In recent days, like probably everyone on the planet, I’ve been following the news relating to the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, closely. Government officials and news sources have suggested households prepare for the possibility of quarantine. (Too) many people have gotten the message when it comes to toilet paper. Yet, judging by the comments on Reddit, and people interviewed by the ABC, many Australians are worried they cannot afford to simply buy an extra two weeks’ groceries, and there has been little guidance from official sources.
The average Australian household spends over $250 per week at the supermarket, and families spend closer to $350. So, if preparing for 14 days at home means finding an extra $500-700, it’s no wonder people are concerned. Especially given reports that one in seven Australians are living week-to-week, and have no savings for an emergency of this sort, and one in three are just two pay packets away from serious financial distress.
The good news is, you don’t need to have hundreds of dollars lying around to make some sensible preparations. Nor do you need to panic buy and empty the supermarkets, leaving nothing for everyone else.
After compiling suggested items on Reddit preppers’ lists, and paging through a huge stack of budget cookbooks, I’ve prepared a ‘starter’ list of items you can get right now, for less than $30 AUD. (Prices correct as at 10/3/20)
|Tomatoes (2 tins)||$1.20||400gx2||4||$1.60||400gx2||4|
|Tuna (3 tins)||$3.60||185gx3||6||$3.60||185gx3||6|
(or $29.80 with couscous)
|$28.25 (or $29.20)|
None of the ingredients need space in the fridge or freezer, none of the recipes require complex techniques or fancy equipment, and they’re compact enough you probably don’t even need a car to get them home. (Total weight is just under 10kg of supplies)
Best of all, all of the items on this list are regular pantry staples, you’ll actually use, even if the worst doesn’t happen (and I hope it doesn’t!). Not strange, weird-tasting and difficult to prepare things that will languish in your cupboard otherwise.
Those familiar with Enrichmentality will know that I’ve been a fan of budget cooking for some time. You can check out my blog posts on making better shopping decisions, growing food without a garden, making cheap food tasty, and menu planning.
Admittedly, this list is far from the healthiest list on the planet – I’ve prioritised foods that are easily available, have a long shelf-life, and are cheap. But hopefully you can use this as a base to make what you usually have in the fridge or freezer last that bit longer if you do need to self-isolate for a period of time.
If you have suggestions or recipes, please comment below!
What can I do with this stuff?
I’ve tried to select ingredients that are in pretty common use. You’ll find over 35 suggested recipes in the PDF download.
In addition, you might be interested in the list of frugal recipes I compiled on the Early Retirement Extreme forums, many of which feature ingredients from this list or other things you might have lying around.
For some inspiration on making budget cooking fun, check out Life of Boris.
How long will it last?
This list is intended as a basic ‘starter’ pantry, not a complete menu for two weeks! How long it will last you will depend on a variety of individual factors, such as how many people are in your household, how many meals you regularly eat, how big your appetites are, what else you have in stock, and what you cook from the list.
But if you consider all of the dry carbohydrates (grains, pasta, noodles etc.) as meal bases, and the canned foods, soups and flavours as additives to these, by my count, you should have enough to make 85 serves, according to the manufacturers’ estimates (or enough for 2 people for 2 weeks).
It’s important to keep in mind that manufacturers’ estimates aren’t often all that generous! Another way some people assess how long food will last is by assessing how much energy it will provide. This basic list comes in at around 106,000kj, which would provide enough energy for an average adult for close to 2 weeks (it works out to just over 12 days, but with other foods you have lurking at home, you should be able to make this stretch).
If you include the recommended items of flour, sugar and oil, the figure goes up to 163,000kj, which, again supplemented by foods you have on hand, could last 2 people for 2 weeks, depending on your needs (children and elderly people generally need less energy). You’ll find breakdowns of all of these figures in the PDF download.
Additionally, you’ll find a listing of the recommended shelf lives of every item on the list. We all hope not to have to enter quarantine or have some other such emergency. So how long will this stuff last? In preparing the list, I prioritised foods that are cheap, tasty, filling, easy to source, and that last a long time (and without refrigeration until opened) so that you can confidently store them for an emergency. All you need is a dark, dry cupboard and containers that seal well. With the exception of the Parmesan cheese (which you can freeze) all of the items on the list will last for years if stored properly. See the
PDF download for details.
I don’t eat X! What can I get instead?
It’s impossible to cater to everyone’s tastes, so I’ve added a list of all of the canned food you can currently buy from Coles and Woolies for under $1 to the PDF download. (Cheapest items only – more expensive brands not included). There are also some suggestions for vegetarian options.
What about non-food items?
If your local supermarket and pharmacy are anything like ours, there’s probably no more hand sanitizer, and no more face masks (if they sold them in the first place).
Fortunately, scientists at the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital have shared instructions for making your own masks out of commonly available and inexpensive household supplies. While not quite as effective, laboratory testing at City University suggests these DIY masks achieve 80-90% of the filtration a standard surgical mask does.
For hand sanitizer, the World Health Organization has a guide for producing your own, intended for parts of the world where commercial solutions aren’t available (which is rapidly becoming everywhere). But the best solution might simply be to learn to wash your hands properly with regular old soap and water.
Stay safe everyone!
Looking for funny yet thought-provoking read while you’re stuck at home? Check out my debut satirical novel, Number Eight Crispy Chicken, which chronicles the misadventures of an immigration minister who winds up stuck in a foreign airport!