Our emergency preparedness supplies for COVID-19 and beyond

How do you prepare yourself for potentially weeks of self-isolation and social distancing (if you can) during Covid-19? How can you avoid going to the shop 3 times a week if that is what you were used to? Here is one example of how one couple keeps their pantry stocked to keep them well-fed for weeks.

Earlier this week, Angela wrote and posted an excellent article on their emergency preparedness in light of Covid-19/coronavirus. Most specifically, she focused on how she keeps her pantry stocked to keep her family eating for a long time.

But one of the most important points about pantry-stocking posts is that they are personal. There is no point in buying lots of rolled oats if you really hate oatmeal. Any staple item you keep in the house in case you need to eat out of your cupboards for a while should be things you eat on a regular basis anyway. That way, you will naturally replenish your supplies, and you don’t get a nasty surprise of expired food or anything else that forces you to just throw the food and associated costs out the window.

So with that in mind, I thought I would do my own pantry and emergency preparedness post. To highlight things we have in common and things that are different. Hopefully, this will inspire you to figure out where your own comfort levels and priorities are. Prepared beyond money? That is #PrepperFI.

As an introduction to our household, we are two adults and one old cat living in Norway. We have no children, and so can go pretty frugal if the situation demands. Our cat is a chill old lady who throws up if she gets too exciting food, so we really only need quality cat food and some cat pearls (she’s too lazy to go outside), and she’s set for this entire pandemic.

Also, while this post is about preparedness and keeping a well-stocked pantry, it is not an encouragement to hoard. We have enough people doing that already.

Non-food items

In our house, there are several things we keep for emergencies that are not food or pantry related. For instance, we bought our house partly because it has a wood-fired oven. If the electricity goes out in the middle of the Norwegian winter, we have a heat source that does not depend on external supply.

  • Firewood for the wood-fired oven
  • Several wool blankets and wool clothes/socks/slippers/etc.
  • Sleeping bags and tents (bought for camping, convenient for preparedness)
  • Matches
  • Candles/storm lantern and lamp oil
  • A small radio that can run on batteries (FM and DAB, to stay up to date on news in the event of a longer power outage)
  • Batteries for the radio
  • A solar-powered power bank that can charge our phones and the radio
  • Lifestraws (water filtering system)*
  • Toothpaste, at least 2 tubs
  • Toothbrushes. For us and unexpected guests.
  • Bar soap (I have a large box full after trying to start a soapmaking sidehustle)
  • Dish soap/dishwasher tablets – I always have an unopened one under the sink. As soon as I open it, I put buying a new one on the shopping list.
  • Ibuprofen/paracetamol, various medication for husband for 30 days
  • Toilet paper – we do keep some toilet paper. But while our pre-Covid19 stock was maybe 6-12 rolls of TP, we are now up to a stockpile of… wait for it… maybe 25 rolls. That’s rolls, not packages. And my husband has IBS.
  • Several large glass jars with thick rubber seals and snap lids for fermentation of fresh produce
  • Boxes and jars for leftovers and to freeze larger meals
  • Several books, both entertainment, cookbooks and a growing collection of old books on how to run households and preserve your own. Some from before electricity was ubiquitous across the country.

* We have a small stream not far from our home that feeds into a large river. Norway has a temperate climate with good amounts of rain, so we consider tools for getting clean water more important than storing barrels of water. Your area might be different.

Perishables

Although we could live quite long on our non-perishables, it does feel quite luxurious to go into a voluntary self-isolation and social distancing with a healthy fridge full of perishables. I also feel like there is not a clear line between perishables and non-perishables, but I’ve tried to separate them.

With that in mind, here are things we enjoy keeping in our fridge:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Various spreads for bread
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Fruit (apples, tangerines, kiwis at the moment. Things we like and will eat)
  • Cheese
  • Smoked fish
  • Eggs
  • Garlic sauce and BBQ-sauce

Note: All our “luxury” and unusual foods (for instance meat or expensive food we have been curious about) come from the “marked down because it will expire soon” section that most Norwegian shops have these days. We do not look at dates that much. We have used milk over one month past expiry with no problems. As long as you look, smell, taste and otherwise carefully inspect your food before consumption, we have never had any issues eating food past its “best by” date.

Semi-perishable

I consider these things with long shelf-lives, but not as long as traditional non-perishables. Most of these are homemade things that I typically make once a year and then spread out throughout the coming year.

Sugary things like jams and juices are not essential but add valuable flavor and sweetness. I consider fermented vegetables more important for preparedness, as they store well without electricity and provides something crisp. As opposed to frozen or canned veg that is often mushy.

  • Jams
  • Juices (canned with heat and sugar, not raw juice)
  • Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled onion, pickled carrots and salsa/piri-piri sauce. Adds crunch, variation, flavor, and vitamins to rice and beans, should that be the only food we have left. How to on this to come.

Note: Seriously, do not underestimate flavor in your own journey to design an emergency pantry of items that works for you. Rice and beans is all well and good and pack a nutritional punch. But you’ll thank yourself if you also remember things like sauces, condiments, stock, bullion, and anything else you love that packs lots of flavor.

Frozen

Non-perishable as long as we have electricity. We enjoy a stable electricity grid where we live, so we do keep a decent part of our pantry frozen.

  • Frozen berries. Wild-picked and store-bought
  • Frozen vegetables (spinach, corn, carrots, peas, wok mixes)
  • Pizza
  • Some fish and meat (typically on sale)
  • Veggie burgers (yum)
  • Homemade stock

Non-perishables

Decidedly the longest list of them all. Which is sort of the point, isn’t it? The biggest difference I noticed from Angela here is that we do not keep a lot of canned food. The only canned food we use regularly is canned tomatoes, coconut milk and the odd can of corn. We don’t really use other canned products but rely instead on fermentation. There is no right or wrong here, just a reminder to tailor your pantry to your own needs and preferences.

  • Salt (at least 1 kg/2 pounds of salt. I use a quite a bit for fermentation and buy sea salt in 10-pound bags)
  • Spices
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice (one 5 kg/10 pound bag)
  • Various dry beans and lentils
  • Canned tomatoes (2-5 cans)
  • Canned coconut milk (1-2 cans)
  • Sugar
  • Flour, white and wholemeal
  • Rolled oats
  • Yeast
  • Baking powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Various seeds (linseeds, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • Nuts and dried fruit (almonds, raisins, walnuts, trail mix)
  • 70 % dark baking chocolate (2 bars)
  • Candy – some chocolate and some hard candy according to preference. Not essential but great for overall team spirit as long as it lasts.
  • Unpopped popcorn kernels – I often crave salty things. And a bag of popcorn kernels will last me so much longer than a bag of crisps. Way cheaper too.
  • Cracker bread
  • Sunflower oil
  • Olive oil
  • Oat milk
  • Coffee and tea (so much yummy loose leaf tea)
  • Lemon juice and vinegar
  • Peanut butter

Conclusion

With the items above, my husband and I can live for weeks without having to go to the shop. The fresh veg and other perishables will go within the first week. Then we start focusing on the frozen food (because what if the power goes out?).

This is not just about surviving but trying to make sure we don’t feel deprived. With sugar, frozen berries, and other baking supplies we can bake bread, tortillas, scones, cake, pies and anything else that takes our fancy.

This is not something we suddenly started doing overnight. So don’t feel bad if you can’t afford to fill up all at once, or just don’t have the habit of stocking up. My husband and I both grew up solidly working-class and know the value of a well-stocked pantry. Keeping a well-stocked pantry brings us a sense of security and peace of mind that money in the bank alone can’t bring us.

And, as Angela also so beautifully pointed out: Look out for family, friends or neighbors who might not be able to stock up on food in the same way. We are all in this together. ❤️

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