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As panic about the coronavirus spreads, it behooves us to consider being at least quasi-prepared for a potential outbreak.
To be clear
Let me start by saying that I’m not actually that worried about the coronavirus for myself. But I worry about the immune-compromised and elderly populations who are more at risk. And since we interact with these populations (either in day-to-day life or just in public places)… Well, let’s all do our best to be sanitary, okay?
Also, I do believe there’s cause to be concerned that hospitals will be underprepared for and overwhelmed by the influx of cases. Or perhaps more likely, people who are convinced they have it when they’re actually fine or just have the regular flu.
So there are definitely reasons that the coronavirus gives me pause, but not out of personal danger. I work at home, so I’m exposed to far fewer people than the average Joe. And my immune system is actually pretty good (though, of course, that could once again just be lack of exposure).
That said, lately I have been kissing some guys I’ve met on dating apps — and who knows where they’ve been? After all, it’s well known that boys have cooties.
So no, this wasn’t a panic stock-up. I’m not hoarding hand sanitizer or sterilizing wipes. But I did realize that there’s always a chance I’ll be exposed to the virus. In which case, I might face a 14-day quarantine. And that could be problematic.
I mean, I buy months’ worth of toilet paper at a time when there’s a sale. So I’m set on that score. But food-wise… Eek, there’s not a lot here!
So I decided that I ought to make a foray into the grocery store and fill up my pantry a bit.
Luckily, the grocery store was pretty calm and not out of supplies. This was the day before the first confirmed community-spread case of the virus, so no one was really panicking. Or maybe they were just all at Costco. At any rate, the shelves were plenty full.
I got my normal frozen meals — so I have eight of those on hand — but of course, I might be running low on those items at the time this hypothetical quarantine hits. So I needed some things in abeyance.
My two go-to dishes both require salsa and beans (black for one, red for the other). I already had enough in the pantry for one batch each, but just to be safe I bought three jars of salsa (store brand, of course), and two cans of each type of bean (also store brand). Plus a second bag of rice, since both recipes call for a couple of cups of it. But this time not store brand because in the past I found out the hard way that Kroger rice sucks.
I already had a few chicken breasts in the freezer, so I didn’t need (or have the room for) another bag. But I did get two bars of cheese, since one of the recipes uses most of an eight-ounce block. And I picked up three bags of (Kroger brand) chips, since one of the recipes is eaten with chips.
That alone would get me through most of the quarantine.
Variety is the spice of life, so just to be safe I also got six cans of soup. Not that soup fills me up for all that long, but it’s good to have options, right?
Also, I got several Cadbury bars since I have 1/3 of a bar for dessert each night. And I might eat more in a time of stress, like say being without in-person contact for two straight weeks.
Meanwhile, I have enough protein bars for at least two weeks (and could always order more delivered from Target) plus several jars of peanut butter. So my daytime “meals” are taken care of.
Hindsight is 20/20
All this was only around $25 more than I usually spend, so it wasn’t a huge deal. But I probably didn’t get prepared enough.
For example, I should probably also get a little more soap just because my main refill jug is starting to run low. So I’ll need to get more anyway within a month or two. And from what I’ve heard, people are starting to hoard soap and other sanitizing supplies. So just in case, I should probably get another jug to have on hand.
I suppose I also should’ve gotten some jugs of water — not because I think the coronavirus will somehow affect water supply, but just to have on hand in case of service disruption for some other reason.
I guess I’ll go back to the store and pick that stuff up.
You have more than your pantry
Of course, it’s worth noting that, even if you get stuck without a stocked pantry, you have options.
First of all, Instacart (and probably other grocery delivery services) has its people drop food at the doorstep. At least, the one time my tenant used it, I got a knock and the person walked away, leaving the box of food in front of my door.
Also, restaurant food may still be an option. Postmates already sent an email announcing drop-off service, so that you don’t have to come into contact with the delivery person (presumably to keep them safe if you’re quarantined, but it’s probably a godsend for misanthropes too). I’m sure other delivery services will follow.
So you could get food delivered.
But of course it’s expensive to buy too much takeout (she said hypocritically, having utterly blown her takeout budget for the month) and, even if you use a promotion to waive the delivery fee, tipping makes it even pricier. Thus it’s best to only use that in a pinch if I’m really, really, really craving a specific food.
So yeah, that’s my half-assed stock-up.
I know this is all pales in comparison to actual preppers. Or just super frugal people who cook a lot and therefore are stocked up on essentials at any given time. Sometimes to the point that they sometimes have to do pantry challenges to keep stuff from expiring.
But for me, this is pretty darn good.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get bored and cook the dishes without a quarantine.
Yeah, probably not.
Not everyone has options
Of course, I’m very lucky in a few aspects.
First, I have enough money that I can load up on supplies (or even get Postmates for two weeks) without straining the budget overly. Many people can’t say the same. So we should probably all try to donate more to local food banks, which I think will be seeing a spike in attendance.
If buying stuff and the store and dropping it off sounds like too much of a hassle, consider donating to Feeding America, which funds food banks around the country. Heck, I think Swagbucks still has an offer for around $35 of SB if you donate to the organization.
And my second bit of luck: I work from home. So a quarantine wouldn’t affect my ability to earn a paycheck. But even if it did, I have a healthy emergency fund to fall back on.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t in that position. They could could lose their jobs due to missed days. Even if companies didn’t lay them off, too many folks wouldn’t be able to survive financially if they missed an entire pay period.
So it’s arguably even more important than ever to start stockpiling not just food in your kitchen, but also money in your bank account.
Easy(ish) ways to save
- I’ve saved a bundle by switching to Hulu. Just cutting the cord could save $60 to $100 a month, assuming you don’t get carried away with streaming services. You can put the difference aside each month into the emergency fund.
- Go to sites insurance comparison sites like Insurance.com to see if you can lower your home/auto coverage. Try to put any savings into the EF. If the savings is really big… Well, first of all, yay! Secondly, you can always break it down into monthly amounts, and put that much in the bank every other paycheck.
- Save your savings! If you save money with a coupon or sale (on something you’d have to buy anyway), put the savings into the bank.
- Shop at specific places a lot? Buy discounted gift cards on sites like Raise or CardCash. If you choose Raise, be sure to go through Mr. Rebates for cash back. And don’t forget to save the difference between the face value of the card and its cost. If the difference is too large to do all at once, just make a note of the discount you got and save that percentage of the bill each time you use the GC.
- Hustle! Of course, hustles like Uber, Postmates, etc. mean that you’re out and about and therefore more in danger of exposure to the virus. So those may not be advisable. (Though if you do want to start working with one of those services, be sure to sign up through Inbox Dollars or Swagbucks to get a sign-up bonus.) But there are at-home hustles you can do, like Swagbucks. Even a small amount of concerted effort could mean a $25 per month PayPal payment, which you can use to build up your EF. Every little bit counts!
Are you stocked up on essentials (and emergency funds) in case of a quarantine?