This is to accompany my “Life… Strange Times” post that also went up today (https://lindseysgonemad.com/2020/03/22/life-strange-times/). Had I included this in that post it would have been entirely too long and quite frankly this may be a lot of information you don’t care about, so I figured I’d remove this from that post and place it right here.
I am stunned, not exaggerating, I am stunned at the lack of preparedness of most of the general public. I am sharing this information here because I’m wondering if this truly is something most people haven’t considered. Do people really not understand the importance of having an emergency supply of items? It’s ok if not, I just really didn’t realise how uncommon this actually is. I will say I wasn’t nearly as stocked up as I would normally be since we only moved to our current flat a few months ago and generally we try to empty our kitchen before moving, so I was a little delayed in re-upping my food stash. When I started hearing about COVID-19 making its rounds I thought “oh yeah, I should probably restock.” There was no panic buying and it was quite easy, I’ll elaborate below.
We had so much warning with COVID-19, there is no reason people should be panic buying. I’m mentioning this because people really were quite lucky in that regard. The point of an emergency stash is that something could happen and you won’t have the luxury of running to the stores and panic buying, or if you run to the stores they will be entirely wiped out of what you need because your whole town ran out for the same items. Use this as a learning opportunity. What have you not been able to find at the stores in this pandemic?
Ideally you would be prepared for most situations, so let’s consider what can go wrong. A really simple scenario: a power outage. You’d better believe when lights go out everyone is running to the store for batteries, lanterns and flashlights (or, as they call them in the UK, torches). Our longest power outage in Washington State was eight hours, our friends a few blocks away didn’t get theirs back for three days, we were lucky. Think of what things you’d need for a power outage. Things I recommend include non-perishable foods, a little camper stove, lighters/matches, batteries, LED lanterns, flashlights, candles, a little cash (since most card readers will be down if you have to run to the store), a power bank to charge your phone(s) or laptops, things to keep you entertained because the biggest risk during a power outage is death from boredom. The husband and I drank wine and played boardgames for hours during that power outage. I highly recommend keeping boardgames, books, alcohol, and whatever else that doesn’t use electricity around.
In assembling your emergency supply stash just think about what you would need if something suddenly happened and you couldn’t leave your home for two weeks. I’d say prepare for at least a month if you have the space. Our flat doesn’t have lots of storage and our fridge and freezer are about what you’d expect to see in a caravan (pic below) and we would do ok for a month (not living like kings but still ok). I’m going to ramble off some items now that I’d suggest putting in your emergency kit.
Medical supplies: gauze, alcohol prep pads, disinfectant wipes (Clinell Universal Disinfectant Wipes are what we have), band-aids (aka: plasters), some medicines, etc. This sounds like a lot but it actually takes up very little room. Let me tell you how happy I was to have those alcohol pads (200 of them) and disinfectant wipes when I realised that hand sanitizer disappeared literally within 24 hours of Scotland’s first Corona diagnosis. The day I was going to buy ONE sanitzer to replace the one in my purse… yup, all gone. In regard to medications, periodically check the expiration dates and replace as needed.
Hygiene type stuff – Soap (hand and body), toilet paper, Kleenex, feminine hygiene products, wipes to wash your face with (or body with) in the case that you can’t access hot water, and whatever else you’d be bummed about if you suddenly didn’t have access to it.
Food – This can be tricky because different emergencies call for different supplies of food and because of this I recommend always having a stash of non-perishables. If the power goes out and you don’t have a generator, which most of us don’t, you don’t want to open your fridge or freezer for as long as possible, so have food stuff in your cupboard. Keep food you’ll enjoy, snacks you’ll enjoy. I think we just tend to grab cans because that’s what we’re supposed to do (as evidenced by people’s recent shopping patterns) but you should actually put thought into it and put stuff you’ll enjoy in your stash. Buy with intention, know what meals you could make with the canned foods you bought. Pasta and sauce are great to have on hand as well. Have non-perishable milks if you use milk. I currently have two containers of almond milk and one of oat milk. But in the case of an emergency where you get to keep your electricity (like right now), well that’s much easier! Always keep a full freezer! Our freezer is tiny but it has enough veggies and meat to last us a bit. Also, HAVE PLENTY OF FOOD FOR YOUR PET(S)!!! I always buy about six to eight weeks of dog food at a time. As with medications, check for expirations on your food periodically. I’m including the picture below to emphasize how small our fridge and freezer are. The left cupboard contains our fridge and the right contains our freezer. You can fit a lot even in smaller freezers! To make even more room, remove things from bulky packaging and place them in freezer bags… um, I forgot to do this, but we’re still plenty stocked up anyways.
This is by no way a comprehensive list of what I’d recommend but just a bit of a taster. Again, you don’t need lots of space and you’ll thank yourself later for preparing now. Observe what you regularly use from day to day and make a list. Buy back ups of those things. It sounds overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. I’ll tell you how I go about gathering my emergency stash and in what ways I was caught off guard recently.
Medical supplies: I just ordered that stuff from Amazon and called it good. Easy enough. What nearly got me with this pandemic was that I didn’t have a backup inhaler. I had two asthma inhalers and one was expired. Right now, I don’t want to be caught without my inhaler. I use it almost daily as of late and I’ve been struggling with some sort of respiratory something for several weeks now (no fever, no cough, don’t panic). I was lucky that I could just hop online and order two inhalers (they only come in twos) and didn’t have to try to brave the overwhelmed healthcare system (our GP office has actually closed, you can only phone triage). Also, I only had ibuprofen-based pain relief and then news came out saying not to use ibuprofen if you get COVID-19… great. Whether that news was accurate or not it pointed out a hole in my emergency stash. I went to Boots and bought a pack of paracetamol. I had a headache and tried it and it worked really well so I went back to Boots the next day to get one more pack (meds don’t come in huge bottles here like they do in the US, it was a small pack) and the shelves were cleared. Whatever, I still have some left and will just buy another pack when they make an appearance in the future.
Food supplies: In the past I have bulk shopped for emergency food supplies, but like I said, we were low because we needed to restock after moving. When I first saw how the media was handling this outbreak of COVID-19, I could see the writing on the wall and jumped into action. Every time I’d go to the store, which is usually daily to pick up my lunch before work, I’d pick up a few extra things to add to my food cupboard. I didn’t necessarily bulk buy anything. I walk everywhere, so I can’t really bulk buy anyways. The groceries I picked up over the period of a few weeks included rice, pasta (only two packages goes a long way for us), pasta sauce, tuna, canned fruit, canned soups, snacks (crisps, salsa, nuts, chocolate), cereal (just an extra box or two), non-perishable milks (almond and oat), French fries, frozen haddock (for fish and chips), lots of frozen veggies, a loaf of bread to freeze, several packages of meat to freeze, an extra ketchup and mayo, pickled beetroot, stuff for pancakes, porridge, two little Indian food meal kits, and just random stuff like that.
Other supplies: Just try not to run out of things… I’m terrible at this when it comes to skincare stuff. I procrastinated and now I can’t access my usual skincare stuff so I just bought some backups that will work until this all blows over. For women, make sure you’re stocked up on feminine hygiene products. I absolutely detest the feminine hygiene products available in the UK so I bulk buy from the US. I do recommend having a cup, I hate them but they’re very smart to have on hand. Another very good thing to have is a good water filtration system. We’ve had a Berkey for many years now and we love it. I mentioned a lot of supplies already in my paragraph about power outages. Reusable cloth wipes to replace toilet paper… Here’s the thing, I like the idea but I can’t get on board with it quite yet, but it’s a really good option (an environmentally responsible option) should there be a tp rapture. I had a feeling people would clear out tp. I can’t tell you why but I felt it several weeks before it happened and if I had warned anyone they probably would’ve thought me to be ill. In knowing that I picked up an extra package of tp.
I was incredibly fortunate this time to have had the time to stock up. When it comes to these things people are predictable. I saw the tidal wave coming but I knew there was a little bit of time before it hit, so no need to panic buy, I simply added a few extra things to my basket during each shop. Now it’s getting increasingly hard, if not impossible, to find all the food you need at one store. We’ve been going to the shops for meals over the last week and for one meal I went to six different stores. I do suspect shelves will start looking a bit more replenished over the next few weeks. The virus will continue to spread and cause very serious problems BUT I genuinely believe panic buying will begin to approach its end over this coming week and people will return to more normal shopping habits over the next few weeks, allowing stores to restock. I have nothing to validate these feelings, it’s just a hunch. Certain supplies might remain slightly more difficult to find but I think things will mostly start to balance out. Until then I will likely start breaking into the supply I’ve saved up.
PLEASE use this pandemic as a learning opportunity. Write down a list of all things you can’t live without and stock up on those things. Even if you’re a student in a dorm room, get a little chest, or box, or something and fill it! In the case of such little space you should be able to keep a week’s worth of food and that’s better than nothing. If you’ve been blessed with plenty of space, in buying extra items try to see to it that you’ll be able to be generous in times of need. Buy a few extra snacks, cans of food, non-perishable milk, tp, or whatever, with the intention of giving them to someone you know that may need extra help in a time of crisis. Again, for food you need to check for upcoming expirations and donate what you haven’t used (don’t wait until the month it expires, make sure it has time to actually get used by whoever receives the donation) and replenish. Also, “best by” is not the same as an expiration date, those things are good way longer than the best by date (google the specific item for more info).
There are people who devote their lives to this kind of stuff, who are very passionate about stocking up for the end of the world. They quite literally could survive the remainder of their lives without stepping foot off of their land. I am not one of those people, but I do feel strongly about being prepared. You can’t prepare for everything, but what you can prepare for you should prepare for. Your stash may sit for years and you’ll think you overreacted, until one day shit hits the fan and you will be so damn grateful you overreacted. I have so much that I want to say about this topic but I think I’ve covered the very basics. As always, just leave a comment if you have any questions or would like more elaboration in another post (I’m guessing no one wants that! LOL!). Also, I’d love to know what you do to prepare for emergencies if you are a bit of a prepper as well!