When I wrote about the plastic bag ban back in January, I started off with a story of chaos in the stores as people had to learn how to carry their own groceries without the use of single-use plastic bags. It was written satirically, because I had foolheartedly believed that humanity was full of levelheaded individuals who can adapt and grow with changes. Yet, now, we’re in an apocalypse scenario—not so much that the world itself is ending, but of supply hoarding as though it were. Friends, neighbors and countrymen have all taken to the shelves, bringing home the spoils of war, in this case: toilet paper. Let all those who look upon our COVID-19 quarantine realize that we survived it with the cleanest of asses.
There’s a lot to say about the handling of this outbreak, but most of it has been said before by others far more talented than I. What all this boils down to is that we sit somewhere between not needing to panic, but undertaking some modicum of prevention to ensure this thing doesn’t actually require panicking. Hoarding supplies is bad for everyone, but being prepared on a personal level is good. So how much should you be buying if you’re planning on bunkering down? Currently, the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are telling people that staying indoors for the next two weeks should be the ideal time period, at least to assess what is going on and how serious the issue will be.
Two weeks is a good number. Most of us buy groceries on the assumption they will last us around that long, depending on how often you cook at home and whether you buy things fresh or non-perishable, so for many, this isn’t going to be difficult. But let’s say maybe you’ve never had to rely on cooking at home for two weeks straight before, and you don’t want to risk going out to eat (takeout is still an option for the many restaurants that need your support currently!) So, just to be helpful, let’s talk about what you should grab to be stocked up and happy without overstocking. I’ll be excluding non-perishable canned goods and veggies, because it’s a no-brainer that having a small assortment of those around is an all-around good idea.
Truly, in terms of versatility, there’s so much you can do with these two ingredients. For example, one pound of rice is equivalent to roughly 11 servings. With a 10-pound bag and creativity, you’ve got a lot of versatility at an incredibly low cost (anything over $15 for basic white rice is going to be excessive.) Additionally, dried beans are similar, with one pound providing roughly 10 servings. The beauty of beans and rice is that it functions well as a dish on its own, but with some small modifications, you can completely change the dish up, using other ingredients around the house. You can mix it up with different seasoning profiles, you can pair it with almost anything and the list of pre-made recipes online is nearly endless. For $30, you can easily set up a series of meals using these two ingredients, with an addition of spices you (hopefully) have sitting around but haven’t been given the attention they deserve lately.
I know, knee-jerk reactions dictate that buying 30 pounds of ground beef feels right, but earnestly, it’s overkill. With ground beef typically sitting around $3 per pound and being versatile in its use (may I recommend a cottage pie that can last you a week, if you’re just cooking for yourself or two people), you’ll be able to do quite a bit with 10 pounds. Boneless chicken breasts are also quite useful, coming in at around $2 per pound. There are a practically infinite number of recipes that utilize chicken breasts in unique ways, and with them being so easy to cook and season, you can make 10 pounds go a long way.
Versatile, cheap, easy and always delicious, potatoes are the everyman’s go-to side dish. A wise friend once said that you can “Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” and that was just scratching the surface. At around $5 for a 10 pound bag, you can make them go a long way. My personal favorite is to roast a pan of them in olive oil and seasoning, making a large enough side dish to last more than a couple days, using only two of your 10 available pounds.
Look, it’s easy to hoard things. Whether it be food, toilet paper (seriously y’all, why?) or anime figures, it’s never healthy to overstock up. We’re putting stress on a system that can’t take it, overworking grocery store employees and leaving others without. Speaking of, be kind to those folks. They’re working in one of the craziest rushes of business they’ve ever seen, in the middle of an outbreak. They’re exhausted and scared like everyone else, and deserve our compassion. Additionally, check your local markets and forget the big chains. They’re the ones being passed over, and are probably abundantly stocked right now. Buy for your immediate needs so that the whole of society can function. It might seem scary, but, trust me: We can do this. And if you run out of toilet paper, just know that this article is useful and newspaper isn’t sceptic safe. Try a hose instead.