Pandemic Panic Shopping 101

The Kitchenista has tips for folks stocking up for the COVID-19 quarantine

A photo of two black women examining food at the grocery store.

First things first: Don’t panic.

When it comes to purchasing medicines and foods to have on hand during the time of coronavirus quarantines, there are still stores that have food and supplies. Now is the time to get smart and be strategic about what to buy, when to go, and what to stock.

Why is this? Now that President Donald Trump has agreed with the rest of us that the COVID-19 infection is, in fact, a significant problem and now that major sports tournaments, concerts, and school systems are closing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, it’s our civic duty to stay inside. Some people have been stocking up for a month. They’re straight. If you know one, ask them for help. They can come up off a few rolls of toilet paper and a bottle of bleach, easy.

After that? You must think outside of the box. Skip Sam’s Club and try the hardware or office supply stores, which often still carry bleach. Dollar stores also carry name brand — and off-brand — foods. Hit up the corner shop in a quote-unquote undesirable (read: a place where White people won’t shop) neighborhood or an ethnic store; they still have supplies. Go super early in the morning, like at 6 a.m., or ask the cashier when they stock the shelves — probably Saturday morning — and be there before it opens.

While you plot out where to go, Angela Davis, also known as The Kitchenista, has tips on what to buy to make it all work:

  1. We’re not losing power, so fill up that fridge.
    Unlike other scenarios (disaster prep), we’re not losing power, so you can fill up the fridge and especially your freezer in addition to purchasing nonperishable pantry foods. Buy meat and veggies to freeze; a few cartons of eggs, which can stay refrigerated for several weeks; and extra bread for the freezer. Remember that even cheese and butter can be frozen.
  2. Load up on the grains and starch.
    For your pantry, make sure you have staples like pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, and cereal.
  3. Pile on the proteins (and no, you don’t need fresh meat).
    It’s important to have protein, so besides meat, try nut butters, canned tuna, or canned salmon. Also, beans (canned or dried) are easy and nutritious. If you aren’t planning on cooking, pick up some frozen meals and ready-made soups.
  4. Yes, you need water, canned milk, and frozen juice concentrates.
    Water is key, especially if your tap water isn’t safe to drink. I wouldn’t take up precious fridge space with other drinks that need to be kept cold, so buy some tea bags and instant drink mixes that can help save space and money. Frozen juice concentrates are another option for kids. Make sure you have ice cube trays if your freezer doesn’t have an ice maker. You can buy cartons of shelf-stable milk in case fresh milk runs out. Canned evaporated milk is also good for cooking.
  5. Spice it up! And add some flour, sugar, and oil.
    Don’t forget your favorite spices, cooking oils, vinegar, salt, sugar, and flour; those are the pantry staples we run out of fastest. And all of the foods you want to cook likely need some butter or olive oil to make the cooking work. If you see two, buy extra.

The Kitchenista and other prep experts all agree that families prepping for a quarantine should take an inventory. Look at your prescription medicines and get refills now. Buy some more Tylenol, sanitary napkins, and wipes. If you have kids, buy two bottles of children’s Motrin and two bottles of children’s Tylenol plus a rehydration solution like Pedialyte. You don’t want to have to go back outside once you are in. Buy some bandages, toothpaste, and soap too while you’re at the drugstore.

Some of us have been sitting on old cans of beans and jellied cranberry sauce that never got used over the holidays. Go through the cupboards today and figure out what you have so you can then figure out what to focus on. Also, people of color have historically lived off rice and beans, and you probably already have that in your stash. Pinto beans. Red beans. Black beans. Navy beans. Black-eyed peas. They’re usually $1 or so a bag, and you can keep them for years. Add some frozen onion and rice, and you have a good meal.

Most of all: You got this. And if the virus passes over quickly and you have food leftover? You can invite us all over for dinner in June.

Director, Multicultural @Medium. Focusing on ZORA, Momentum, Level and bolstering creators of color. All ideas welcome. And yes, I’ll still be writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store