What to Stock Up on for Emergencies

There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to stock their pantry and medicine cabinet. They could be preparing for a long winter, trying to avoid exposure to cold and flu season, trying to avoid crowds or physically unable to shop such as due to a recent injury, or a medical surgery on the the horizon. I’ll share exactly what to stock up on for these times.

Recently I decided to do a full inventory and begin stocking up on non-perishable food items, household items and more. Winters are already typically harsh here and I’ve been on a once every two week shopping schedule. Getting our necessary food for two weeks at a time is cumbersome enough, let alone buying non-food items we need as we run out of them.

What to Stock Up on

What to Stock Up On

What is Stocking Up?

By stocking up, I figured I could mitigate needing to purchase a lot of those everyday items for a few months. This would provide less for me to bring into the house during my shopping trips and allow me to shop faster, only focusing on the food items we really need during the winter.

I’ll primarily be shopping for perishable foods. I will supplement with foods I canned and stored in our canning closet, along with our fresh box of CSA vegetables. We get this box once a week and I signed up for 20 weeks which will get us through the winter. As of November, I still had some herbs, kale and carrots in my garden to pick from!

I realize the idea of stocking up for winter can sound overwhelming, which is why I wanted to share what items I purchased and what to stock up on. There are a lot of small items you might forget during the process. Also to note, stocking up is not hoarding. I strategically determined how many items we would need and simply purchased in advance to cover those months.

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Why Stock Up Today?

Again, my goal here was to cover winter and cold and flu season which is roughly November through March where I live. An easy example is shaving cream. You need to determine how often you open a new can. If it’s once a month then you will want to buy five cans during your stock up to cover those months.

I wrote down specific quantities for each item, relevant to our needs and family. For other non-food items such as my daughter’s shampoo. I knew if we had just one jumbo size bottle in the closet, that would be plenty to last the winter months. It’s not an item we open new as frequently. Be realistic about what you need and how often you use the item.

Even with planning this out, you might forget items or buy too little. This is OK! There will still be a means to get the necessary items if needed. For example if you are facing a surgery and will be on sick leave, you can always still order the products online and ship to your home, or ask a friend or family member to purchase them for you.

I felt more confident going into this winter knowing I did some stocking of household items and simply do not have to worry about them. For me, the peace of mind and avoiding hassle is worth it. Now let’s look at some common items you will want to stock up on, and some areas you may easily overlook.

What to Stock Up on

Items to Stock Up On

After deciding I was going to stock items to cover us for five months this fall and winter. I started by taking inventory of what items we had closet by closet, room by room. It was helpful to me to make a list with good old pen and paper. My list included areas such as:

  • Bathroom(s)
  • Medicine Cabinet
  • Linen Closet
  • Cleaning Closet
  • Dog Items
  • Spice Cabinet
  • Baking Items
  • Dry Goods
  • Utility Room / Laundry Room
  • Garage

This list might look different depending on your family structure and living space. I wrote down all the rooms and areas where I store everyday items. Unless I’m stocking up I typically don’t have more than one extra of each item. I used to have a higher quantity when I was actively using coupons.

Again, I feel the need to remind we are looking to make a list of what we need and will use. You don’t want to overbuy. Now I’ll share more about how I handled each area.

• Bathroom(s): In our main bathroom we have mostly one of every item we are using, from toothbrushes to toothpaste, body wash, etc. In terms of stocking I usually have extra toilet paper but not much more. I took inventory of every item in the bathroom and how many we would need to buy. I also made sure to check our upstairs bathroom. While we use that one less, there were a few items up there to stock up on as well. Other examples include: toilet bowl cleaner, lotion, shampoo and conditioner, dental floss, lip balm, etc. I also checked for products my husband and daughter use.

• Medicine Cabinet: This is a separate cabinet in our bathroom. I always like to keep basic medicine on hand, and a children’s version of each for our daughter. I always do this during cold and flu season in case anyone gets sick we don’t have to run out to a 24/7 pharmacy at 1 a.m.! The problem with medicine is they do expire. While my cabinet was pretty stocked I checked expiration dates and saw several items had expired. I made note to buy new and dispose of the old. Other examples include: Tylenol, Advil, Ibuprofen, Cold Medicine, Cough Drops, etc.

• Linen Closet: In this closet we store our bedding and towels. I also have a shelf with backup personal hygiene items such as cotton balls, Q tips and other items that are stored in smaller containers in the bathroom. I also have a few random household items here such as spray starch for ironing clothing, stain remover stick and some hair products I use (but not everyday). I made sure to check all of these items and add to my shopping list.

• Cleaning Closet: This closet primarily houses all of our household cleaning products such as paper towels, window cleaner, all purpose cleaner, dishwasher powder, dish soap, trash bags and more. For most of these products I only needed to buy 1-2 extra because we do not use them up as quickly.

We’ve been washing hands a lot so I made sure to buy another jumbo size hand soap. I like to buy the jumbo size on a lot of items because I find the cost per ounce is the most affordable and it’s less container waste. I also have a jumbo dish soap to refill a smaller container. I did not need to buy more! Be sure to check your least used cleaners too, such as oven cleaner, upholstery cleaner, dishwasher rinse aid, etc.

• Dog Items: In this same closet we have a small shelf devoted to dog items. I checked all of Lulu’s items and made note of anything she will need beyond her normal dog food. Examples include pet wipes, treats, dog poo bags and a special cleaner for accidents. If you have pet(s) be sure to check their items as you make your stocking up list.

• Spice Cabinet: In terms of food items, I keep our pantry pretty full all the time. I’ve been cooking a lot this year! I’m not going to touch on every food item but a few areas I found important to check, first your spice cabinet. Simliar to medicine, spices do not last forever! Most expire within a year or so. This year I did a great job of harvesting, drying and saving my own herbs from my garden.

However, there are a lot of spices I cannot grow in Ohio, yet use frequently for baking and cooking. I took every spice jar out of my cabinet and inventoried them one by one. Many of the spices, I realized, I had not purchased in a year or more.

I tossed the remains, cleaned the containers and made note to buy new. Some of these lesser used products I decided to replace included: cream of tartar, cloves, nutmeg, chili pepper seeds, cumin, etc. The best part is a lot of the spices go on sale for the holiday season!

• Baking Items: Next I checked the corners of my cupboards where I tend to store other baking related items. There were some items I didn’t need to buy more of, and some I decided to replace. Examples include: baking powder, baking soda, dry yeast packets, vanilla extract, black peppercorns, baking chocolate, salt, vinegar, oils, etc. Also, don’t forget about baking staples such as sugar and flour.

• Dry Goods: The last kitchen area I examined was any other dry goods. This would include items such as: dry beans, lentils, oatmeal, rice and pasta. Most of these items I have on hand all the time but it doesn’t hurt to double check and make sure you have an adequate supply now. Usually I will buy dry beans in bulk, so that’s another heavy item I don’t want to worry about lugging to my vehicle in the dead of winter. Same with rice.

• Utility Room / Laundry Room: Next I moved to our basement which is where our laundry area is. There wasn’t a lot to check here but I made note to buy another jumbo package of laundry detergent. I also bought a small container of bleach. Other common examples in this area include: fabric softener, dryer sheets, athletic detergent, etc.

• Garage: Finally, the last room I checked was our garage! Again, this one was pretty quick but I did take note of buying some additional jumbo outdoor trash bags and some lawn bags for fall cleanup. Some people might store additional cleaners in their garage or automobile supplies. I didn’t find a lot here to stock up on, but it was important to check every space while making my list.

What to Stock Up on for Emergency

What to Stock Up on

Planning the Shopping Trip

Once my list was completed I decided to do one primary massive shopping trip. I rewrote my list on one large sheet of paper and tried to organize by category. Then, I tried to knock out almost all of the items on my list at one store. I kept track of what items they did not have in stock or if I knew of a better source such as an online retailer.

For the most part I purchased what I found in that store, as I wanted to complete my goal of stocking up ASAP. If you prefer online shopping you can easily do this via the web. I’m a pretty fast shopper, and providing the stores I frequent haven’t redesigned their aisles, I can get in and out pretty quickly by myself.

I decided to do this big shopping trip solo before winter came. It was a bit of work to put all of the items away but I was glad to get this done. I can now focus my remaining winter shopping on primarily perishable food items and not have to worry about running out of cleaning supplies, toothpaste or other non-food items.

What to Stock Up on for Emergencies

What to Stock Up on

In Conclusion

This was the step by step process I followed in order to stock up my household. I hope my tips are helpful if you are planning a big shopping trip soon. There are a lot of reasons why stocking up can be helpful.

While this might be most common during the winter, before a blizzard or snow storm, or during cold and flu season, there are other times it could be helpful such as during a sickness or medical leave.

What questions do you have about stocking up?

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