How to prepare for a quarantine such as COVID-19

How to prepare for a quarantine such as COVID-19

Like most of you, we have been following the news on the COVID-19 virus pandemic closely since early January.
With a rapid increase of both infections and people who have been in contact with infected persons, the amount of people who need to go into quarantine, rapidly increases too. Never mind how the entire population in Italy is forced to stay inside with more countries to follow soon.

With ever stricter rules in place, people suddenly realized they are not prepared for events like this, and started buying goods left and right without much of a plan.
Like most of you, I have also not given this much thought, so it stands to reason to go take a look in the USA where 'prepping' for disasters is popular, and rightly so because of the more dramatic weather conditions. Because people in North America generally live much further away from supermarkets and do not always have access to good tap water and electricity power may go off for longer periods of time,most advice given is superfluous for our society where power outages are rare and tap water reliable.
Hence that part of the advice was omitted in the article below.

What is quarantine?

The main rule of quarantine is: "nobody comes in and nobody goes out". If you are in quarantine, you are distancing yourself from people aside from the ones in quarantine with you, like your family or roommates. The reason for this is to stop the spread of an illness or possible illness.


  • You have it and you don’t want others to get it
  • You’ve been exposed to it and don’t know if you have it but you don’t want to spread it in case you do
  • You want to avoid catching the illness and you don’t know who has it so you’re staying away from everyone to avoid exposure
  • You are under mandatory quarantine – the government has told you and possibly everyone else to stay home under penalty of law

It doesn’t really matter which of these reasons you’re in quarantine. The basics are the same.

What supplies do you need to stock up on for a quarantine?

Whatever supplies you start your quarantine period with will need to last you throughout the length of time you are unable to leave your home.

Here is a very basic list to start with that gets more detailed further on. Imagine that right this minute, you had to stay home for a month. What would you need that you don’t already have?

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medications
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Sanitation and cleaning supplies
  • Pet supplies
  • Special needs supplies (for babies or elderly family members)
  • Entertainment

You may have a lot of things on hand already or you may need to go buy things. Before you go spend a fortune on supplies, check to see what you already have, to avoid getting duplicates of what you already have.

At the very least, grab supplies locally to meet your immediate needs. If you’ve waited too long and the shelves are nearly bare, here are some ideas for the last-minute shopper.

Food for a quarantine

When you set out to purchase food for a potential quarantine, there are a few things to consider. One of these things is whether or not you expect to have power and running water throughout the event. There are a lot of variables but it’s advisable that you focus on non-perishable foods as much as possible.

At the same time, you want to get things your family will actually eat. Picky eaters can be tough to feed at the best of times and they often become even more stubborn during stressful situations. Think about ways to make your picky person’s favorites with shelf-stable supplies.

Another thing to consider is that if the power does go out, you may not be able to use your normal cooking methods. If you have power and running water, things are a thousand times easier. Think about the things you normally eat – it’s good to stay as close as possible to your normal diet to keep your digestive system happy and to prevent a mutiny in your home.

Start with the fresh foods that you normally eat. Then, shift to the foods in your freezer and those that last a bit longer on the shelf or in the refrigerator. Finally, move on to your shelf-stable foods.

Here are some ideas for non-perishable foods to stock up on. This is a general guideline – go with the things your family likes. 

  • Canned foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, soup, beans and legumes)
  • Bagged foods (soup, meals)
  • Frozen foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and frozen meals)
  • Non-perishable milk
  • Dehydrated foods (soups and meat such as jerky, dry sausages)
  • Starches (pasta, rice, noodles, quinoa, flour, dried potatoes)
  • Oils (coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil) to prepare food 
  • Crackers, cereal, oatmeal and granola
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Coffee and tea
  • Fruit juice
  • Vegetable juice (to rehydrate dried soups)
  • Condiments (herbs, spices, sauces)
  • Snack food (granola bars, cookies, chips, chocolate) to help with the monotony, ration those or they will be gone very soon

Add some long-lasting fresh food that can be stored in a cool and dry place for a longer period of time such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, apples and oranges as well as eggs.
As an aside, eggs can not be stored for a long period in the USA or Canada due to the fact they are washed, while in Europe egg-washing is prohibited, hence storage is very well possible, which also allows you to make your own bread and pastries.

Medications and medical supplies for a quarantine

If someone in your household has an upset stomach or a fever, you’re not going to be able to run to the drugstore. You’ll want to avoid doctor’s offices and hospitals as much as possible, as they’re likely to be full of people with the virus you’re hoping to avoid. be prepared for things that can be treated at home, such as
  • Vitamins, especially a good multivitamin, B-complex, C, D3, and Zinc
  • Cold and flu meds – if someone gets sick, you’ll be able to treat the symptoms at home
  • Expectorants – this one is very important with the current outbreak – get that gunk out of people’s lungs
  • Cough drops or lozenges
  • Peppermint tea and other herbal teas
  • Basic over the counter medications you might need over the period of a month without going to the store – think about what your family uses regularly
  • Wound care supplies – if it’s reasonable to do so, you’ll want to treat wounds at home instead of sitting in a germ-filled emergency room.
Don’t forget prescription medications. If you have family members who take medications on a regular basis, try to get a few months ahead.

Sanitation and hygiene supplies for a quarantine

You’ll still have sanitation and personal hygiene needs during a quarantine. Use this list as a general guideline and pick up the items your family uses regularly.
  • Desinfectant spray and wipes (lysol)
  • Bleach
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Soap
  • Feminine hygiene supplies
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Lotion and skincare products
  • Toilet paper
  • Razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

You may not require everything on this list and you may already have most of what you need – use this as a guide and personalize it.

Pet supplies for a quarantine

Don’t forget your pets during a quarantine.
  • Pet food
  • Pet litter
  • Treats
  • Pet medications
  • Pee pads
  • Poo bags
Think about how your pets will do their business during a quarantine. If you have a yard, it’s fine to let them go outside – your goal is to stay away from other people, not to stay cooped up inside in the dark. However, if you’re in an apartment building you may need to think about other options for your dog.

How will you entertain yourself and your family during a quarantine?

What will you do if you have to stay home for a while? If you or your family members are always on the go, you may begin to get cabin fever pretty quickly. Hit up the thrift shop and second hand bookstore for some cheap entertainment and stash items away to pull out when people begin complaining about being “bored.” Think about card games, books, craft supplies, toys, puzzles and puzzle books.
Don’t forget batteries and chargers!

How much food do you need for a quarantine?

It’s difficult to guess how much food you’ll need for a quarantine because you don’t know how long it will go on. The best solution is to start with a two-week supply and then add extra weeks as quickly as possible.

The good thing about shelf-stable food is that if you don’t need it for this particular emergency, you’ll be able to use it later and work it into your menus when things go back to normal.

Will you still have money coming in during a quarantine?

A major concern that isn’t mentioned often is the cost of being in quarantine. If you can’t go into work, you may not get paid unless you have a job where you can telecommute.
Buying all these supplies isn’t cheap either.

Even if your money is not coming in, barring something utterly catastrophic, the bills will be.

Before things get to the point of quarantine, it’s a good idea to sell unused items to make some extra money. Take a look at your budget and see what non-essential spending you can cut. If the quarantine does occur, talk to your creditors. They’ll most likely be willing to work with you, since you will not be the only person in this situation.

This article goes into far more detail about preparing financially for a quarantine.

How long will you be in a coronavirus quarantine?

The problem with preparing for a quarantine is that nobody knows how long it’s going to last. At one point, the length of quarantine for those potentially exposed was 14 days. However, newer research has suggested a person could be contagious with the COVID-19 virus for up to 27 days.

If the quarantine is mandatory, it will go on for as long as the government feels it is necessary. Millions of people in China have been in quarantine for well over a month. People in northern Italy just began a quarantine of indefinite length. If it’s voluntary, you’re in control of how long you remain in lockdown.

In a perfect world, you’d be prepared to stay home for 6 months. For those just starting out, this may be unattainable due to finances, storage space, and other variables.

A quarantine that is managed ideally would last from the last date of diagnosis plus 27 days (the longest incubation period noted.) That already puts quarantine at one month. It’s extremely unlikely that the day people go into quarantine will be the date of the last diagnosis.

Be prepared for anywhere from 1 month to 4 months as a starting point and add supplies as you can. It’s unfortunately impossible to predict what the length of time will be – we can only do our best to prepare.

In conclusion

All we can do is hope for the best and keep an eye out for our elderly and sick citizens, be it your family members, friends or neighbours. Reach out to them and offer to do grocery shopping for them or help walk their dogs, so they won't need to be exposed to a possible infection. At the moment there's an avalanche of volunteers who are willing to help out elderly or chronically ill citizens, but somehow there seems to be less demand, maybe because they are either off-line or too proud to accept help.
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