Written: March 13, 2020
Updated: 2:03 p.m. – 3/13/2020
I will updating this post periodically over the course of the day!
Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse (this is not just because of CoViD-19)!
So for starters, I have to say that we bought (or buy on a regular basis) most of these things – in quantity whenever possible – before we had any concerns about CoViD-19. As parents raising boys, with three at home and one away at college — all pretty tall and still growing / constantly grazing [our youngest – Charlie – is just 11, and already over 5′ 9″!], we always “stock up” on non-perishables and supplies whenever we can afford to / whenever we have a little extra money / whenever items we normally use are on sale!
When, why & how we buy stuff:
- Earthquake concerns: In addition to just being prudent, we have the added concern here in the Pacific Northwest of “THE BIG ONE” — the much-anticipated “happens-every-few-hundred-years-and-possibly-overdue-now-so-maybe-sometime-soon” mega-earthquake – so we also try to factor in some “emergency inventory” of some regular items with that in the back of our minds as well, whenever possible.
- Car-free living: Having intentionally designed a primarily car-free daily life for our family over our nearly 18 years here in Portland [one of our central objectives in moving to this community], in the winter we also generally plan / consolidate our bigger grocery runs around times when we have access to a car – or a friend with a car – so that’s another consideration others might not have.
- How we otherwise shop car-free: For small regular grocery runs (up to 4-6 bags of groceries), my husband’s lovely creations — a handy pedestrian shopper (push cart), or one of his heavy-duty bicycle cargo trailers, combined with having New Seasons and QFC grocery stores in our neighborhood [within easy walking and bicycling distance, respectively] eliminates the need for a motor vehicle for most of our shopping. However when bulk buying (to get better prices) – including trips to People’s Co-op, or stores across town (including Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s, and Costco runs), it’s usually too much of an inconvenience for me to spend the time and effort to do that by bike or on-foot (especially while managing kids).
- Amazon: I rarely buy things on Amazon, as I can almost always find staples cheaper by focusing on sales at local brick & mortar stores (plus I HATE the environmental impact of all of the personalized shipping – including the extreme amounts of extra packaging and plastic that often come with Amazon boxed products.)
- Sales!: Finally, most weeks our local neighborhood grocery store (New Seasons) has a 50% off sale on *something*, and I try to buy as much of that thing as I can afford when the sales happen (with my criteria being that it has to be something we normally would buy anyway, even when it is not on sale!)
So, while I have written this in response to the CoViD-19 pandemic and it’s consequent potential disruption (both the imaginable and the unpredictable), this list is really stuff we stock up on normally [with the content having mostly nothing to do with #CoViD19 – but the timing of it being incredibly relevant, spurring us to make sure we are equipped and well-stocked here at the Rubin compound in Portland]. I will be updating this list over the course of the next few days – with things I forgot to add because the kids are underfoot, and have been for more than a week — but I wanted to publish it now in case anyone found it useful!
One REALLY IMPORTANT contextual note:
I feel incredibly lucky that I just got paid [for my work in December of 2019]. If I hadn’t just gotten paid, I would not be able to stock up on ANYTHING this week. Having lived in food scarcity and relative poverty in general (albeit we are very fortunate to have a roof over our heads and amazing friends helping us!) for most of the past four years, I want to acknowledge that so many of my friends – and much of America actually – are not in a position to stock up at all (and we would not have been able to if this had happened a couple of months ago). So please think of your neighbors – and share with them during this time… check in with them…make sure they are safe and have what they need. Thank you.
Here’s what we have on hand / buy when we can afford to / are trying to stock up on now…
- Toilet Paper: we bought a bunch at Costco a couple of months ago, so we’re still good there (we haven’t needed to buy any this week!) But I will say that after I bought maybe 5 multi-packs of toilet paper at Costco [for the first and last time!] I decided I will never buy that toilet paper again. I usually buy the bamboo toilet paper – which comes in cardboard boxes, and only has one layer of plastic packaging <sigh> . From an environmental perspective, I was so upset with the idea of purchasing toilet paper in bulk from Costco – made unsustainably – from cut-down trees – and then wrapped in all those layers of plastic… that I decided that I would not do that again any time soon.
- Paper Towels: I never buy these (we use reusable cotton washcloths normally, with a useful life of years – instead of throw-away paper towels), but I caved under the urgings of some friends – and bought two 6 roll-packages of paper towels, that I fully expect to never use. I bought 48 matching -purple! – wash cloths a couple of years ago, and that is what we always use in the place of paper towels. [It’s just as sanitary, given they go into the laundry after each and every use, and a fresh one grabbed from the stack whenever the need arises, so they are not normally a vector for spreading disease.]
- All-purpose soap: The local grocery store recently had a 50% off sale on Dr. Bronner’s – so I am set for soap for a while, too! At 50% off, I bought enough of their larger size containers to use as much as one a month (which is about what we go through normally — for washing hands, hair, bodies and other things). Granted, I don’t often buy Dr. Bronner’s (because I cannot always afford it), but have been using this brand of soap since I was a child in the 1970s — so this was a really exciting sale for me!
- Q-Tips: We use these for many things — so I recently bought three 500-count boxes! That should last us at least a year, for all the things for which we might need to use them!
- Clorox Wipes: I have none today (3/13/2020). I would buy some if I could, but they are sold out literally everywhere! We buy them for cleaning up areas of accumulation of potentially Lead-contaminated dust [we live in a neighborhood of mostly older houses and buildings — undergoing perpetual renovation, re-painting, and demolition / construction!]. I try to make sure to have about 6 tubs of these in my storage shed at all time but I have been out for about 6 months now and – not having $ recently – missed the boat on getting more. I take secret comfort in knowing that now all of these people cleaning with Clorox Wipes in order to make sure to not catch #CoViD19 will also be effectively (yet unintentionally / unknowingly) cleaning up any Lead dust hazards in their homes. My followers know that I have done some informal experiments and know that Clorox Wipes are very effective at cleaning up Lead-dust.
- Dish washer tabs: I usually buy these by the case or on sale (or both) and recently (in early February) got a really good deal on Amazon – so we’re already stocked up there (6 bags!) I buy scent-free, dye-free tabs that are not in plastic inner pouches.
- Sponges: we try to buy these in bulk (or on sale) whenever we have $ to do so. A few months ago I bought a 12-pack, so we’re good for a while there.
- Laundry detergent: I have a specific unscented natural (locally made) detergent I use and I recently found it on deep sale at our local QFC, so I bought 7 bottles when I got paid. This should be enough to last us for about a year. This was not a #CoVid19Panic buy – this is how I normally buy my laundry detergent (if I find it on sale!)
- Dish washing detergent (scent-free, dye-free – for hand washing dishes): I usually buy this on sale or by the case. We are down to two bottles from the last time I bought it… so it’s probably time to order some more.
- Tooth brushes: I try to always make sure that we have at least 5 extra new toothbrushes around – for guests or emergencies. In spite of the environmental impact (plastics!) I really like the disposable electric ones (that last 6 months or a year) for the kids. My older kids use a reusable electric one (with disposable tips).
- Tooth paste: We use very little toothpaste in our home (maybe two tubes a year max), but I like to make sure we have an extra couple of tubes around just in case.
- Flossers: We go through more of these than we should. With my kids various issues (including OCD and SPD, etc.) we have found that the little swords work best. The kids use them two times (rinsing in between) and then (if they have any life left in them) we sterilize them so they can use them again. We try to keep an extra bag or two of these on hand at all times so we don’t run out. I am going to look into getting the non-plastic recyclable ones but I have not yet gone down that rabbit hole!
Medications + First Aid:
- Dye-Free Benadryl: A.J. can get life threatening hives and had an episode about two weeks ago (from ingesting a tiny bit of red-dye) so I recently grabbed four boxes. For some reason this is not easy to find – which is ironic given the dye is what CAUSES his hives! [We also have two epi-pens on hand!]
- Generic Tylenol: I never use this (I’m an Advil girl – Tylenol has no impact on me – ever) but hubs insisted on having some around so we bought two bottles.
- Advil: I usually buy one or two bottles of Advil (the biggest I can find) when they are on sale. Yes, I know how bad this stuff can be – but it seems to be the only thing that helps with my monthly pain…. so I just limit it taking it to two or three times a month, but it is super important that we never run out.
- My thyroid medication: I always get 90 days at a time… “just in case” [I’ve been without it before and I am completely non-functional when that happens!] I just sent my husband to the store this morning to see if I can pay for a new 90 day refill (just in case, as a back-up refill – even though I am not quite out!)
- My son’s medicine: We actually saw “all the doctors” in the past couple of week (#1.) dentists: teeth cleaning & fillings, #2.) doctor for ongoing condition with Charlie – we are trying to keep him out of surgery, #3.) doctor for my knee, got x-rays, #4.) dentist for my husband, who needed a tooth pulled! – etc.) We tried to cram in a bunch of these visits in the past few weeks so we don’t have to worry about them for a while. That said – I still haven’t been able to afford to get myself to the dentist in about 4 years (kids come first and special dentists that work with special needs kids are not usually covered by insurance!)
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Good for so many things – including household cleaning and first aid. I have been meaning to keep some extra on hand but the CoViD 19 crisis this week spurred me to ask my husband to pick up 5 or 10 large bottles at the store while he is out this morning. That’s about what we go through in a year (plus it is a cheap and easy essential to stock up on!)
- Neosporin: We tend to go through a lot of this so usually by 6 tubes at a time and have them all over the house so we can find them when we need them.
- Bandaids: It seems we never have enough of these no matter how many we buy, so we try to keep up with the demand for all the different types and buy on sale whenever we can. My husband likes to buy these in bulk from the industrial safety supply store near us. Finger tip bandaids and knuckle bandaids are a critical resource around here (as probably happens with most homes that have an active machine shop on site!)
Food Luxuries + “Treats”:
It’s super important to have treats around when you have kids who might need incentives (incentives for doing chores, or rewards for being good) especially during a crisis (or any time when you might need to spend a lot of time inside… she writes as it starts to SNOW in Portland… OMG it is snowing outside right now!) Grownups also need treats too! (Very important!)
- Coffee!!!: Grown-up priorities. We try to make sure we have at least three months of coffee on hand. I am addicted. This is – in large part – because of my thyroid disorder and crazy energy requirements called for when parenting disabled kids. I literally cannot function without two or three cups of coffee each day.
- Instant Coffee: I just decide to get some of this too – as a “back up supply” – LOL!
- Chocolate: There was a 50% off sale for Organic chocolate at our local store recently so I got a stash and set it aside in a hidden place to dole out over time (for crisis times like this week!) We don’t eat chocolate very often – so this is definitely only bough as a crisis comfort food! When I do buy chocolate I always by organic and look for brands that use fewer ingredients and that process their products in the United States. You can read more about my concern for Lead in chocolate here.
- Chips (organic corn and organic potato): These were also on a deep-discount sale recently and can be a sneaky way for kids to eat veggies (by making chunky fresh-veggie salsa to go with the chips for example!) These are also only given as a treat, but are good to have a bunch of on hand and last forever.
- Girl Scout Cookies: If there is ever extra $ during Girl Scout cookie season I love to support the local kids and get a case or two of Girl Scout cookies to give to my kids as a special (rare) treat. Only two of my kids eat cane sugar – so this is not something I can give to all of them. They now have GMO-free options but I have been holding out for them to come out with organic cookies… maybe we should start a petition (or support a Girl Scout in starting a petition!)
- Santa Barbara brand canned black olives: For my 11-year-old Charlie – I must have extra cans of these on hand for when the “ultimate treat” is warranted and when he needs fast calories! [We only buy this brand, it is the most natural brand of canned black olives out there.] We try to buy these when they are on sale – and I like to have 4 or 5 cans on hand for emergencies with Charlie. [This is the kind of thing you need to do when you have kids with certain disabilities, when you find something that 100% absolutely works to calm them down….]
- Beer: I almost never drink! And since I have gotten older (last 5 or 6 years) I actually get sick (like my stomach hurts!) whenever I drink wine – even fancy organic wine. However I think Beer and wine fall in different categories because beer can be very helpful if you are sick to you stomach (in some circumstances)… plus… “Guiness is Good For You!” 😉 I usually buy one 6 or 8 pack of canned Guiness every year (when it is on sale – around St. Patrick’s Day!) and then never drink it and bring it to someone’s party to give away if it is a BYOB party (usually the following Christmas season!) I think I maybe max out at 2 beers a year… BUT if I am going to drink beer it’s nearly always Guiness (and Guiness is the only beer I will ever buy myself!)… I have a story about why that is and I will write that up sometime soon! That said: I bought an 8-pack of Guiness on sale the other day (because it is almost St. Patrick’s day) – and again, I would have bought that this time of year even if it were not the Zombie Apocalypse – because there has not been any beer in the house for several months – lol!
- Wine: I’m not planning on buying any wine. For my birthday last year (November 20) I bought like 4 or 5 bottles of cheap Trader Joe’s organic wine. We drank like 1/2 a bottle with friends at my house and the rest sat around on the counter for a couple of weeks (with one of those cool stoppers that removes the air and keeps the wine fresh – I will do a post bout that thing, I love it!) before we dumped it out. So I still have a few bottles of wine sitting around (if anyone wants one… but frankly the Trader Joe’s organic wine sucks – it’s not even worth the $3.99 a bottle – or however much it cost – yuck!)
- Herbs (the adult kind – ahem, we’re in Oregon, plus this could go under “medical” too!): …. We rarely have $ for this so would probably keep more on hand if we could afford to. Usually the most we have on hand is about 1/2 of a small film canister size container (I don’t even know how much that is – but it is not much – like $20 worth.) My husband needs this to sleep at night, it’s kind of critical to his routine given several of his health issues (which we are working on improving). So this is on our “would have more of this on hand if we could” list. But we have friends who are helpful in that area too 🙂 [You are allowed to have plants at home in Oregon, so many of our friends do – and they often share their crops, as (for those of you not in Oregon) your neighbors might share their extra zucchinis with you – lol! :-)!]
Cooking & Food Storage Supplies
- Aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, parchment paper: Avi is a big baker – which keeps him busy (so it is an educational activity) and also usually results in at-least-somewhat-edible food for the family! I like to make sure we always have extras of these things in stock for both art-activities and food! [Charlie LOVES to use aluminum foil for art projects too – so I get smaller rolls just for him to play with when I have a little extra $.]
- Plastic baggies: We use these VERY RARELY so I always buy on sale and a few boxes generally last us years. More often than not we take Ball jars on the go!
- Glass storage jars: We try to make sure we have extra of all sizes around for various things (food use and other projects too – like the ant traps I just made this week! – link).
Continue reading below the image…
Non-Perishable Food Essentials
- Canned kidney beans & canned garbanzo beans: Charlie (our 11-year-old) loves bean salad made with canned beans. We always need to make sure Charlie has food he likes (because he can get dangerously “hangry” if he does not!) Luckily these are regularly sold for $1 a can (for organic) and so we always try to have 10 cans of each on hand to make him bean salad in a pinch.
- Non-perishable Tofu: Tofu in those shelf-stable boxes are a must. We look for them on sale whenever we can and always try to have at least 10 boxes in our food storage area.
- Canned soup: Our grocery store has a 50% of soup sale every year and we try to get as many canned soups as we can when that happens.
- Peanut Butter (in glass jars): We also get these during the local grocery store’s 50% off sale – but we can never afford enough, and we always get as many as we can buy! I think, as a mostly vegan / mostly sugar-free household (without any peanut allergies!)- we could easily spend $1,000 on peanut butter in a year. Sometime i’ll have to do the math on that one and see how much peanut butter we actually eat in a year!)
- Soy Milk: Our most disabled kiddo will only drink ONE BRAND of soy milk and so we always stock up on that whenever we have a little extra money. Over a week ago I had special ordered 2 cases (because you get a 10% discount if you buy a case.) Trader Joes doesn’t carry them anymore (they used to be $2.29 there) and at our grocery store they are usually $3.49 or $3.69 – which is a huge price difference. So we always buy “all of them on the shelf” when there is a sale – and this week (since I just got paid for the month) I was able to afford to be able to advance order two cases, which we picked up a couple of days ago (so that’s 24 soy milk containers.) Then we found them on sale last night and bought all the ones on the shelf at the store last night too. We’ve tried EVERY kind of unsweetened non-dairy milk there is AND we tried making it ourselves with a fancy soy milk making machine for a couple years… but this is the only thing he will drink or use with cereal so it is pretty crucial to keeping Avi fed. So we currently have like 30 containers of that in our shed (which, again – we would have anyway because we stock up when we have money so we don’t need to worry about running out of them when we have none (like towards the end of the month.)
- Boxed cereal: Avi does not eat cane sugar and we also avoid wheat with him (whenever possible) so whenever we see sugar-free, wheat-free boxed cereal options on a good sale, we stock up. The other day QFC was having a deep-discount sale on some organic, sugar-free options so we bought about 10 boxes. We dole this stuff out slowly as a treat (or use it as emergency breakfast on school days when we don’t have time to cook something else!)
- Rice and beans: We have a dry food shelf in our kitchen (image above) that we try to keep stocked with all of the kinds of rice and beans. My husband is the vegan stew master (he makes all kinds of delicious vegan soups and stews) so this is the basics for his cooking mastery. The image above is our kitchen today – 3/13/2020.
- Crackers and Matzoh: Because it is almost Passover and for some reason (!) there was still a lot of Matzoh on the shelves the other day when I went #CoViD19 “panic shopping” I stocked up on matzoh and matzoh meal too. We try to limit flour products but when the kids do eat them we make sure they have fresh vegetables both before and after eating them (to keep things going.)
- Pasta: all the pasta!
- Includes boxed Mac & Cheese – I try to keep 10 or 20 boxes on hand at all times – so if there is a big sale on organic Mac & Cheese I might buy a case or two.
- Includes canned organic pasta for kids (Trader Joes) – because Charlie LOVES those and it is REALLY IMPORTANT (for our physical and mental health) that Charlie- with his disabilities – has lots of choices we can feed him quickly where we are 100% sure he will eat the whole thing and get some calories into his belly!) [I didn’t manage to buy any of these this week – and I understand Trade Joe’s is basically empty today – so I don’t think I am going to bother checking! LOL!]
- Includes usually 10 or 20 bags of other organic pasta that I either get at Trader Joes or when there are big sales.
- Pasta Sauce, Pizza Sauce, Tomato Sauce (in glass jars when possible): again – I stock up whenever there is a sale. I especially like the pre-made pizza sauce (which several organic brands carry)… because for some reason my kids HATE red sauce on pasta, but they will always eat it on pizza… so that helps to keep their diet a little more diverse (and I don’t have the time or the patience to “whip up” pizza sauce from scratch if my kids are starving – which they always are… they are like hobbits, 12 meals a day I think!)
Condiments, Spices + “Ingredients”
- Red wine vinegar: We try to keep stocked up on this as well – because that’s the third (and most critical) ingredient in Charlie’s 3-ingredient bean salad (above).
- Coconut oil in glass jars: Whenever there is a sale I try to stock up (5 or 10 jars if we can afford it!)
- Coconut sugar: For Avi’s baking projects!
- Mission Critical Spices: We always try to stock up on organic cinnamon, vanilla, powdered garlic, ginger – and a few other spices we use often when the glass jars of them are on sale. If there is a really good sale I will buy 4 or 5 jars of spices to have on hand for emergencies. We often buy in bulk and refill the glass jars using the bulk spices… but I still like to have some sealed jars on hand for the Zombie Apocalypse.
- Organic Gluten Free Tamari: We only buy this kind – only this brand (see the picture). If it is ever on sale with a big discount I buy everything on the shelf.
- Organic Tahini: I think it is so cool that Trader Joe’s sells this (and in glass no-less!) We love tahini mixed with lemon juice as a sauce for greens (like Kale).
- Organic sesame oil: We buy this rarely as we use so little of it, but I do try to keep an extra bottle on hand.
- Jellies and Jams: So this is controversial in my family. I consider jellies and jams to be a condiment, which doesn’t go over well with the frequency of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our home (which presents another problem because Avi really should not be eating bread!) Anyhoo – we also buy REALLY expensive jams and jellies if we buy them, so we can only afford to buy them on deep sale – very rarely. The reason they are so expensive is that – to meet Avi’s dietary needs – they have to be both SUGAR FREE (no added cane sugar) and ORGANIC – and that is so hard to find, and when you do find it it is the most expensive on the jam shelf most often! [Most jams are either sugar free or organic – not both!] As a result, I usually buy about half as many jars of jam as I do peanut butter, and then fill in the gap with homemade jams and jellies that we make (and also gift) or that are gifted to us by friends and neighbors (I LOVE getting gifts of your homemade jams and jellies – yum – my favorite is Apricot, my husband’s favorite is Strawberry!)
- Salt: Yeah – well, if you are regular reader you know my thoughts about salt! LOL! and if not, you can read more about that on this link!
- Cat food: We have four cats. This may seem like a luxury (given how broke we have been) but it is 100% necessary given we live near a river in a densely populated area. When we moved here our 1905 home (which had holes in the foundation to let all sorts of critters in) had a massive mouse problem. Then about three years ago (I think it was 2017) the city of Portland, Oregon was overrun with rats (with exterminators reporting more than three times their normal calls for rat issues that year – likely due to our relative population explosion.) The cats do an amazing job of keeping our home rat and mouse free, and it’s important to keep them fed! We buy as much natural (no fillers: no wheat, soy or corn) cat-food as we can when we can afford it (so we run out less often.) I must say though that moments of poverty (over the past four years) has definitely made this challenging – but luckily we have an amazingly supportive community who has helped us when things got really slim.
- Bunny food: Because we also have to keep our bunny Louis Armstrong fed (but we’re set for this right now as we buy usually 6 months of food at at time when we buy it – to save $).
What are you buying? I am curious! Please feel free to comment on this post (especially if you think I have left something out!)
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts!
Please let me know if you have any questions.