Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has recommended that people prepare for 14 days (2 weeks) of quarantine. That means shop for your household like you’re not allowed to go to the store for 14 days. This isn’t the way we generally have to buy for ourselves and our families, so it’s understandable that people are worried and buying things in a panic. People are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer like the world is ending. Let’s explore the true necessities and how to calmly prepare for the possibility of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first step to avoiding panic buying is to identify what you need – and what you don’t. If you create a list, you can keep yourself on track by sticking to it as you shop. Start by assessing what you have, and then make plans for what you will actually use. Finally, create a plan for where you can store the goods you are preparing to purchase. Concrete plans help you avoid panic buying. Why do we want to avoid panic buying? It’s more expensive for you and depletes the stock available for others. In times like these it’s especially important to consider how your choices impact your neighbors – we’re all in this together!
Once you know what you have, make a list with at least 3-4 categories: Groceries, Health & Beauty, Pet, Fun. We often miss that last one, which is also important during that potential 14 days of isolation. You could sleep, binge watch shows, or stare at the wall, but that could get old. Let’s make sure you’re prepared to keep your spirits up!
Keeping in mind any specific dietary needs you might have, create a list of meals that you can prepare and freeze, ingredients that will last without refrigeration, or pre-prepared meals. You need 14 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Non-perishables, such as pasta and rice, canned goods, and boxed goods (cereal, crackers, etc.) as well as vegetables like carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and squash are good staples. They can be used in a variety of dishes and have long shelf lives. Keep in mind that variety is (for many) the spice of life! 30 cans of chicken noodle soup will keep you fed, but will it keep you happy? While there are some meals I could eat for weeks on end (quiche anyone?) I don’t want to be stuck with them as my only option. For vegetarians or vegans, your menu might be different from your usual since vegetarian/vegan options in the canned goods section may be hard to find. Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent substitute for fresh and in many cases are a more nutritious option as they are flash frozen at peak freshness, allowing them to hold on to nutrients that your fresh veg has slowly been losing on its long trip to the shelf. Finally, and especially if you suddenly have kids at home with you, identify easy, healthy snacks: veggie chips, baby carrots, apples, and cheese sticks, for example, all have long shelf lives.
Health & Beauty
Is your first aid kit stocked? Do you have hygiene basics like soap and disinfectants? Identify any goods that you may be running low on. When it comes to toilet paper and hand sanitizer, only get what you typically would for 2 weeks. Per the CDC, your best protection against illness is actually soap and water. If you have a menstrual cycle, make sure you have enough hygiene products. If possible, refill your and any pet’s prescriptions.
Good news! The CDC reports that there is no indication that cats or dogs can catch or transmit COVID-19, so let’s explore your pet’s needs! Most animals have some form of dry food so make sure you have a month’s worth. If your animal requires specialized food, think about what they need, how often they need it, and how it needs to be stored. Remember, you can only get as much as you have room for! Next focus on specialty needs. Do you have enough kitty litter, poop bags, or bedding? Estimate how much you need for 30 days and add it to the list.
Finally, how do you fend of anxiety, depression, or boredom? Maybe you have to work from home, maybe you’re using sick or vacation time, maybe you’re doing the best you can but you’re just not in a great situation financially. You’re still likely to have a lot of down time and nowhere to go. If you have game consoles, now is a great time to work through your backlog of games! See if friends can join a multiplayer with you. They’re likely in the same situation so you might as well take advantage of it! There’s a plethora of multiplayer online games. Can’t get the Dungeon & Dragons group together consistently? Now is the perfect time to start a campaign on one of the multiple online RPG platforms. Boardgames or puzzles more your style? Invite family or roommates to dive into that pile of games with you!
For those looking for free entertainment, simply turn to your local public library. They are a wealth of information and are eager to share their online services with you! You can even start a book club with friends or coworkers by utilizing free online communication services or multi-way calling. Many libraries also offer digital services including ebooks, audiobooks, and streaming services. All you need is a library card. If you don’t have one, you can get a library card for free from your local library. You will need to show some form of ID to confirm your address. A utility bill is often enough if you don’t have a state ID. If your local library is closed, see if they offer temporary online cards or ask a friend if you can borrow theirs. Most libraries use a specific digital loaning app. Check your library’s website for more information.
This can be a stressful time but feeling well prepared is often the key to managing uncertainty. Focus on your immediate needs and leave the panic buying to everyone else. You got this!
Elizabeth Climis is a family therapist living and working in Massachusetts. In her spare time, she enjoys playing D&D, board games, and video games of all sorts.