I can remember standing on a stool in my hallway counting rolls of toilet paper. A total of 6 were stacked neatly in the closet. For my family of five, 6 rolls would certainly not last long, perhaps a week or so. In the early weeks of the pandemic, we all had those panic moments to varying degrees of stressfulness, and this was surely one of mine. In addition, we were short on just about every other consumable as well as perishable and non-perishable food items. We had no personal protective equipment such as latex gloves, masks or hand sanitizer. COVID-19 had caught us with our proverbial “pants-down”.
Perhaps I’ve seen too many dystopian themed movies, but I certainly reacted as if the apocalypse was here. My girlfriend Mary and I took turns going to the grocery store every day for a week, each time seeing the shelves become markedly emptier and therefore creating more internal panic. The funny thing was the difference in our individual purchases. I leaned towards a “doomsday prepper” mentality – I’d fill the cupboard with non-perishable canned goods, soup, pasta and rice. In my mind, I imagined rationing each meal and pictured myself digging a bunker in the back yard. Could I build a water filtration system? I’d have to look it up. Mary’s approach was no different than normal for grocery shopping, just on a much larger scale. Healthy, well-balanced meals that we all would eat would be the plan! The kids will learn to like vegetables and cauliflower crust pizza! The problem with this strategy is that stocking up on healthy produce can backfire: 60 bananas overflowing the fruit bowl won’t work unless we each eat 5 per day, in which case, the toilet paper may not be necessary. While Mary insisted that she would rather starve than eat canned chili, I pointed out that her strategy would ultimately leave us with a pile of compost. We needed to find a happy medium.
We agreed stocking up on paper goods and non-perishables was a good idea, but we needed to start with storage. I purchased some sturdy shelves for the basement. The top shelf would be paper towels, toilet paper and tissues. The middle shelf would be canned goods, boxed food and other long-term consumables. The bottom shelf was reserved for disposable masks and gloves, household cleaning supplies, soap and other miscellaneous items. Second, we purchased a chest freezer that we could store in the basement as well. The kitchen freezer was just too small, and we found it was getting near impossible to find anything, it being packed so tight. The added appliance was relatively inexpensive and would help us stock up on meat, frozen vegetables and in my case, a healthy supply of frozen pizza. Third, we made sure our cars had some essentials in them like hand sanitizer and extra masks. There’s nothing worse than walking around your local hardware store with your nose in your shirt collar because you forgot your mask – I speak from experience. Lastly and certainly the most important item, COFFEE. This is my lifeblood and I’d probably choose it over food and water if I had to. If I’m hunkering down for the winter, it’s going to be with a cup of coffee in my hand. We use K-Cup® pods in my house so we made sure to have a healthy supply stocked up. With a whole lot of varieties of coffee and tea available, it’ll be like owning our own little coffee shop. Hell let’s throw in some hot cocoa for the kids too.
I suspect this winter will require all of us to stay home, social distance, and hope that the spring brings some relief. If we have learned anything, it is to not panic, make a plan, and keep some extra supplies in your home, not only for a pandemic, but for any prolonged period where items may be limited. I now count 44 Rolls of toilet paper, which isn’t going overboard, and it gives me comfort knowing we won’t be stacking napkins on the top of the toilet tank any time soon.