How To Stock Up For Coronavirus On A Budget

Updated: March 18, 2020

By now, grocery stores are down to the bare bones while they scramble to restock shelves. The Coronavirus pandemic has Americans stocking up for self-imposed quarantine for a questionable amount of time.

How long will we succumb to house arrest? How long will our provisions last? Grocery industry leaders and the White House have assured us that “the U.S. food supply chain is holding up,” according to Politico.

There’s plenty to go around, but if you want to avoid crowded stores and keep things on a budget, you can stock up for Coronavirus by doing a few simple things.

Do a pantry raid

First, before you run to your nearest grocer, do a pantry raid. What things do you already have? How can you create your own Cut Throat Kitchen by using ingredients in your pantry, fridge, and freezer?

I like to take everything out of their respective shelves first. When you see everything physically on the counter it can create a feeling of abundance which can calm anxious nerves. This can help you from overspending so you don’t bust your budget during uncertain times.

Do this for cleaning and sanitary supplies, too. Assess your stock of toothpaste or soap. Yes, we all need toilet paper but please, you don’t need Costco-sized quantities if it’s just you.

Staples, staples, staples

I’m well-versed in the kitchen, so this quarantine comes as a unique challenge for me. How many delicious meals can I make while improvising with staples? If you typically eat out most of the week, I’m pretty excited for you. Think of this as an opportunity to actually cut back and save money. Here’s what you do.

Make sure you have staples with a long shelf life on hand. I like to keep rice, Kodiak cakes (a type of protein pancake mix), canned tuna, and pasta on hand. Jarred sauces and condiments can also be used. You’d be surprised what an old jar of mustard and honey can do to some frozen chicken breast.

You don’t need to overkill your supply. I like to have enough non-perishable food items to get me through a few weeks if needed.

Assess your spending

Another way to stock up during an emergency is to assess your spending. Now is the time to cut back on your fun spending. Spending should be limited to covering your basic needs. That includes rent or mortgage payment, utilities, gas, and food. There is hopefully enough money in your emergency fund to cover these expenses.

If you’re not sure how much you spend in these areas, open up your bank account or credit card statement from last month. Then take out a sheet of paper or record in a spreadsheet how much you spent in those categories. Add them up and that’s how much you need each month to cover the basics.

Make sure your emergency fund is stocked

Research by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that nearly half of Americans don’t have enough money to cover three months worth of expenses. If you fall within that category, there are still ways to make sure your emergency fund is stocked.

After you have assessed your spending, stock up your cash in a liquid savings account. Savings from unnecessary spending can go into your emergency fund.

If you have federal student loans, interest is waived until further notice. Keep in mind that payments are still required, though your entire payment will go towards the principal instead of interest. The savings on interest can be used to fuel your emergency fund.

Stock up on your contentment activities

If your go-to is retail therapy in times of stress, you need to reach for contentment therapy instead. If you want to stock up for coronavirus, a list of fun and free activities can save your budget.

First, find your favorite playlist to listen to during this exercise. Next, set a timer for 10 minutes. Now hit start on your playlist and your timer. Without stopping, list as many activities that you can that give you joy and don’t cost money.

To give you a few ideas, here’s what I have on my contentment list:

  • Painting my nails
  • Baking
  • Doing a face mask
  • Dancing
  • Coloring in an adult coloring book
  • Yoga

I use my contentment activities list whenever I feel like spending money. Before I make a purchase, I do a contentment activity. After a contentment activity, I forget about spending money. Plus, I feel really freakin’ good afterward.

Stay sensible during a crisis

You don’t have to go gangbusters on stocking up, but a few reasonable practices can help you get through a crisis. Start by looking at what you have and assess what you need. Make sure your emergency fund is stocked and that you have contentment activities to fall back on.

Emergencies are imminent. Whether it’s a lost wallet, hurricane, or a pandemic, the unexpected happens. Proactively manage emergencies by preparing financially and mentally. Talk to your loved ones about how you want to approach an emergency. Make a plan and work together so you can calmly get through any situation this crazy world can throw at us.

Justine Nelson is the founder of Debt Free Millennials, an online community to help millennials get out of debt. Justine enjoys writing and speaking about all things personal finance. This Midwest millennial paid off $35k in student loan debt and now resides in San Diego with her husband living the DINK life (Dual Income, No Kids).

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