Here’s How I’m Stocking My Kitchen to Get My Family Through This Pandemic

A single mom’s guide to practical preparation and peace of mind.

stocked pantry shelves
stocked pantry shelves

As a single mom, nothing is more scary to me than not being able to provide for my children. I’m a single mom of four. Two of my daughters still live at home. They’re 11 and 15 years old. Not little, but still very impressionable. I also have ten grandchildren all age 13 and under.

What’s happening in the world right now is unprecedented. Everything is so uncertain. I don’t think anyone knows for sure exactly how bad things will get before things get better.

If your kids are anything like mine, and your schools are closed, your kids are eating you out of house and home right now. My kids can get extra cranky when their favorite foods aren’t available on demand. Most times, they have to live without until I get to the store. But times are different right now. This isn’t about snacks and treats, it’s about maintaining whatever normalcy possible.

Why I want to ramp up my food preps

I don’t want my kids and grandkids to remember COVID-19 as a traumatic event where they went to bed hungry. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun a little. But I’d rather buy a little extra now when I can instead of wishing I’d done it several weeks or months from now.

So, when I first started hearing about COVID-19, I talked things over with my mom, a master gardener who is much more skilled in the kitchen than I am. My oldest daughter and three of my grandchildren live with her. We came up with a list of several things we’d need to cook the basics from scratch if things got bad so we can at least feed the kids and keep things as normal as possible.

Every family is different. Things I need might not be what you need. Breakfast is a big comfort meal for us. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, etc.

So we will be able to boost morale in our house if we can still make those things for breakfast. I was talking to a writer friend of mine about a month ago, who said she just wished someone would give her a list to follow so she could get ideas.

My suggestions

(I do not have affiliate relationships with any of the products or companies suggested below)

Here’s what I’ve been stocking my kitchen with so I can deal with whatever food shortages or price hikes may be coming. I’m not a nutritionist. This list is just what I’d need to maintain our current diet as closely as possible, even if we can’t get to the store or shortages and price hikes make buying food difficult.

Not everyone can have a farm or a homestead so I’ve included things you can buy now that will store well and be used as a replacement for those items that you usually buy weekly.

A food dehydrator is a great thing to have in your kitchen any time but it’s especially helpful when preparing for a potential food shortage. My mom has three she bought over the years at yard sales. She has been dehydrating herbs already this year and storing them in glass jars.

Dehydrating food not only extends its shelf life significantly, you can store more of it in less space which is great if you live in an apartment or have a small kitchen. You do need to buy special trays for dehydrating liquids. Mom recommends the Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster. We’re buying extra eggs and fresh milk and dehydrating it so we’ll have some stored if current shortages get worse.

Egg replacer powder, such as Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, which is what I buy. It’s a powder that comes in a re-sealable pouch. Each pouch is normally around $5 in the store, online it’s around $10 and contains the equivalent of 34 eggs. Simply mix a tablespoon of power with 2 Tablespoons of water to replace one egg.

It’s great for baking. You can buy it now, use the egg replacer for baking and save your store bought or farm fresh eggs for breakfast. Or you can simply keep it on your shelf to bake with when you don’t have eggs on hand.

A food processor is very handy in the kitchen, especially if you’re going to dehydrate food or otherwise prep for long term food storage. Some foods, such as potatoes, need to be ground into flakes after dehydrating. My mom has a Cuisinart and loves it but choose the one that works best for you.

Staples for baking such as sugar, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and yeast. As long as you have ingredients on hand, you can bake your own bread, biscuits, even make tortilla shells and pasta noodles. Store dry goods in tightly sealed glass jars for longer shelf life.

Evaporated milk is a great thing to have on hand as a backup to fresh milk. You can find cans of evaporated milk for about .75 to $1 per can. When you mix evaporated milk equally with water, you can use it in baking and cooking recipes that call for milk and it’s even good on cereal for breakfast. The best part is, you can buy cans of evaporated milk each time you go to the store and just pop them on your shelf and forget about them until you need them.

A food saver/sealer machine is a handy little device that lets you vacuum seal food into plastic bags or jars. Vacuum sealing is great for anything you need to freeze because it protects from freezer burn. If a food saver isn’t in your immediate budget, you can even vacuum seal without a machine if you have Ziploc bags on hand.

Stick butter stores very well in the fridge long term and it’s a must if you do a lot of baking or cooking from scratch.

Comfort items if someone is sick that will come in handy include things such as Gatorade, Gingerale, Popsicles, and Pedialyte.

Some other items I always keep on hand, no matter what time of year it is include:

  • coffee and tea
  • chicken and beef bouillon cubes or cartons of broth
  • tuna fish
  • canned chicken breast
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • crackers
  • canned fruits
  • Knorr side dishes (in pouches)
  • instant mashed potatoes (in pouches)
  • flavored tuna fish in pouches
  • several loaves of bread (frozen)
  • frozen meats (chicken, pork, hamburger, etc.)
  • mayonnaise
  • canned soups
  • hot cocoa packets or several varieties of tea

This isn’t a complete list of course. But I’ve been picking up extra items every time I buy groceries for the last several months. And you can’t just run out and buy everything on my list, your needs will be different.

Think about what makes sense for your family

If you need to, make a list of what your family eats regularly. And then sit down and figure out how you could substitute or still make those things if you couldn’t go to the store. Make a list of the staples or ingredients you’d need to do that and buy extra of those things now, just in case.

If you’re at all interested in starting a garden, consider buying seeds and things you’d need to plant one this year.

Just remember not to go crazy buying a ton of things all at once. Analyze your needs. Make a list. Figure out how to make it as shelf stable as possible. Buy what you need for that.

If I’m wrong and we don’t have food shortages or price hikes, there’s no damage done.

We can honestly stay home for several months right now if we need to. And the best way to prevent exposure to this virus, is to really limit the number of times you have to go out in it until the all clear is called.

But for me, it gives me peace of mind to know that no matter what we’ll have enough food to eat.

Meg Stewart is a full-time freelance writer, the Founder of Freelance Filter, and author of the prepper fiction novella, Weathering the Storm Together. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. She lives in Ohio with her two youngest daughters, dog-Reese, and cats Scattle and Moo. Join her tribe for more posts like this one.

Freelance writer, business coach, author, software go to gal. Farm-girl at heart. Skill hoarder. Grammi of 10. Reach me at solutionsbystewart@gmail.com

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