Shopping for COVID-19: How I am Preparing for a Pandemic

Pandemic shopping for parents– it’s like regular shopping, but scarier!

(Disclaimer: I am not that kind of doctor. I am a mom of 4 (soon-to-be 5) who is a realist, a news junkie, and an avid shopper who likes to feel prepared for non-ideal circumstances.)


By now, we have all heard about the spread of COVID-19, and I am sure, as parents, that we have all thought about the best ways to keep our families safe. I love a good problem that can be solved by shopping, so as soon as I read the Scientific American blog that is making its way around all of my Facebook friends, I decided that preparing in advance for a spread in my community or even a quarantine could both make me feel better right now and help those who need it down the road. The basic premise of the blog I linked above is that there are some preparatory steps you can take right now, assuming you have the financial resources to do so comfortably, and if you prepare now, then you won’t have to take resources away from more vulnerable people later. Preparing now if you are able will also help you avoid crowds and strain on delivery services if your community does experience an outbreak.

Remember, people who work minimum wage jobs are the least likely to be able to take sick leave. This is also true for people who work in the gig economy. Don’t count on being able to run to the store or get products delivered when people in your community are sick. Instead, stock up now, if you are able.


I have a ton of kids, so I generally have 2 weeks-worth of food on hand at all times (2 weeks is the standard I am going with since that’s the average length of a COVID-19 quarantine). Is it all delicious food I can’t wait to eat? Um, no, but we could eat it just fine.

If you want to build a steady stash, add some more pantry and freezer foods to your cart every week. I have been buying some more stuff each week and have spent less than $40 over my normal grocery budget.


Make sure you have all of the over-the-counter stuff on hand you would need to treat a respiratory infection, as well as basic first aid stuff for other emergencies. If you can get an extra refill of your family’s most vital prescription drugs, you might want to. A pharmacy could be the very last place you want to go if your community has lots of illness.

Cleaning Products:

Again, I don’t want to have to go to Target for dish soap in the middle of an outbreak, so I am making sure to have back-ups of all of my go-to household cleaners. The same goes for family toiletries. I even sprang for some hand sanitizer just in case.

Paper Goods:

See above. I use Amazon for all of my bulk product needs, so I just scheduled an extra shipment to stash in my overcrowded basement. Social distancing is the name of the game, so I am going to make sure we have enough toilet paper on hand to get us through a quarantine.

One thing I am NOT buying:


Why? Simple. They don’t prevent you from getting the virus. Healthcare professionals who are always around sick or immunosuppressed people need them. They make you wash your hands less frequently and touch your face more often because you feel a false sense of protection.

Besides shopping, now is a great time to make some illness contingency plans at work. Talk to your boss about what you’ll do if people in your office get sick, and take steps now to make your work doable from a distance. Do you have the equipment you need to work from home?  Can you afford to go without working for a couple of weeks if you have no other choice? Is there a way you can get yourself ready to afford that contingency?

The same goes for school. What will you do if your kids’ school closes for a time? Do you have everything you need to entertain them? To balance your job with their needs? Now would be a great tome to make babysitting co-op arrangements with neighbors, restock an art supply cabinet, or organize a book swap with friends so everyone has a stash of fresh reads if we find ourselves stuck inside with lots of time on our hands.

For me, thinking through the ways a COVID-19 outbreak might upset my daily life helps me feel calmer when I hear the phrase “pandemic” in casual conversation. Is anyone else a pandemic prepper? If so, what’s on your list?

(PS: Don’t just take it from me. The CDC, NPR, and the WHO offer some prep steps to follow at work and at home as well.)

Sarah Jedd
Sarah Jedd has a Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and studies the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. Sarah has 5 (F I V E) children: teens Harry and Jack, elementary schoolers Cooper and Dorothy, and sweet baby Minnie, born in August 2020. Sarah blogs about being a mom of many at and overshares on IG as @sarahjedd. Sarah, her husband, and their kids live in Verona with the world's laziest dog.


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