You’ve seen the pictures of the wiped-out grocery stores and heard nightmare tales from your local warehouse clubs. Everyone seems to be stocking up on, well, everything, as they anticipate quarantines in the United States.
And maybe you know better than to pay triple the price for a bottle of hand sanitizer online, or a box of masks you don’t even need. But what should you stock up on as we wait to see the full effect of the outbreak?
Don’t build an emergency bunker
Prepare like you would for a blizzard or a hurricane, not like you’d prepare for a full-fledged apocalypse. While you may see advertisements for doomsday prepper-style kits (with high price tags), you don’t need to go so far to protect yourself.
Whether you’re looking to do a deep clean at home or are bracing yourself for work or school to be canceled for several days, you don’t need much to be well prepared.
The most important item you need
When I asked Roslyn Stone what we should be buying right now, she laughed, “Soap and water!” She’s an executive at workplace health firms Zero Hour Health and Zedic and has quickly grown accustom to correcting coronavirus rumors.
“There’s no reason to stock up on hand sanitizer,” she said, since we usually have access to soap and water for the frequent hand washing we’re supposed to be doing. You should only be using hand sanitizer, Stone said, when there’s no soap or water available.
“Soap and water are our best friends,” agreed Dr. Snehal Doshi, a neonatologist and CEO of Millennium Neonatology. “Cleaning wipes or disinfectant sprays to clean hard surfaces also will help. Take wipes with you and wipe down the shopping cart handles before you use it, for example.”
Masks are another no-go, which we’ve mentioned before but probably need to say again. At this point, if you’re not sick and you’re not a medical professional, you should be letting your face breathe. (Just don’t touch it.)
Buy items you’d normally use
As for household supplies, prepare for a few extra days of home cooking—but not for your water supply or electricity to fail. Stone went to Costco over the weekend and saw someone buying a pallet of bottled water among their supplies. “There’s no reason to believe we need bottled water,” she said.
“Think about what you might need for you and your family to stay at home a week or longer around the clock,” she said.
“Buy non-perishable items or items with a long shelf life that you would need for two weeks,” Dr. Doshi said. “Also, buy items that you normally use, so after the crisis is done, you haven’t spent a lot of money on items that you will throw away.”
If you don’t prepare a lot of meals at home, don’t forget to account for those meals you tend to outsource. If your children eat breakfast and lunch at school and you usually get takeout during the workday, you’ll need to have food options at home for those times of day. A selection of easy-to-prepare items will make life easier once you exhaust the fresh items in your fridge.
“Find a variety of foods and condiments that give you some options for the week or two of isolation,” Doshi said. “And don’t forget your toiletries.”