Last-Minute Coronavirus Quarantine Supplies: What to Buy (and Where to Get It) When the Stuff You Want Is Sold Out

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Do you have the horrible feeling you may have waited too long to purchase supplies for the possibility of quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak sweeping the United States? While it’s true that shelves across the nation are bare in some departments, there are still options.

In this article, I’ll suggest some last-minute emergency supplies you can purchase in place of the ones you wanted if you’ve waited too late to shop. To do this, you may have to cast away your plans of being organic and healthful, and you may not get the exact household products you want. You’re stuck with what’s left at this point. So please don’t write to me, angry and horrified because I suggested conventional crackers instead of chia seed ones that were ground by the hardened lava of a Chilean volcano, okay?

If you’re looking for general information about quarantines, go read this article. For detailed information on Covid-19 quarantine preparedness, check out this book.

Don’t panic – you can still do this. Remember that those of us who are well-prepared all started somewhere – and most likely the place we started was where you are right now: realizing at the last minute we didn’t have what we needed.

These are the suggestions I would use myself to put together last-minute emergency supplies.

Some general advice

Don’t be married to the idea of getting everything at one store. Most folks are flocking to Walmart but there are so many other stores out there where you can purchase what you need. Consider the following for some of your supplies.

  • Office supply stores
  • Dollar stores
  • Discount stores
  • Large pharmacies
  • Grocery stores (for things other than groceries)
  • Target
  • Big Lots
  • Hardware stores

Think outside the Walmart box when prepping for an emergency.

What to buy when the store is out of water

Here’s a photo of the water aisle at a Walmart near where my daughter lives.

There are lots of other options if the water aisle looks like this. They may not be as healthy but they’ll keep you from dying of dehydration.

  • Sports drinks (like Gatorade)
  • Flavored or sparkling water
  • Juice boxes or individual bottles
  • Juice
  • Soda pop (not too much though because that can be dehydrating instead of replenishing)
  • Vegetable juice
  • Premade iced tea

A good trick here is to go to the aisle where people get individually packaged stuff for their kids’ lunches. You’ll find all sorts of beverage pouches and plastic bottles of drinks here.

I warned you – not the healthiest, but healthy is no longer available. Trust me when I tell you it will be far better than having nothing available to drink. Oh – and don’t forget the wine. It won’t really rehydrate you, but you won’t care as much that you don’t have water.

Finally, use containers. You still have running water, right? Use vessels you already have and/or buy containers, wash them, and fill them up. No one is going to be sold out of containers unless you specifically look for “Water Containers.” Grab mason jars, pitchers, canisters, etc. Just make sure they’re food-safe and you’re good.

What to buy when the store is out of those meals in a box

Everyone seems to be looking for things like macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, and ramen noodles. If this is something you desire for your stockpile, here are some options. (Some of these are healthier than the original.)

  • Get plain pasta and cheese powder to DIY your mac and cheese
  • Get powdered milk to use for when you run out of regular refrigerator milk
  • Instead of ramen, get angel hair pasta, cook as directed, and add some soy sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder
  • In place of Hamburger Helper and that type of thing, use regular pasta or rice, a few spices (like an Italian spice blend) and a half a jar of marinara sauce. For a creamy version, go with garlic powder, onion powder, and cream of mushroom soup concentrate.

All of these options are very simple to make.

What to buy when the store is out of rice

Rice seems to be a big seller and for good reason. It’s cheap and it can really extend a meal. When I stopped by Walmart to look at what was low, they were down to only the teeny tiny bags of rice.

  • Buy the teeny tiny bags – yes, they’re much more expensive but better than no rice at all.
  • Order large bags from Amazon – there’s still plenty of rice there. This page is all bags of rice that are 15 pounds or greater in size. If you choose a product that is part of Amazon Prime, you’ll probably have it faster. Before ordering, look at the estimated date of arrival and try to find one that will be to you in less than a week.
  • Get a different grain like pasta, quinoa, amaranth, or barley.

What to buy when the store is out of canned food

The things that tend to be gone first are items like canned pasta meals, soups, and chili. That makes sense because they’re pretty reasonable meals when heated up slightly, and can even be eaten cold out of the can in a worst-case scenario.  If your desired canned goods are not available, look to these items:

  • Canned baked beans (tasty right out of the can at room temp
  • Canned refried beans
  • Canned V-8 and a can of mixed vegetables (turn that into soup)
  • Canned potatoes (Mash them up or put them on the grill)
  • Canned fish

Try a different store – Walmart isn’t the only game in town. I had fantastic luck at Aldi getting my kids well-supplied. I was able to get them entire cases of canned fruits and veggies.

Or move away from the regular canned goods and see what they’ve got over on the International Food aisle:

  • Noodle bowls that just need boiling water
  • Soup that may not be as familiar
  • Small cans of salsa or enchilada sauce

Look in other areas for shelf-stable food.

  • Pudding
  • Applesauce
  • Pouches of precooked rice (some have beans and other vegetables mixed in)
  • Peanut butter
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Jerky
  • Candy
  • Veggie chips
  • Potato chips
  • Pre-popped popcorn
  • Fruit cups
  • That squirty yogurt you get in pouches (the shelf-stable kind, not the refrigerated kind)
  • Vienna sausages
  • Pre-cooked bacon

You get the idea. Go out there and be creative. Scan every aisle to look for things that won’t spoil that your family will eat. I know whenever I’ve grabbed this kind of stuff, my girls have been thrilled since we don’t usually keep junk food in the house.

What to buy when the store is out of toilet paper

Toilet paper has been a biggie. There are videos online of people literally coming to blows over TP to wipe their behinds. If your store is out of toilet paper, check out the following options.

  • Baby wipes or “flushable” wipes (regardless of what the package says, do not flush these – you won’t be able to get a plumber to your house if you’re quarantined.)
  • Paper towels – not soft but it will get your heinie clean – also do not flush
  • Kleenex – pro-tip – do not get the ones infused with Vicks. Even the cheapest facial tissues out there will be a lot more expensive than toilet paper but it’s better than nothing.
  • Order from Amazon. They still have tons and tons of TP. I just ordered this which will arrive on Monday.
  • Go to an office supply store or a janitorial warehouse
  • If you simply cannot manage to acquire toilet paper, you’re going to have to use cloth. Treat it like you would a cloth diaper and have a bucket by the toilet for soaking so that your homemade wipes come clean easily. Here’s an article about it.

Think creatively for bum-wiping. Toilet paper is a relatively new, albeit wonderful, invention.

What to get when the store is out of bleach and cleaning supplies

Lots of stores seem to be running low on bleach, Lysol, and cleaning wipes.

  • You can make bleach from pool shock (calcium hypochlorite). Get pool shock at your local swimming pool and jacuzzi store and be sure to select one that doesn’t have additions like algaecide, or here on AmazonHere are instructions on how to make bleach from pool shock.
  • Hit up your local office supply store like Staples or Business Depot for cleaning supplies. They’ll be more expensive than Walmart but you may be able to find what you need.
  • Try the hardware store, grocery store, or dollar store for cleaning supplies.
  • Again, Amazon may have what you need for cleaners and wipes.

Think creatively – all sorts of stores sell cleaning products.

What to get when the store is out of over-the-counter medications

If the first store you visit is out of OTC meds that you want to have on hand, you still have some options.

  • Visit pharmacies.
  • Most grocery stores have a pharmacy section.
  • You can order them on Amazon for both adults and children.
  • The dollar store carries some OTC meds in smaller packages. You might also find them at places like Dollar General and Family Dollar.

If you are really, truly desperate, truck stops and gas stations have small, expensive single packs of a lot of different medications.

Don’t forget something to do

If your family is cooped up in quarantine for weeks, you’re going to need something to do. Grab some stuff that the kids haven’t seen before, like new toys, games, or puzzles. Craft supplies might be fun – you may have time to learn that new skill you’ve been thinking about. Also, hit up the used book store or Goodwill and grab yourself a quarantine library. Get reading material for the whole family.

Remember that even in the house, you’ll want to stay active. It isn’t healthy physically or mentally to sit there watching Netflix 20 hours a day. Run up and down your stairs, work on a home project (you can finally declutter that storage room), or do some exercise videos with the family.

When the store is out of last-minute emergency supplies you wanted

Don’t despair if you can’t the last-minute emergency supplies you wanted. It just means you’re going to have to be flexible and creative. And don’t let people who accuse you of panic-buying or being “selfish” get you down. Sure, you waited later than is ideal but you are doing the best you can, and I commend you for doing so. Ignore the jerks – most of us are really glad you’re here and you’re trying.

And when this crisis is over, think long and hard about the things you wished you would have had. Make yourself a list and start buying these items and by the time the next disaster rolls around, you’ll be much further ahead.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I highly recommend this:
    https://www.gardenoflife.com/content/product/mykind-organics-elderberry-syrup/

    Organic elderberry immune syrup.

    My wife caught a super nasty cold, was really sick for over a week, and I almost always catch what she catches.

    I started taking this anytime my throat or nose felt the least bit irritated and I never caught her cold.

    I have continued to take it whenever I feel the least bit ill and have had no illnesses. I much prefer this over any flu shot.

    we’re flying to the UK this month and it will be in my carry-on.

  • I order some cake & brownie mixes from King Arthur online. I have cocoa powder, flour, etc. to make things from scratch, but sometimes it is nice to have something extra. True to form I order for at least six months worth. Finances kept me from ordering for a year. Another online store is vitacost. I have ordered from them in the past, but was never happy with their shipping. I got a lot of damaged cans, but the glass jars and supplements would come in okay. Don’t order the box chia containers. They come in with the safety seal broken. The advantage of having 6 Spanish grape vines is that we canned 135 quart jars of grape juice. Saves us money on buying juices. One thing I would buy if I could go shopping right now is some large containers of beef, chicken and vegetable bouillon cubes. Either to add to soup or make a quick broth to eat.

  • Look for restaraunt supply shops, Asian ones are hurting right now. You can get bulk rice and noodles there.

    In big city there will be a few repackaging companies that make smaller spice, nuts, dried fruit, shelf stable items.

    Go to regular restaraunt sup plier like sysco. Yeah min order but you can get everything.

    Talk to food manufacturers that are local artisan, it will cost but you get top quality stuff but have to buy a bit of it.

    For women get sanitary products a lot of sub componets made in China so they will run out just like birth control. … all kinds from pills to condoms to cups.

    You can look at farms outside your city some farmers sell meat direct if you have freezer space. Also eggs and some canned goods if you drive in farm area you will find egg for sale signs.

    There are also bakery suppliers you can get flour salthe yeast and sugar plus nuts fruits and chocolate.

  • It is now projected that hospital beds in the US will be full due to the Wuhan Virus by May 8th.

    If that is correct, it will be the beginning of true panic.

    Collapse of the Western medical system, and a run on grocery stores.

  • Couple things: First, for this particular situation (Covid-19), water shouldn’t be an issue. Water supply, gas, and electricity are unlikely to be interrupted. So you probably don’t need to stock up on water.

    Second, I got on Amazon yesterday (March 6) and the prices of rice and other staples were like 5x what I would pay in a grocery store. I got on the Costco site and a lot of the staples were sold out. However, Sam’s Club still had a lot of supplies in stock (rice, pasta, canned vegetables and fruit, nuts, cereal, even toilet paper). You can order from them even if you don’t have a membership and they will deliver to your home. The prices are the same as club prices, plus shipping. Unless you have a membership, then shipping is free.

    We were well stocked for 3 months (have always been), but we pushed it out to 12 months, and were able to do all of that by ordering online through Sam’s and Amazon. FYI.

    • I would not bet on the grid being up over a month after linemen start getting sick. It takes regular maintenance every day to keep it up. Maybe you should have stored water and research rainwater harvesting.

  • My faucet is still working. We filled some containers this morning. Not sure how folks think they are outta water. Want vs Need

    • BC of Doom !!! Hello old friend from another site. How are ya?? We are fine in our neck of the woods – but have the virus in Williamson County in southern middle TN. About 40 miles from my location.

      Per Woodpile Report last Tuesday “Honeyville – I (Ol’ Remus) checked a few items, all out of stock.”

      Thanks for the great article Daisy– I find that small town local groceries are still stocked.

  • I like to keep my unused/ empty canning jars full of water. If I need to do some canning I don’t feel guilty about dumping it. Or I can use it to cook something or just drink it. And some of the jars I will process in the canner to have sterile water for cleaning wounds.

  • Amazon still has compressed towels. Just add a little water and you have toilet tissue. It won’t devolve in septic tanks but they are very portable and nice if you have to bug out.

  • Curious to know if I was quaruntined,could I still go out on my 1 acre land? Planting crops and raising chickens,that would still need tending to.

    • I’m going to venture a “guess” that you would still be able to be outside on your own property. However, that might depend on how rural your home is and whether or not you can be seen by passing vehicles. No one can see my house from the county road so I do plan to go outside if it comes to that. Hope it doesn’t come to that…Good Luck.

      • And if you get the virus, sitting in a warm, breezeless sunny spot with the sun directly on the skin of your chest will go a long way toward recovery. Either that or a sunny window. Did this for a couple of days with pneumonia and recovered much more rapidly than I would’ve without it.

  • All good suggestions. People need to think outside the box. Not sure what the fixation on water is though; it’s not a hurricane or power outage that’s imminent. Fill up some containers if you’re worried. Yes, office supply stores are a good resource. I was picking an order up the other day and was surprised to see orders for disinfecting wipes etc; realized they sell all sorts of stuff. Big Lots is also great as you note- never know what they’ll have.. Also Ocean State Job Lot if you’ve got one in your area. Not sure why everyone heads to Walmart but if you’ve got other alternatives, those are best now.

    • Ani it’s because folks have never been without so they are buying water because they don’t know how to do anything for themselves anymore such as getting containers and filling them. Your right though they should be getting good durable containers and filling them so they can be reused.
      Soon it will be hot and if people are still getting sick then things will become disrupted.
      I’d be willing to bet those buying water are still throwing away their water bottles after they use them too. The mindset hadn’t changed or corrected itself yet.
      When/if services are disrupted water, power, trash, fuel etc. are always on the list.
      In the Army in Macedonia often they would divert the water from our base to the fields with no warning. We had rolling brownouts and full blackouts with no warning. It was a steep lesson for many who’d never lived that way and took faucets and light switches for granted. I grew up on a sketchy well system and was prepping for an attack so I’d already laid in supplies.
      Water, good clean water, is always a priority in almost any situation.
      If your down with the virus hydration will be important for recovery.

      • Yes. I was living overseas for a while in an area where the only surface water nearby was salt-water and where it doesn’t rain for at least half the year. I filled up any containers I could including those large plastic ones people discarded that were used in water dispensers. Would have only got me so far but I had enough water for at least a couple of weeks.

      • Used to fill the bathtub (after wiping down with bleach, of course) with water for use in other than cooking and drinking during hurricanes. Also used 18 gallon totes that were sealed with silicone tub and tile sealer once filled. Lined up across garage wall. By adding a drop or so of bleach they stayed clear and clean.

  • For bleach does it have to be regular Clorox (to disinfect drinking water) bc I’m having a hard time finding it? It all says splash resistant and cloromax technology or something like that? Thank you !

    • It doesn’t have to be Clorox brand. You don’t want any fancy stuff in there like fragrance or boosters. I cannot say for sure if this is correct but I’ve read a couple of times that the splash resistant bleach may be different. (I always thought it was just a different pouring mechanism but I can’t say for sure.) If you cannot find plain bleach, go to the pool/jacuzzi section of your local pool or hardware store and get pool shock – again with no fancy stuff. It’s easy to make bleach with pool shock and that stuff lasts a very long time.

      • Also, if you have the ability to boil water, I believe that eliminates the need for bleach to purify it.

      • I have a large in ground pool so I stock granular chlorine. Not sure if your local pool store carries small quantities (I get it in 35 to 50 pound tubs). The pool shock that I’m familiar with contains some things you might not want to drink (like algaecide). On a well with natural gas fired generator to also run furnace / AC. Woodstove with several cords of wood on hand. Our BOL is similarly set up, but with diesel tractor PTO generator.

      • Hi Daisy, long time reader here. Is it safe to refill the small single use bottles of water? I’ve always heard not to reuse them but in this type of scenario I would assume it’s better than nothing. I would appreciate your take on this. Thanks!

        • I have been doing so for the past few weeks and always do so when traveling. I wouldn’t have them sitting there for a year, but for the short term, it’s fine.

    • I bought some of the splash-less bleach the other day-was all they had. Just read the label and it said NOT for disinfecting or sanitizing. It said for that purpose you had to get the regular bleach. Ugh! Wish I had read it the other day but I sure didn’t know it was a different formula.

  • If you have Amish communities near you, check some of their stores. They sell a lot of bulk goods, along with books and non-electric toys.

  • Yea. Good luck keeping me inside for this giant farking hoax.

    Now. Here’s the $64 dollar question; When everyone is safely inside, what are ‘they’ planning to do, outside? We’re already ‘being warned’ not to ‘touch dirty cash!’

    Kind of reminds me of the ‘Vegas/Paddock stuff NO ONE TALKS ABOUT; While ‘someone’ shot up casino fronts to keep onlookers inside, homeless people reported rather odd comings and goings and all sorts of vehicles running around, outside.

  • 1. If you use a Berkey or similar water system, make sure you have extra filters.
    2. Hubby buys the pre-made iced tea so I have been saving the jugs to re-fill. I have water storage but a little more won’t hurt.
    3. Jugs of milk can be frozen–if you pour a little out of the top so it can expand &, of course, if you have freezer space.
    4. There are shelf-stable versions of almond milk, rice milk, etc. I get it at Costco so other stores will have it as well.
    5. I love the cheese powder idea. My grandkids will love that.
    6. I also get Tostito’s cheese dip in a jar. It’s in the chip aisle…anything in the Mexican food category is comfort food for us. (I also have tortillas in the freezer as I have not learned to make them yet.)
    7. Another substitute for Hamburger Helper could be Rice-a-Roni. You can mix ground beef & onions into it. If you want it creamy, add cream of mushroom soup.
    8. Get some baking chocolate chips. They can be a comfort food hiding in plain sight or you can teach your kids to bake from scratch. When our kids were little & we had no money, baking was always fun for them.
    9. As an alternative to bleach, I have a product called Oxivir Tb with Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP). The labeling says it will kill a SARS type coronavirus in 1 minute. Maybe it will kill this virus too but DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE BUYING. It cleans & disinfects in one step and does not have the toxic fumes of bleach. The smell of bleach and other chemical cleaners make me really sick so I had to look for alternatives. Oxivir is very pricy though. I got it on Amazon.
    10. Another store to try is feed stores, Tractor Supply, etc. I am always surprised by the variety of things I find in those stores.
    11. We ordered extra flea treatment for our pets since it might be hard to get later.
    12. I also ordered epsom salt since I will need it in the garden pretty soon. (I put a scoop in when I plant each tomato plant.)

  • Good advise for the new prepper or prepper not quite ready. I feel blessed. Slowly prepping for the last three years. Always kept food harvest season till harvest season. Moved and just started building up a stock. Last things were the typical otc med supplies for virus care and juices. Last thing to address are my husbands meds. Hope to hear we can get his meds 3 months at a time. Since they’re from a specialist I’ve had to wait for his 6 months visit. That will be here Monday. Then other than feeding my critters and gardening we’re home for months.

  • Try the thrift stores. We have one near me that carries what appears to be overstock/unsold items. I found the exact same 3 bottle cases of Clorox that I saw at sam’s club last week plus hand sanitizer, canned goods etc

  • Check out international food stores–Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. Most people won’t think about them, and may actually avoid them just like the Chinatowns across the country.

  • Ladies, if you have the ability through insurance and can physically you should consider getting an IUD. I got one when I knew I was going to have a gap in insurance and (knock on wood) it has been great.

  • We don’t have a Costco, but we do have a Sam’s. We went to Sam’s this morning to pick up a few things not so much to increase our stores but just replace items. It was just a normal day at Sam’s. We arrived about 10:30. Most of the check-out lines were empty since the church crowd had not yet arrived. Still, most that we saw had one of two bundles of TP. One guy had his flat-bed cart loaded with nothing but TP. Other than that guy I wouldn’t have noticed anything out of the ordinary. Didn’t notice any bare product spaces at all.

    I believe that most people in this area are already fairly self-sufficient, unlike the herd that occupies most of the ‘blue’ controlled metro areas where most of the panic is documented.

    • Don’t be too alarmed by the guy with a cart full of TP (or paper towels). Our janitorial services has numerous accounts, around 6, and he supplies all the paper products, so he buys large quantities at a time at both Sam’s and Costco.

      I tried to read through most of the reply’s so I may have missed this…

      To make your own hand sanitizer combine: 3 parts Aloe Vera Gel to 1 part 91% Isopropyl Alcohol
      You could also blend the alcohol with some glycerin or a combination of all three

  • Toilet paper alternative…..a hand-held bidet. They attach to the tank of your toilet. Simply shower your undercarriage area and dry with a ‘coin’ cloth or get some reusable bamboo cloths that are dedicated to this task. Wash them separately of course. *If you do the showering part correctly, there should be nothing left but water to dry off. (I don’t recommend the garden nozzle type sprayers) These are also great for rinsing off cloth diapers by the way

  • I found N-95 masks at a chicken processing equipment store (we have a lot of chicken houses around us). The price was what they usually are, not like an Amazon seller that wanted 49.99/10 + 50.00 S&H.

  • I wouldn’t flush “Kleenex”. It and many brand name facial tissues are somewhat polymerized in order
    to prevent tearing. Not good for septic systems.

    To test, place a piece in a bowl of water; if it doesn’t break down quickly don’t flush.

  • Sure, go to target where not only can you get tp, you can get a man in the ladies rest room … free of charge.

  • Looking to clean your bum with little or no tp? Buy a spray hose that you connect to your bathroom sink faucet –be sure its hose is long enough to reach the toilet. Use it for after peeing right there, save the tp for more serious business. Dry with a personal washcloth. Hardware stores have these. The one I have is detachable, has an on off switch, and can be easily removed to use the sink.

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