The coronavirus pandemic might be waning in the U.S., but as the new omicron variant is reminding us, the truth is that no one knows how long this pandemic could drag on — or when the next one might strike.
While it’s good to be prepared, you need to know what’s worth stockpiling in case you need to quarantine or just spend more time at home. Stocking up on a year’s supply of something just to have it go bad in a couple of weeks would be a waste of money.
Following are some of the best options if you’re looking to add to your stockpile.
1. Cleaning supplies
It’s always good to have extra cleaning supplies on hand. For a list of those that you should have on hand during this coronavirus outbreak in particular, check out “5 Cleaning Products You Should Be Using.”
Just note that bleach is an exception: You should not stockpile more than you could use up in the next six months. Bleach has a shelf-life of about six months, as we have reported, and its disinfecting power starts to degrade after that.
Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is the next best thing for ridding your hands of germs when you don’t have access to soap and water, but the latter is more effective at killing the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, keep a few extra bars of soap in your pantry.
3. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is a great shelf-stable protein source, especially for vegetarians and vegans. There are many ways to use it in both sweet and savory dishes. And for a quick lunch, it’s great with some jelly or honey in a sandwich.
If you run out of peanut butter but have peanuts on hand, you easily can make your own peanut butter. We have a recipe in “10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself.”
4. White rice
If white rice is stored properly, it can last for decades. The best way to store uncooked white rice is in a sealed, air-free container and at a temperature of 40 degrees or less.
Rice is also a helpful ingredient to have on hand when planning out and preparing meals in advance. It’s one of several foods in this article that I also mention in “How to Prep Meals for a 14-Day Quarantine.”
5. Prescription medications
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness if they were to catch the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, to have an extra supply of prescription medications — enough for at least 30 days — on hand. If there is an outbreak in your community, you may not be able to leave the house to get more medications.
Even if you are not concerned about the current pandemic but you rely on a prescription medication, it might be wise to keep an extra supply on hand in case of emergencies.
6. Dried beans and lentils
Another food that has a long shelf life is legumes. Dried beans and lentils will last for years if stored in a cool, dry place. Just know that they may take longer to cook as they get older.
And don’t worry — it’s possible to avoid or decrease the intestinal gas that you might experience after eating beans. See “Beans 101: A Guide to Enjoying the Stockpile Staple.”
If you plan to stay home for a spell, stockpile some of your favorite treats. As a bonus, anything that is made up of mostly sugar “never really spoils” if kept dry, says Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and principal of Corvus Blue, a food science and research firm.
“The wrapper of a Jolly Rancher will go bad before the candy does,” Shelke tells Cooking Light.
Dried pasta is very shelf-stable and will last for decades without a loss in quality, according to Shelke. The food scientist tells Cooking Light she tasted some pasta found in an Egyptian pyramid and found there was no loss in quality. Stock up on a few different types so you can whip up your favorite dishes.
9. Basic medical supplies
If you get sick or mildly injured, you will want to have over-the-counter medications and medical supplies on hand. This includes things like tissues, bandages, saline spray and fever reducers to keep you comfortable. Just stay on top of expiration dates and rotate your stash by using up the oldest items first.
If you’re in a high-risk group, note that as with prescriptions, the CDC advises having at least 30 days worth of nonprescription medications on hand.
10. Frozen fruits and vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great alternative to fresh and last much longer. Since the quality degrades over time, don’t forget to rotate your stash, using the oldest frozen fruits and veggies first.
Not all produce is freezer-friendly, however. We cite a few examples in “9 Foods That Don’t Belong in Your Freezer.”
11. Canned tuna
Canned tuna has a long shelf life and offers an easy way to add protein to your diet. Go beyond plain tuna salad and use it in casseroles, pasta dishes and bakes.
12. Long-lasting fruits and vegetables
Certain fruits and vegetables have a longer shelf life than others — able to last for months when stored properly — according to Prevention. Next time you’re out shopping, stock up on apples, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, beets and cabbage.
While meat only lasts a few days or so when stored in the refrigerator, it can last for months when frozen.
14. Personal hygiene basics
It’s always good to have at least an extra month’s supply of personal hygiene basics like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, antiperspirant and feminine products. If you have a baby, stock up on diapers and wipes.
15. Sugar, salt and pepper
You can improve the flavor of many foods by adding sugar, salt or pepper. They are shelf-stable and can last a long time when stored properly.
16. Soups and broth
If you’re feeling under the weather, you may not be in the mood to cook. Having a few soups and broths in cans or cartons can help carry you through a rough patch. Look for low-sodium versions to cut back on salt.
17. Pet food and medications
Don’t forget about your furry friends. Stock up on extra food and medications for your pets to keep your companions happy, healthy and well-fed.
Applesauce can be great to have on hand. It’s very versatile and can be used in place of oil in baked goods, mixed into oatmeal or even eaten straight with a spoon. Look for brands that don’t have any sugar added.
19. Dried fruit
Fresh fruit can spoil quickly, but dried fruit can last a lot longer because the moisture has been removed from it. Store it properly — follow the directions on the label — and enjoy it in baked goods, in your cereal or oatmeal or as a healthy snack.
20. Vinegar and baking soda
Vinegar and baking soda are two of the most versatile pantry items. Besides their uses in cooking, they can do double-duty to help you clean your home.
For proof of their versatility, check out:
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