It is important to be prepared, in case you have to quarantine at home.

The seasons are changing, and temperatures are cooling. Especially if you live in a cold weather state, this is typically synonymous with spending more time indoors. But this year, there are special circumstances causing concern around the holiday season. With more indoor gatherings and anticipated celebrations, many are expecting the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. to continue to increase.

There's no need to panic shop and hoard all the groceries (and toilet paper) you can find, a little planning and preparation can go a long way. Here are some items you might want to have on hand in case someone in your family gets sick, you travel or need to quarantine for another reason this winter.

pantry illustration
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What to stock up on

Try to have these essentials on hand in case anyone in your family falls ill or needs to quarantine for two weeks in this upcoming season.

Groceries & pantry

What two weeks of groceries actually looks like depends on a lot of variables, including the size of your household. It can be challenging to think of what you'll need for two weeks, but making a flexible meal plan and purchasing some shelf-stable items and frozen foods can help. Only buying what you actually need and will use can help you cut down on food waste and save money. Try to focus on things you know your family already likes. For example, if you aren't a fan of chickpeas, don't buy a dozen cans of them for quarantining (even if they are on sale). Additionally, several canned and dried goods virtually don't go bad, making them great foods to have on hand in case you're stuck at home.

To help you be even more prepared, try to plan ahead with leftovers. Many dishes like stews, bakes and casseroles can be frozen for a rainy day. If it is available in your area, try out a grocery delivery service in advance so you are familiar with how it works in case you can't leave your house and need to buy food. Several farmers even make home deliveries of nutritious, seasonal food.

Here is a checklist of several foods with a long shelf life that can be kept on hand:

  • Proteins: Whether it is a vegetarian source, like tofu, or animal source like chicken, beef or fish, many proteins can be frozen for close to six months in the freezer.
  • Fresh Fruits: Fruits like apples, oranges and pomegranate last up to four weeks, which is much longer than more tender fruits like berries or bananas.
  • Fresh Vegetables: Squash, onions, garlic and potatoes can be stored at room temp for four to six weeks, while hearty vegetables like Brussels sprouts and root vegetables can last several weeks in the fridge.
  • Frozen foods: Include fruits, vegetables and even prepared meals, like pizza and burritos.

  • Breads & cereals: Opt for whole-grain and low-sugar options when you can.

  • Nuts & nut butters: These are shelf stable and great for snacking, plus you can pair with bread and jelly for a quick, healthy meal.

  • Eggs: This inexpensive protein lasts for a long time in the fridge. Eggs are great for breakfasts, dinners and lunches.

  • Milk: You may not be able to get a two-week supply of fresh milk, but you can buy shelf-stable or powdered milks. You can also freeze milk.

  • Butter: Great for quarantine baking. Store in freezer to boost its shelf life.

  • Beans: Beans are super nutritious, affordable and versatile. Whether they are canned or dried, they make great pantry staples to have on hand.

  • Canned fish: Great for a tuna salad lunch or a spicy salmon cake dinner.

  • Canned vegetables: Diced tomatoes are a great building block for many stews, casseroles or pastas. Canned corn and artichokes can elevate dishes like pasta and casseroles as well, just keep an eye on the sodium or choose no-salt-added options.

  • Grains: Anything from rice, oats, quinoa, couscous and more.

  • Pasta: Dried pasta can last up to two years in a pantry.

  • Spices & condiments: Take note of your spice rack and condiment shelf and add any you're almost out of to your list.

  • Cooking oils

  • Electrolyte drinks: These aren't necessary for most people, but they may help you stay hydrated if you're not feeling well.

  • Tea, seltzer or other comforting drinks of choice: Hydration is important when you are sick, so buy things you will want to drink while keeping an eye on added sugar.

  • Snacks: Choose things like whole-grain crackers with cheese, dried fruit or energy bars to keep you full between meal times (and feed hungry kids!).

Supplies you may need

Aside from food, there are several other things that you may need if spending an extended period of time at home. Also consider any other special circumstances your household may have, whether it is a person with a chronic illness, a new baby or a pet that needs food and supplies as well. Lastly, be sure to include some things for entertainment—perhaps a new toy for your child or a new book or puzzle for you.

  • Cold medicine & throat lozenges

  • Tissues

  • Thermometer

  • First aid kit

  • Prescription medication for up to 30 days

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Hand soap

  • Disinfectant spray or wipes

  • Paper towels

Other helpful tips

Make a plan ahead of time in case you need to quarantine in the future. Connect with your neighbors or people who live near you about how to best reach them if you are quarantining and need some help with errands or supplies.

Don't hoard. It is not necessary to buy more than you actually need to be prepared for a few weeks at home. Not only is it not fair to those who can't afford to buy in bulk, but it can also lead to more food waste.

Last but certainly not least, stay positive. Take solace in the fact that being prepared helps you manage risky situations.

Bottom Line

The idea of having to quarantine in the winter should not be a cause for panic (we don't need another toilet paper shortage). We are all trying to find the best way to manage the risk associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and it will likely be a moving target in the holiday season. However, it is important to be prepared in the situation that you or someone in your family falls ill and you need to suddenly quarantine at home for two weeks. These lists can help you take stock of what you have and supplement what you need so you are prepared for what the season has in store.