What to Buy (and What to Skip) to Prepare for Coronavirus

Advice from people in quarantine about what you actually need — and how to make life work

Jessica Migala
Elemental
Published in
7 min readMar 13, 2020

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Photo: Universal Images Group/Getty Images

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TThe World Health Organization has officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic, and if you’ve been hoping you can ignore coronavirus and it’ll just go away without affecting you or your family in some way, that’s looking less and less likely. But that isn’t to say you need to buy a deep freezer and build a storehouse in your backyard. So where should you begin, and how can you approach preparation without driving yourself up the wall?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered up guidance on how to prepare for an outbreak near you, including making a plan with your family, practicing good health and hygiene habits, and checking in with vulnerable people in your community. They also have instructed people in at-risk groups (like the immunocompromised, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions) to stock up on supplies like nonperishable foods.

Since things are moving quickly, it’s not a bad idea to stock up a bit before the virus hits your area, since social distancing (which can include limiting your visits to, say, crowded supermarkets and pharmacies) is such a helpful preventive measure, and you may need to self-quarantine with limited notice. In case you do have to hole up for a while, here’s what you may need to make it, well, suck less — based on advice from experts and folks who’ve actually been in quarantine.

There’s already been a run on toilet paper and paper towels — for good reason.

A sensible grocery list

“It’s about stocking your pantry in a smart way, but also cooking with the stuff you already have in the house,” says Dawn Perry, a food writer who’s currently working on a pantry cookbook. Here’s her quick-and-dirty rundown of what you may need, including staples and flavor boosters so you’re not just stuck eating black beans out of a can:

  • Dry grains: Rice, quinoa, oats, cornmeal (for polenta).

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Jessica Migala
Elemental

Jessica Migala is a freelance writer focusing on health, fitness, and nutrition. She lives in the Chicago ‘burbs with her two young sons, dog, and husband.