different adult & kids’ versions if needed)
    • Throat Lozenges/Cough drops (*Note – Halls and some store brands make AWESOME cough lollipops for kids. They’re safer and something we LOVE to keep in the medicine cabinet)
    • Anti-diarrhea Tablets (Imodium)
    • Hemorrhoid Care Products
    • Anti-nausea/upset stomach products
    • Cold & Cough Tablets
    • Allergy Medication
  • Basic wound care items
    • Bandaids
    • Neosporin
    • Peroxide
  • Sanitizers – Rubbing alcohol, Sanitizing wipes, etc
  • Thermometer – if you don’t have one in your house, now is the time to get one!
  • Ice packs/heating pads

So, hopefully this guide and ideas are helpful as you prepare things in your own house. See anything I forgot? Let us know in the comments!

Also, if you are in a situation where you have extra or can buy extra to donate to food banks right now, I’m sure the need is going to be great! Donate where you can. Help each other out as much as possible. In addition to tangible support like this, many people are going to need emotional support. We’re going to need each other (even if we can’t be with each other in person). So, call your friends! Facetime! Talk with others. Help out where you can.

And, find activities to do at home that you enjoy to help calm the stress! If you have kids especially, think about fun things that will keep them occupied at home. It’s a great time to add to the family board game collection –> here’s a list of our favorite family games.

Hoping this will be over soon and these measures will work at flattening the curve. Please take care – of yourselves, your loved ones, and each other.

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I’m Sara, a mom to three adorable boys living in the Arizona desert. As a former teacher, I love sharing my passions with others. So, have a look around for creative inspiration about cooking, creating, celebrating, traveling with kids, and more everyday mom endeavors!


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2 Responses

  1. Thank You!! I LOVE all the ideas! Some things I didn’t immediately think of: laundry detergent, powdered milk (which can be used for so many things) comfort foods!! Preparing NOT panicking! Preparing NOT hoarding!! ??????

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