In what seems like a split second, your newsfeed and email inbox is now filled with coronavirus (COVID-19) updates. While there are still many unknowns about the virus, the best way to err on the side of caution may be to stay at home.
Of course, staying home for a couple of weeks means you’ll need to stock up on essentials for such a long period of time. If you’re on a tight budget, this can be overwhelming.
To help you get through these uncertain times, here are 7 do’s and don’ts to help you navigate how to buy groceries on a budget, and prepare for the long road ahead.
✅ Do: Make a list
In an emergency situation, your instinct might be to race to the store and buy whatever you can find. But it’s better to stay calm and plan ahead – the same way you would for a regular grocery or pharmacy run.
So, take stock of essential items you already have and determine if they will last for at least the next two weeks. If so, leave those items off your list for now. Then, list out whatever you’re running low on, as well as non-perishable canned goods and meals that can be frozen if need be.
A few items you should plan to keep on hand are things like rice, pasta, potatoes, instant oatmeal, dry or canned beans, frozen vegetables, and canned tuna or salmon. If you already have fresh produce, use those items first to minimize waste before cooking your non-perishable items.
🔴 Don’t: Hoard or panic buy
If you live alone or with a partner, try to avoid overbuying. Stores have a limited amount of supplies in stock, and the photos you see floating around the Internet of empty shelves are partly a result of customers buying much more than they need to get through the next two weeks.
Although it may seem like you need to get enough supplies to last for the rest of the year, do your best to stick to what’s reasonable for your personal situation. Not only will it be easier on your bank account, but this is a good way to do your part to help others who need groceries too.
✅ Do: Stick to your budget as much as possible
It sounds strange, but the best thing to do in a non-routine situation is to maintain as much of your routine as possible. While your work or social calendar probably looks different than it did a few weeks ago, it helps to keep track of your spending in the same way you usually do.
For starters, go through your budget and see if there’s anything that can be eliminated for the time being. Things like gym memberships and other subscriptions probably won’t have much use at the moment, so consider pausing them for the next month or two. This way, you’ll save yourself money and free up room in your budget for essentials like groceries and cleaning supplies.
🔴 Don’t: Buy things you don’t need to cope with stress
The coronavirus is the first pandemic that many of us have ever lived through. When you add in a rapid-paced news cycle and self-quarantine advisories, that can lead to anxiety. You may tell yourself that sticking to a budget at this point is useless, and it’s totally fine to spend the last of your savings on an unlimited supply of ice cream.
Instead, take a step back to re-evaluate. Understand that this won’t last forever. If you’ve been carefully mapping out your budget and savings plan, there’s no reason to undo all of your hard work now. At the same time, if your budget allows, it’s okay to make a few small non-essential purchases to get you through these rough times. Just remember to give yourself a limit so you don’t completely drain your cash reserves.
✅ Do: Try out some basic meal prep
If you’re used to winging it for most of your meals throughout the week, now is the time to get a bit more organized. Write out some easy meals you can batch cook over the next couple of weeks.
If you have a slow cooker, now is the time to use it. Toss in the ingredients and make chili, soup, or pot roast. Then, store the leftovers into containers and freeze them for future meals.
🔴 Don’t: Stress cook everything in the first week
Being in the house for weeks may give you cabin fever, and this can lead to cooking more than you should. The combination of stress and boredom, along with unlimited access to your refrigerator, can also cause you to eat even when you’re not hungry.
Just as you would with your budget, try to maintain a routine with your cooking and eating over the next couple of weeks. Plan to eat each meal at a regularly scheduled time – with a few snacks in-between. Also, think of some activities you can do that don’t involve food, whether it’s reading a book, doing a puzzle, or reorganizing your closet. Not only will this help keep you occupied, but it can also quiet any fears you might have about running out of food before the next two weeks are up.
✅ Do: Be kind to yourself
You’re probably feeling a million different emotions right now, which is normal. But, while you can’t control what’s going on in the world, you can create the best plan of action for your personal circumstances.
What’s most important right now is to stay calm, spend wisely, and take small steps to save money if you can. You got this! 💪🏼