How To Prepare For Self-Isolation Without Panic Buying

By Debbie Wolfe on March 30 2020 in Society

You can stock up on cleaning supplies and food before you go into self-isolation, but don't buy too much. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
You can stock up on cleaning supplies and food before you go into self-isolation, but don't buy too much. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
  • Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
  • The current coronavirus pandemic has created mass shortages of household essentials due to panic buying.
  • Panic buying is not about fear or running out, it’s about control.

The current coronavirus pandemic has created mass shortages of household essentials due to panic buying. Grocery stores in Europe, North America, and Australia are experiencing record sales and are often left with empty shelves. Top sold-out items included hand sanitizer, bleach wipes, and toilet paper. However, research shows that panic buying is a perfectly rational response to the current situation.

What is Panic Buying?

Panic buying makes consumers feel like they are in control. Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, panic buying is “a situation in which many people suddenly buy as much food, fuel, etc., as they can because they are worried about something bad that may happen.” As the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, made its way to western countries, people panicked and flocked to nearby stores to stock up on everything they could find. According to Yale Insights, panic buying is not about fear or running out, it’s about control.

"Consumers feel out of control about many aspects of the pandemic, but they do have control when they choose to stock up on things,” says Nathan Novemsky, professor of marketing at Yale University, “so they exercise that control to feel better about the situation.”

Novemsky further explains that due to the uncertainty of the situation, people worry about not buying something they may or may not need and they are not concerned about buying too much.

Make a Plan

Social distancing prevents healthcare workers from being overwhelmed with patients. Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Many areas have ordered short-term social distancing and sheltering in place. This is to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 so hospitals and other healthcare facilities do not get overwhelmed with patients., the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, has outlined parameters of everything you need in order to survive a multitude of disasters, including a pandemic. The list is not exhaustive, and needs will vary from family to family. The best way to make sure you are prepared is to plan ahead. There’s no need to stockpile a year’s worth of toilet paper. Supply chains are still in place, and stores are getting restocked. Resist the urge to panic buy and only get what you need to in order to stay out of the stores for at least two weeks and up to a month. Rather than panic buying before self-isolation begins, just make sure you are adequately stocked.


Make sure you have at least a month's supply of prescriptions at home. Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash

According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home. The CDC recommends having at least a month’s supply of prescriptions as well as over-the-counter medications and other self-care items you may need. Over-the-counter medications should include pain relievers, medication to treat fever and other symptoms, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins. Make sure you have self-care items such as tissues, thermometer, humidifier, or anything that you typically use to treat a severe cold or flu.

Skip the face masks. You don’t need one unless your healthcare provider tells you need one. Currently, the CDC doesn’t recommend that people who are well to wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19 or any respiratory illnesses. Face masks should only be worn by people with COVID-19 symptoms to help prevent others from getting infected.

Food for You,Your Family, and Pets

Frozen food can last several months. Image credit:

When preparing for self-isolation, stock up on things with a long shelf life, such as soup and other canned food but don’t go overboard. Non-perishable pantry items and easy-to-prepare items are great to have on hand. Pantry items you should have on hand include:

  • Canned items: vegetables, fruit, soups, beans, fish and/or meats will last for months when stored at a moderate temperature (about 75 degrees.)
  • Non-canned items: peanut butter, applesauce, pasta, dried fruit, stock, baby food (if needed), and shelf-stable, pasteurized milk.
  • Breakfast items and snacks: protein bars, oatmeal, popcorn, and crackers. 
  • Root vegetables: onions, garlic, and potatoes.
  • Baking items and spices: flour, sugar, boxed cake mix, and other box mixes (cornbread, etc.) commonly used spices and condiments.

Your freezer is perfect for short to medium-term storage. Frozen items made to last for several months in the freezer. Some freezer items to have on hand:

  • Bags of vegetables to use as side dishes or to add to soup and stews.
  • Frozen fruit is good smoothies and toppings for oatmeal and yogurt.
  • Larger packages of cut meats, ground beef, and whole chickens. 
  • Frozen meals such as pizzas, burritos, and other small meals.

Preparing for self-isolation doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself of eating fresh items. Some perishable goods last longer than others and you should definitely have these items on hand:

  • Eggs
  • Bread (sliced, bagels, English muffins, etc.)
  • Butter 
  • Citrus
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Apples

Don’t forget about your pets. Make sure you have a month's supply of pet food, medications, and anything else you need to take care of your pets. 

Just plan on stocking up with a reasonable amount of food items that your family typically goes through in a month. For perishable items like milk and fresh produce, you should plan on shopping online or scheduling a grocery delivery once a week (or every two weeks), depending on how much of in your family goes through. 

Cleaning Supplies

Do not buy more than one month's worth of hand sanitizer. Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus. The CDC says “COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community.” Keeping your home clean is paramount to mitigating the spread of the virus. Fortunately, COVID-19 is easy to kill on surfaces. If you can’t find disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer, don’t worry. Handwashing is the best way to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. The CDC recommends “washing your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.” Use a 60% alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water are not available. You don’t need more than a month’s supply of hand sanitizer, which for most people is one bottle.

The CDC also recommends that you clean frequently touched surfaces with detergent or soap and water, then disinfect. Frequently touched surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Common EPA-registered household disinfectants are effective in killing COVID-19. A couple of bleach wipes containers or rubbing alcohol will be enough to disinfect surfaces of most homes.

Stay Vigilant

Keep calm and resist the urge to panic buy. Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

As we see the COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the world, it’s important to keep calm and resist the urge to panic buy. As more people rely on delivery and online ordering,  you won’t be getting items as fast you did before. Just make a plan to reorder or shop at least a week before you run out.

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