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30 Items the Pandemic Taught Us to Always Have on Hand

Hand Soap

One of the first things to disappear off shelves was hand soap, and that's completely understandable. During a pandemic, you want to wash the germs off your hands whenever you come in contact with other people.

The good thing about this is that the type of soap doesn't matter as far as anti-bacterial or not. Soap works as long as you wash every part of your hand for at least 20 seconds. Anti-bacterial only really works for bacteria, and soap can wash that off without all those harsh chemicals. 

Enough Food for Two Weeks

We were all told to buy enough food for two weeks, and that's when everything began to fly off the shelves. The problem with that is that a lot of the fresh stuff tends to go bad faster than canned products.

Since meat and many ingredients were unavailable, we all had to make do with what was on the shelves. Having two weeks of non-perishable food on hand would help out this situation a lot. Call it your "just in case" supply.


All those fancy cleaners are fantastic, but they often have the same ingredients. For those that can handle the fumes (without getting massive headaches), bleach is possibly the best thing to have on hand. It cleans better than all that other stuff on the market, and it's cheaper.

It's hard for bacteria and viruses to live through bleach's harsh chemical composition. A little bleach in water will do wonders. Even better, it's generally safe as long as it's washed off really well afterward. That means you can use it around pets and even babies. 


This one may have surprised many – thermometers were impossible to find. Apparently, everyone realized that they didn't have thermometers. No matter where you looked, these fever detectors were impossible to purchase.

At this point, we all learned a pretty good lesson: have a thermometer. During a pandemic, detecting if someone has a fever is the clearest sign that someone is ill. Those that require limited contact are the best. Also, have a baby thermometer on hand if you know someone with a child. 

Pantry Staples

Never underestimate the value of pantry staples like flour and sugar. These two ingredients are used in so many recipes. When there's nothing on the shelves, people look to making it themselves. Having a couple of bags of sugar and flour can be more valuable than gold at this point.

Whether you're making bread, desserts, or dinner, make sure to have these things on hand: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, brown sugar, and powdered sugar. People who lived through darker times get the value of these ingredients. 

Over-the-Counter Meds

Since medication doesn't go bad for several years, it's worth having a good amount on hand. We're not saying keep 600 Tylenol in your medicine cabinet just in case. We're saying to stock up on medications for each condition.

Stomach ache? Pepto. Fever? Tylenol.  Swelling? Ibuprofen. Anyone with a cold or flu during the pandemic learned that medication was scarce. Having it on hand will decrease the spread of illness while also keeping you prepared.

Rubbing Alcohol

When in doubt, grab the rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol can be used for so many things, from cleaning a wound to disinfecting hands. The CDC recommended at least 60% alcohol when cleaning or disinfecting. While the 70% alcohol was in stock in some stores, it was less than the recommendations when diluted.

For disinfecting, 90% or higher reigns supreme. Rubbing alcohol doesn't go bad, especially if it's sealed and stored properly. During times of a pandemic, it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of bottles under the sink for homemade hand sanitizer. 

Toilet Paper

Despite coronavirus not being a gastrointestinal disease, people stocked up on toilet paper like they would be stuck in the bathroom 24 hours a day during their whole quarantine. We don't suggest going this far but having an extra pack won't hurt.

Toilet paper is another thing that doesn't expire, so buy a big pack and keep it stored somewhere dry. At worst, you'll have toilet paper when you forgot to buy some. At best, you won't be one of the thousands running to the store to get the necessities. 

Disposable Gloves

During a pandemic, it's essential to limit person-to-person contact. This also means avoiding touching things that are often interacted with. Think gas pumps, card readers, and shopping carts. Things like this spread germs incredibly fast.

Gloves help limit that contact, but they don't make a person invincible. While wearing gloves, don't touch your face. Touch what you need to, and then dispose of the gloves in the proper receptacle. Never throw the gloves on the ground for someone else to clean up (or to pollute the environment)

First Aid Kit

This is just something that everyone should have on hand at all times, whether it's during a pandemic or not. First aid kits are invaluable. They include things like Band-aids, alcohol wipes, medical tape, tweezers, splints, gauze, and so much more.

The worst time to realize you need a first aid kit is when you don't have one. It wouldn't hurt to keep a fully stocked kit in both your home and car. If you own multiple vehicles, make sure to have a kit in each one. 

Three-Month Supply of Prescription Medication

During a pandemic, the most dangerous places to go are hospitals, doctor's offices, and pharmacies. That's exactly where someone ill would go. Nowadays, you're able to get most prescription medications in three-month supplies.

During a pandemic, having a good supply of medications means you don't have to leave your home, and risk coming in contact with someone infected. If you can't get a three-month supply, ask your pharmacy if they offer no-contact delivery or pick up.


Who else realized they didn't have enough PJs? Most of us don't need many pajama options because we're in them so little. We change into them to sleep and then change right back out in the morning to go to work.

Welp, since lockdown, we have to have PJ shorts, pants, shirts, tank tops, and more. If you live in a place with ever-changing weather, different types of PJs are more important than ever. It isn't like we're going to wear our nice clothes to lounge…

Face Masks

Other countries have completely embraced face masks. China has been using them for a while to decrease their likelihood of epidemics. Well, America got a harsh look at what it's like when we need to wear one, and no one has them.

According to the Chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's Respiratory Institute, a sneeze can spread a cloud of droplets up to 25 feet. Wearing a mask disrupts this cloud and keeps it contained. Studies have also supported the argument that masks help decrease the spread of airborne illnesses.

Hand Sanitizer

When you can't wash your hands and don't have gloves, what can you do? Hand sanitizer. There's a reason people are scooping it off the shelves faster than it can be made. When it has an alcohol concentration higher than 60%, it can kill most viruses and bacteria.

There are a few caveats, though. First, it has to remain on the hands. No spreading it around and then wiping it off. Also, it's important to rub your hands together until the sanitizer is completely dry. Hand sanitizer also won't work on visibly dirty or greasy hands.

Bottled Water

This one is touchy, mostly because it doesn't apply to everyone. For those that live in the city, there's no reason to assume our tap water is contaminated. Tap water goes through so many chemical cleanses that it's difficult for anything to live through the process.

However, if you live in a place with well water, definitely stock up. People tend to stock up on water, which means those that need it can't actually obtain it. When in doubt, you can always boil water to ensure it's safe for consumption. 

Pet Food

Pets have to eat, too! Nothing is worse than getting all of your groceries, only to have your pet stare up at you because you forgot to get them a bag or can of their favorite meal. The pandemic quickly taught us to have pet food on hand.

The good part about this is that there are so many places you can buy it, online, the grocery store, or your local vet’s office. To minimize contact with others, try to keep some of their food on hand for emergencies.  

Drinks with Electrolytes

The first thing people go for when they get sick is drinks with electrolytes – Gatorade, Powerade, and Pedialyte. Our body needs electrolytes because they regulate muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help repair damaged tissue.

That’s a lot of work to put on one drink. During the pandemic, people swooped in and grabbed these drinks off the shelf because it helps your body defend itself. It won’t hurt to have a few bottles in your home ready to go for when you get sick. They don’t expire, and you’ll be thankful when you need them.

Spray Bottles

Oh, man! The store is completely out of Lysol and cleaning products. What do you do? Thankfully, you can make your own cleaning solution. The caveat is that you need your own spray bottle. Spray bottles weren’t difficult to get, but avoiding the store is always important during a pandemic.

Have a spray bottle on hand so you can mix your own cleaning solution with bleach or another cleanser. You don’t need a lot of bleach, either. A little will go a long way and completely destroy whatever’s wreaking havoc on the world.

Networking Equipment

The first thing most businesses did when the pandemic hit was to close down. Many allowed their employees to work from home, but that presented another issue: internet connectivity. While we highly suggest having a secure, fast internet connection, there are a few other things you need to work from home. 

Namely, networking cables and equipment. Nothing beats hooking into your router directly via an ethernet cord. If you went searching for one during the pandemic, you may have noticed that they were all gone. Have a great connection before everything goes bad.

Children’s Entertainment

Schools closed, and that left a lot of parents wondering what they were going to do with their children. Some still had to go to work, but others? They had to keep their children entertained while also working on their own projects.

This is something that you can subscribe to when you need it, but children’s entertainment is invaluable. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and other streaming networks have hours on hours of things for kiddos to watch while you’re working on a project.

(Image via Unsplash)


To be honest, we take batteries for granted…until we need them most. Everything in our lives uses batteries if it doesn’t connect directly into an outlet. When you run out, you may have to run to the store (or order them online and wait a couple of days to turn your TV channel).

Instead, keep batteries on hand. This is a good tip whether there’s a pandemic or a natural disaster in your area. Batteries do technically expire, but they can last ten years when kept at room temperature. Buy in bulk, and you’ll never be without.


Sure, you could use toilet paper, but we all learned that toilet paper is probably the most coveted paper product during a pandemic. Instead, get a few boxes of Kleenex, preferably the big ones. They also feel a lot better than toilet paper on your face.

Sickness tends to coincide with allergy season, too. Even if you have a runny nose from floating pollen, Kleenex is a lifesaver. The off-brand is just as good as Kleenex, so don’t be afraid to get store labels if the good stuff is out.

Portable Radio

This is specifically for people who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters. Normally, we can rely on our phones, but when the power goes out, what do you do? During a pandemic, this becomes even more essential because you want to limit human contact.

Even if you’ve never needed one in the past, keep a portable radio on hand. You can save your phone battery for a different emergency, like if you have to call your family member to make sure they’re alright.

Garbage Bags

The good thing about garbage bags is that they’re almost always on sale. This makes it super easy to stock up. During the pandemic, many of us started to do major spring cleaning, but we didn’t have enough garbage bags to get the job done.

Keep an eye out for sales, and stock up when a good one hits your local area. We suggest keeping a box untouched for emergencies. Then, you’ll have plenty, and you won’t have to buy them online (and wait) or go to the store.

Medical Equipment

Having a medical emergency during a pandemic causes people to worry more than average. Why? Well, the last thing they want to do is go to the hospital where sick people are! That risks them getting whatever is floating around in addition to their current problem.

Have medical equipment for your ailment, whether it’s a glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff, or something else. If you go to multiple homes or are moving, it won’t hurt to have more than one on hand. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


This is another great one for those who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters. If the power goes out, we should save our phone battery for other important things, like updates on the pandemic or news stories related to the natural disaster.

No one ever complained about having too many flashlights, so stock up! At least have one for every member of the household. For children, it may be best to get smaller, easier-to-hold handles so they can see where they’re going. This reduces the risk of accidents and hospital visits.

Laundry Detergent

Since we’re all at home, we’re probably going through our clothes pretty quickly. Our PJ supply is dwindling, so we have to do laundry. Only…we’re out of laundry detergent! Well, that means you have to go to the store.

While you could order it online, many companies have a hard time keeping the bottles from leaking. This means you could be without detergent for several days as clothes pile up. Keep a bottle on hand and always stock up when it’s on sale.

Home Delivery Subscription

Once the pandemic hit, we all realized that delivery subscriptions were invaluable. Whether you prefer to cook or order food from restaurants, it won’t hurt to pay for that monthly subscription. It’ll save some serious dough.

By the time you’ve ordered food or groceries twice, the subscription has already paid for itself and the rest of the month has free delivery. Afterward, you can always cancel the subscription and go back to your normal routine.

(Image via Unsplash)

Hobby Materials

Another thing to fly off the shelves was hobby materials. We’re talking puzzles, coloring books, sewing supplies, yarn for knitting, and anything else that could relate to a hobby. People were trying to figure out what to do with their newfound free time.

If you see something on the horizon (or if you just want to stock up), get plenty of extra hobby materials. Many people couldn’t find their materials anywhere, and they were forced to figure out something else to do with their time. No one should be in that position.

(Image via Unsplash)

Cat Litter

Sure, cat litter is essential for kitties. You want to keep their box clean, so you don’t have to take them to the vet for an issue. However, even if you don’t have a cat, there are uses for this sanitary little product. One big one is to dispose of paint properly. Many people decided to paint their house and found out you can’t just toss out a can when you’re done.

Cat litter is also ideal to get your car out of an icy situation by creating traction. Cat litter can also help soak up grease, oil, and garage spills that may look unsightly if left on the ground. Basically, there’s a dozen and one things you can use cat litter for.