Here’s What We’re Doing To Prepare for A Possible Pandemic
Since sharing my thoughts on making your own hand sanitizer and where to look for the commercial once when your local drug and box stores are running out, I have gotten quite a few questions about what my family and I are doing to get ready for the potential of a Covid-19 outbreak in our community.
Please note. This is what my family and I are doing. You have to decide what’s best for you and your loved ones. Some of what I’m saying may feel like overkill to you. Take and adapt what you like, skip the rest.
I’m sure you’ve heard this plenty, but the most important thing we, as a family are doing is to step up our game. We are washing our hands much more frequently, and for longer than in the past. We’ve adopted the method outlined in this hand-washing video by Dr. John Campbell (his Youtube channel is a great source of information). Even though there is no current evidence of community spread where I live, we as a family decided that now is the time to establish those habits along with other things like coughing and sneezing into a tissue or our elbow.
I’m no longer shaking hands, avoid touching things like hand rails and the likes as much as possible. When using a keypad (to pay at the grocery store for example), I’m using my knuckle instead of my finger. I’m also keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer in my car to use as soon as I get back into my car. This will bridge the time until I get home and can wash my hands properly with soap and water.
Social Distancing – Now and Plans For Later
While there is no community spread as far as we know in our community, my family and I are taking as few chances as possible. I am just about finished with my emergency prep shopping, but am still heading to the store on occasion to stock up on fresh produce and fill the gaps in my pantry. Our daughter still goes to school and will probably continue to do so until the district closes the school.
We’ve talked extensively about the importance of staying away from anyone sick as much as possible, not touching other students, and most importantly washing her hands and using hand sanitizer throughout the day. She’s a teenager which makes this much easier than with a younger child. We’ve talked enough about the importance of this that I don’t even have to remind her to go wash her hand as soon as she walks in the door. Since I am able to work from home (yes, I realize how lucky I am right now), I am able to take her and pick her up from school, cutting out an additional exposure on the bus.
We don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. We have stopped getting any and all food out. We’d occasionally order takeout pizza and I’ve shared in the past that I love rotisserie chickens my grocery store has. All that has stopped. No fast food, no going out to restaurants etc. Our only activities outside the home are visits to a local park or the beach.
When I have to go out to the grocery store, I do my best to go at off times when fewer people are around in the store.
Think about what you can do now to practice this new thing called social distancing. Maybe it’s ordering stuff online. Maybe it’s having your medication delivered, or at the very least calling your doctor instead of going into the office to renew your prescription. Talk to your medical provider, they will work with you in any way you can. Cancel that dinner party or get-together with friends.
It’s not about keeping yourself safe. It’s about doing everything we can to keep this from getting to someone who will not survive an infection with this virus. It’s also about flattening the curve and keeping our hospitals from becoming over run. We all need to do our part to protect our communities, our loved ones, and our family.
Which brings me to the most practical part of this article …
The Importance of a Well-Stocked Pantry
One of your biggest safety cushions in the coming weeks will be your pantry. People will make a run for the stores when your community is hit. Stores will be out. We’re already seeing it in parts of the country and many stores are out of toilet paper. Hand sanitizer is nowhere to be found. Here’s what I stocked up on. Do what you can now. Depending on where you are at in the country, you may or may not have time to spread this out over the next few days or even a week or two. Do what you can today, tomorrow, and as you are able. Even a few extra things will come in handy.
I stocked up with what my family needs for at least four weeks with these items. We can stretch it out longer by eating more beans and rice. None of this is expensive food, but it all adds up. If it’s not in your budget, grab a big bag of rice, a big bag of dried beans, and a large jar of peanut butter.
I don’t foresee this becoming a problem, but better safe than sorry. We still had two flats of bottled water leftover from the last hurricane, which should last my family for a few days. I also started saving milk and soda bottles to fill with water if needed.
This is an emergency staple for us. I have several large bags of both white and brown rice that we can cook. It’s cheap, it’s filling and with a few additions (some beans, a can of soup, a can of tomatoes), it makes an inexpensive emergency meal. Best of all, this is something I know we will use up if we don’t need everything (or anything) during this crisis.
I went out and grabbed another bag of each last night … just in case.
Dry and canned beans are another staple in my pantry. My staple and most of my current stock are pinto beans. We eat them with rice, with corn bread, or mash them to use in burritos. They are filling and an inexpensive source of protein. And it’s a staple that lasts a while and something I know we will use up in the coming months no matter what happens.
In addition to the dry pinto beans, I have several bags of red beans to make red beans and rice in the instant pot. This is also what I like to use for cooking all dry beans these days. It’s just as easy to cook them on the stove or in the crockpot though if you prefer.
I have a few bags of black beans and several cans of beans, including some cans of chili beans. Combined with other beans and a can of tomato, they make a quick vegetarian chili.
Peas and Lentils
To mix things up, I also grabbed several bags of split peas and lentils for soups and stews. If you like indian style food, cook lentils in a bit of vegetable and chicken stock (I use water and bullion powder) until they are tender. Drop a block of frozen spinach in along with a can of tomatoes. Season with your favorite curry powder and cook until the spinach is hot. I serve this over hot cooked rice.
Split peas make a good filling soup with nothing more than an onion and some stock.
Flour is an important staple for me. I use it to bake bread, muffins, simple cakes and the like. In a pinch, you can make bread with nothing more than a flour, salt, yeast, and water. Or even a flat bread without the yeast. If you get a chance, practice baking this beginner bread before you are stuck at home. Don’t get discouraged if the first loaf isn’t perfect. It takes a little practice, but it will still taste good.
I have two five pound bags of flour on hand for making bread right now. Adjust as needed for your family. If you don’t want to bake bread, freezing some store-bought bread if you have the room in your freezer is another viable option.
Complete Pancake Mix
Yes, you can make pancakes from scratch and I often do. But it takes fresh things like eggs. For an emergency situation, I stick with the mix. You can find it inexpensively at your favorite dollar or big box store. Just add water, cook and breakfast is done.
I have at least two large boxes in my pantry at all times.
Salt, Pepper, Sugar, and Yeast
For baking, seasoning and the likes.
I have a large bag of sugar, a large container of salt, two shakers of black pepper, and about six of packets of yeast on hand.
I have a large container of regular oats, and six containers of steel cut oats to make my instant pot oatmeal. In a pinch I can make it with plain water, but while we have milk, I use this recipe. Shelf stable milk or powdered milk are of course always an option. I have found inexpensive shelf stable milk at the dollar store.
We live in the south. What can I say? I have two large bags of plain grits we can cook up for breakfast or dinner. I also have a bag of bacon bits for added flavor in a pinch. Bacon grease is a nice addition too. It will keep in your fridge or even on your counter.
Canned vegetables both mixed and individuals are great for putting together simple meals. Combined with a bit of ground beef, you can make a good beef and vegetable soup. They also make a quick side dish that needs nothing more than heating up. Here are the types of canned vegetables I currently have in my pantry. Quantities vary.
- Green Beans
- Tomato Paste
- Canned beans (black, chickepeas, refried, and chili beans)
- Seasoned Greens (collard and mustard greens)
- Sweet potatoes
Dried Fruit, Canned Fruit
I always have a bag of apples on hand that should last us at least through the first week or two. As far as the pantry goes, I keep at least two lage jars of unsweetened apple sauce and a pack of raisins. It makes a nice addition to oatmeal, muffins, cookies, and even pancakes.
I’m not usually big on canned fruit, but for variety and as a dessert of sorts, I picked up a couple of cans of sliced peaches and pineapple. Go with what your family likes.
Peanut butter is a great staple year around and wonderful comfort food in a crisis. Put it on crackers, make sandwiches, get creative. If you’re stuck in the house you can make peanut butter cookies. My daughter even puts it on her pancakes. I have three large jars of the stuff sitting in my pantry.
Crackers And Chips
I keep two boxes of saltine crackers on hand to eat with soups and for making meat loaf. They work well as a snack with a bit of cheese or peanut butter in a pinch. I picked up two extra boxes, a couple of bags of store-brand potato chips, and four bags of tortilla chips. I also keep salsa on hand for the chips and to make my instant pot red beans and rice. If you’re too tired to make dinner, heat up some canned refried beans (or mash leftover pinto beans), and serve them with chips and a little salsa.
Bread and Tortillas
I don’t have much store-bought bread on hand. That’s what the flour and yeast are for. I do however have two large packs of inexpensive corn tortillas. I can buy a four-pound bag of them for under three dollars here. Your mileage may vary, but either way it makes a good staple for all sorts of meals and snacks.
Once those run out, I am going to make my own with a large bag of masa flour.
At our current house, I don’t have a large freezer. I’m working with the freezer compartment of the fridge. It has quite a bit of frozen okra from the garden in it along with some frozen broccoli and a few pizzas. In other words, I don’t have a lot of extra space right now. I grabbed six packs of frozen spinach. They don’t take up a lot of space and it’s easy to heat one up as a side, or add it to the lentil dish I described above.
Last but not least, let’s talk about meat. It’s the most expensive part of stocking your pantry and freezer. Over the past two weeks I stocked up on a few each of:
- Ground beef in the plastic tubes. Easier to freeze and less expensive at my store.
- Ground sausage. I’m talking breakfast sausage. It lasts in the fridge and is great for breakfast or dinner.
- Kielbasa sausage. It lasts a long time in the fridge and even a little bit goes a long way to season pasta sauces, soups and stews. I have two packs that have two sausages each in them and plan to use them one at a time for at least four full meals.
- Spam and canned ham. To fry. For sandwiches. Great in eggs. We have at least eight cans right now.
- Canned tuna and chicken. I honestly can’t tell you how much I have on hand. We keep it as part of our hurricane preparedness plan year around. I use the tuna for sandwiches. The canned chicken also makes good chicken salad, but is also good in soup. Chicken and rice soup will be a staple around here as we start to run out of our regular “fresh” groceries.
That’s about it. We keep a few treats, but those are the staples we are working with.
I hope this list helps you decide what you want to stock up on and how you will prepare. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email me.
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