The Plague is Coming, Part 3 — Pantry Prep

With the growing list of local schools, colleges, and businesses that are closing, I figure I have about five to seven days to prepare for a full house. For us, I’m not so worried about getting sick, because everybody here is mostly young and healthy.

I’m mostly worried about feeding a house of boys/men for seven days, if I can’t go to the supermarket every day. My locusts eat large quantities of food.

I usually go to the supermarket every day, because there are about five supermarkets five minutes from my house. And because I’m not that organized. So, I never have that much in the pantry or freezer, but stocking up seems like a good idea right now. Steve and I did a big shop over the weekend and did some organization. Here’s what we did:

  • I cleaned out the old stuff first. Anything in the freezer that was over six months old went in the garbage. Are you labeling your freezer bags with dates? You should. After six months, meat isn’t tasty anymore.
  • I stocked up on root vegetables — potatoes, carrots, celery, onions. They can last for a while and are main ingredients in almost every recipe. Everything else is frozen. I am big fan of Whole Food brand frozen vegetables.
  • I bought big family sized meat — pork chops, chicken breasts, sausages. And then divided them up into meal sized amounts, labeled them in freezer bags, and then frozen them. I froze one big beef roast for a stew.
  • Also in the freezer — coffee beans and ice cream and frozen burritos for Jonah.
  • The pantry is divided up by types of food. That way I can see what I need. The top shelf is for breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, granola) and snacks (peanuts, chips, granola bars, crackers, dried fruit).
  • The second shelf if canned goods (beans, tomatoes, artichokes, sauces, chicken broth)
  • Third shelf is for carbs — In addition to the potatoes in the fridge, I have pasta, couscous, more beans, farro. I also keep the baking supplies there.
  • The bottom shelf is for oils/vinegars and fresh bread.
  • Pantry organization tools include IKEA bins and OXO storage containers.
  • If you’re going to do a lot of cooking without going to the supermarket, don’t forget to buy all the stuff that you’ll want to make those frozen pork chops and soups flavorful. That means garlic, jars of salsa, various pre-made sauces, dijon mustard, dried spices, ginger, jalapeños, capers, artichokes, chicken bouillon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salad dressing. If you have room for one herb go for rosemary, because it lasts for a while. Consider getting some pancetta or pork or ham and freezing it in smaller bags.
  • Good lord, I almost forgot booze. Yes, you need lots of wine and beer, because it’s good for cooking and for cozy nights at home.
  • If you don’t cook, then fill the freezer with pre-made dinners. It might be a good time to learn to cook, but you probably won’t.

Have fun hunkering down! (And pray for the oldies.)

UPDATE 3/12:

  • Ground beef doesn’t freeze well, if you want to use it to make burgers later. It doesn’t clump together very well for burgers, but it’s fine for tacos and chili. My recipe for chili calls for 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of beef, so I’m freezing mine in bags in those amounts.
  • Don’t forget tea and coffee and little treats.
  • Don’t forget toiletries.
  • Think through your recipes ahead of time, so you have everything that you need.

58 thoughts on “The Plague is Coming, Part 3 — Pantry Prep

  1. Yes. Apparently in parts of Northern Italy they aren’t even treating anyone over 65. Not just out of respirators but the medical staff can’t work any more hours due to exhaustion.

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  2. My brother in law is a doctor at a hospital with an active case. Last night he told me that at least 3 providers had been infected by the patient. Isolation protocol is a real problem, both because it’s hard to do properly, and because most providers don’t do it very often. A lot of medical personnel are going to get sick, and with testing still inadequate it will be hard to contain even inside the hospitals.

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  3. I think what some of the “hoarding” talk misses is how much stuff a typical American household of 4 is going to go through if cooking and eating all meals at home, or what a week’s groceries look like.

    I have two teens, a growing 1st grader, an athletic husband, and our family normally eats dinners at the college cafeterias, so I’m usually just buying breakfast, lunch and snack stuff. When the cafeterias shut down during breaks and the whole family is home eating (like right now during spring break), we grocery shop CONSTANTLY. If we were to do all of that in a single weekly run, it would look like we were preparing for the zombie apocalypse. If/when the bug gets closer, we will try to cut down grocery shopping frequency (and eating out and cafeteria).

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  4. The NYTimes has a kitchen prep guide. Thing I learned: scallions can be regrown on the counter. Woo! I was shopping for two people to be able to isolate for two weeks but am now facing a returning college student to feed as well. More shopping to do!

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  5. Wow, Laura, your pantry prep is beautiful and impressive. My bags of groceries are stacked in the hallway because I need to discard old things in the pantry. We have two refrigerators, so I tried to put the new things in the second fridge. But i haven’t done the clean out of old items I should.

    Also, I don’t cook, so part of my prepping in fantasy prepping, in which I imagine that I will suddenly bake bread (which I’ve always wanted to do, in a vague, theoretical way). I bought a packet of yeast.

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    1. bj said, “Also, I don’t cook, so part of my prepping in fantasy prepping, in which I imagine that I will suddenly bake bread (which I’ve always wanted to do, in a vague, theoretical way). I bought a packet of yeast.”

      Bread machines are nice. You don’t have to let the machine do the whole job–I believe you can let it prep pizza dough and fancy bread dough for you and then do whatever extra steps are involved. I haven’t used my bread machine for a while, but we’ve done challah in the past. My teenage boy has gotten into breadmaking recently.

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  6. Any word on your college student? Harvard & Amherst are telling people to go home (with the plan for online classes); Columbia, NYU, Yale, . . . and Stanford, UW, and Berkley have gone remote. Berklee school of music is asking people to quarantine themselves if they return from a state that has declared a state of emergency (NY, CA, WA, FL, OR, UT, MD, KY, RI). Seems like an odd choice, once RI is on the list, a state that is nearly a suburb of Boston.

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  7. We are all doomed. I am panicked not because of COVID-19 but because of the ignorance of my students. I am teaching persuasive writing again, so I thought I’d start off today with a debate about whether our university should cancel classes because of COVID-19. Almost everyone said no, and their reasons were not well-informed. It all ended with me saying some doom and gloom things then reminding them that they shouldn’t believe me just because I said it, but they should be looking for a variety of sources to check the info I talked about.

    But overall, very depressing.

    While I was teaching, my daughter texted from Spain that she is traveling to Austria this weekend because she’s afraid she will be sent home soon. She thinks it’s going to get as bad in Spain as it is in Italy.

    Anyway, I am not really panicked, but I am in a state of alert. What I’m not doing is pantry prepping, mainly because I hate grocery shopping.

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    1. We have Prime Whole Foods delivery, which is how I did it. I discovered that I really don’t know the weight of ginger, which I purchased (see, cooking fantasy above). But, my parents took some of it (and they do cook). They also took some of the meyer lemons I ordered accidentally, and will make pickles.

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    2. Wendy said, ” I’d start off today with a debate about whether our university should cancel classes because of COVID-19. Almost everyone said no, and their reasons were not well-informed.”

      Wait, don’t tell me–it’s because nobody at your institution is deathly ill yet.

      (On the other hand, I can see how it’s going to be tough/impossible to do more hands-on/lab-oriented courses online. It’s just not going to work.)

      “While I was teaching, my daughter texted from Spain that she is traveling to Austria this weekend because she’s afraid she will be sent home soon.”

      https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/spain/

      A pretty good bet, actually.

      I see Cornell is going to remote learning after spring break.

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  8. Between just crap we have around because nobody wants to eat it and my camping food, we could probably stay home a month with being hungry or two weeks without having to eat crap that is only around because nobody will eat it. I’m sort of assuming if things get bad enough that nobody will bring me a pizza for more than two weeks, whatever the problem is won’t be solved by stored food.

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    1. MH said, “I’m sort of assuming if things get bad enough that nobody will bring me a pizza for more than two weeks, whatever the problem is won’t be solved by stored food.”

      Well, part of it is not wanting to eat a pizza that some unknown parties breathed on.

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  9. @bj, if you’re stuck at home, you could discover the joys of baking! Which I admit, may not be on your bucket list. At any rate, if you like bread, you can stretch the yeast by turning it into sourdough starter. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/8392/sourdough-starter/

    @Wendy, this is sadly convincing: https://twitter.com/epsilon3141/status/1236823813716934658?s=20

    “Exponential” is a convincing word.

    However, no one seems to have considered what happens when entire colleges of young people are suddenly set free at once.

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  10. We’re on spring break, so husband and I went on a romantic prepping shopping date this morning. Dropped about the same amount as you posted on Twitter – about 2/3 on food and 1/3 on booze. Seems like the right ratio to me, but I guess we’ll see. Hubby thinks I am crazy, but we just saw the news about the containment zone in New Rochelle, so now I am looking not so crazy. I also realize what a privilege it is that we’re just able to go and drop that $$ without hesitation – worried for my others who don’t have that luxury.

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    1. People will be able to shop in New Rochelle — I think one of the issues I see is rapid fire rumors spreading based on headlines, including some faked ones. I have an issue with the current attitudes, which seem to be base on the idea that containment is possible by identifying known cases. In fact, I think we are in the mode where social distancing of the groups of the population that can best shoulder it is the solution. The problem is that those actions have significant economic impact, cause disruption, and are done, not to protect the individuals taking the actions, but everyone.

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  11. Part of my fantasy food prep during the plague involved baking bread, too, bj. I also bought yeast. I also just bought another $100 of food at Whole Food just now. I’m putting off dairy and fresh veggies until the last minute. I assume I have time, but maybe not. Just got a text from Jonah. Rutgers is cancelling classes after tomorrow. He’s coming home. He wants to travel. Ha.

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    1. Um, have you ever made bread before? That looks like a rather ambitious project. Pretzels can be complicated, too.

      How do you feel about starting with a simple loaf of white bread?

      I recommend two books. If you want to do it by hand, _The Wooden Spoon Bread Book_, by Marilyn M. Moore. It predates kindle, but it’s worth the shelf space. It’s the book I turn to again and again. She explains how to set up a space for baking, why things work, and offers an appealing range of breads.

      https://www.amazon.com/Wooden-Spoon-Bread-Book-Successful/dp/0871135051/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=wooden+spoon+bread+book&qid=1583875810&s=digital-text&sr=8-1

      If you have access to a bread machine, _Bread Machine Magic_, by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway. https://www.amazon.com/Bread-Machine-Magic-Exciting-Especially-ebook/dp/B00NDZQ4LI/ref=pd_ybh_a_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=8GV3RWEWJEQN6NA0C207

      That book, and its sequel, _More Bread Machine Magic_, are very good, deserving their high ratings on Amazon. Both available in electronic format.

      Fresh ingredients are essential for success in breadmaking. That means flour that hasn’t expired, and yeast that’s still alive. (You can check that by feeding a little bit some sugar and waiting.) The weather can make a difference, especially for more ambitious recipes. It’s harder to pull off recipes with whole grains.

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      1. Cranberry said, “Fresh ingredients are essential for success in breadmaking. That means flour that hasn’t expired, and yeast that’s still alive.”

        Bread machine yeast can be kept viable a very long time if you keep it in the freezer.

        “It’s harder to pull off recipes with whole grains.”

        So true. Our whole wheat bread almost always tastes a lot like cardboard. White bread is a much more forgiving product.

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      1. Chocolate chip cookies are a good way to start baking. The recipe on the back of the bag of chips is fine and you don’t need to bother with making them into cookies. Just spread out in a sheet pan and cut when done.

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  12. For those of you dreaming of breadbaking, if you can get a sourdough starter (like King Arthur’s – I bought one several years ago for about $5 and it keeps going), that makes the process easier. You don’t have to knead or do much work. There’s just lots of sitting around and waiting for things to rise.

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  13. From _The Wooden Spoon Bread Book_, by Marilyn M. Moore

    Sourdough Starter #1

    In a crockery or glass bowl, combine

    2 cups warm water
    1 scant tablespoon (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

    Beat well. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or plastic wrap. Stir several times a day. In two or three days, the starter will smell sour and be ready to use. Place in a loosely covered crockery or glass container. Refrigerate until needed.

    To replenish your starter, add equal amounts of water and flour. After stirring, cover with a clean cloth and allow to stand on counter overnight. Refrigerate in the morning. A starter should be used and replenished at least once a week. More often would be better,.

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  14. I don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week, but I will probably buy romaine, spinach and extra eggs tomorrow. And, I’ll buy wine and gin. Then I’ll be all set.

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    1. Sourdough bread doesn’t taste very sour, especially when you’re in the early stages of the starter. It’s more like regular white bread.

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  15. Rod Dreher had a mom story of his own.

    “”Hey Ma, just calling to see how self-quarantine is going.”
    “Oh, I had SO much fun today. So many people came by to see me.” [lists all]
    “That’s not quarantine if you receive visitors. Come on, Ma, you’re 76 & have COPD. You can’t risk this.”
    “Well, I know I’m not gonna get it.”

    I keep hearing very important people talking about preventing “panic,” but it takes a lot to put the fear of God into people and change their everyday habits. Heck, it’s hard to change habits even when you fully believe in the need to do so.

    Unfortunately, the national media has cried wolf too many times. And we’ve also had a number of foreign bugs that got hyped but (thankfully) ultimately fizzled. So the public is used to taking a large discount when the national media tries to scare them.

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  16. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/gov-inslee-to-restrict-gatherings-of-more-than-250-people-including-sports-and-concerts/?

    “OLYMPIA – In the most drastic move yet to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected Wednesday to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, a move aimed at sports, concerts and other cultural events.”

    It sounds like they want to exclude retail stores and schools from the restriction. I wonder how they will handle churches, political gatherings, parades, and places like airports that often have large groups of people standing around. Just about any public middle school or high school during passing periods exceeds 250 people in one place.

    The restriction hasn’t happened yet (I believe), but I think it’s going to be tough politically, legally and logistically, even if it’s the right thing to do.

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    1. They are not applying it to schools. It is aimed at sports, concerts, and events. But, we’ll know more at 10:15 PST, when he’s supposed to have a press conference.

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    2. I have to wonder about the math.

      249 people, you’re totally safe! That 250th person, though, is definitely infected.

      It’s at least better than other states or countries, that think 999 people are totally safe.

      Try 2 weeks of people staying 6 feet away from each other. Restaurants to offer takeout orders, not sit-down. All schools closed, or online. Retailers offering “order & pickup” services.

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    3. Schools will soon follow. I know Singapore didn’t, but the US does not have the kind of infrastructure for testing and monitoring that the city-state does.

      I just hope Germany doesn’t have a general quarantine before Sunday.

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    4. They just cancelled the St. Patrick’s parade. The comment section of the newspaper is filling up with rage from people who look like they are in the age group most affected.

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      1. Going by the last names, the shouting ones are Italian, not Irish. Which seems about par because the people I know with Irish ancestry who support Trump seem embarrassed about it and the Italians who do seem to enjoy the performative-asshole aspect of it.

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      2. MH said, “Going by the last names, the shouting ones are Italian, not Irish. Which seems about par because the people I know with Irish ancestry who support Trump seem embarrassed about it and the Italians who do seem to enjoy the performative-asshole aspect of it.”

        Or, alternately, the loss of the parade does represent a significant sacrifice to the community and to individuals…My big kids were planning to go to a 1,000+ kid convention in Houston at the end of the month, and it is a big bummer to realize that that isn’t a good idea.

        I also think that all of this endless “just wash your hands!” happy talk is unfortunate, because it makes people underestimate the amount of personal sacrifices that are necessary.

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      3. Insley just said, yes, there will be sacrifices and significant changes in our lives. We are the US’s leading edge,

        Insley tells us to talk to our old people, sent messages to his uncles.

        My parents are being pretty good. They ordered their groceries online.

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      4. Yes, people should acknowledge the sacrifice being made. I thought the Harvard/MIT letters kicking people out of their dorms were not sensitive, especially to those form whom “go home” is not an option.

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  17. bj said, “Yes, people should acknowledge the sacrifice being made.”

    I haven’t seen this point made much, but it would be helpful to reduce discretionary travel for the time being. Travel seems to be a huge contributor to coronavirus spread right now.

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  18. Here’s another thing that nobody that I’ve seen has mentioned:

    Russia’s numbers are almost certainly garbage.

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102303/coronavirus-new-cases-development-russia/

    They’ve supposedly got only 28 cases total, but given the amount of travel and commerce between Russia and China (and Russia and Europe and various countries on the Pacific Rim), there’s no way that it’s only 28 at this point. I find the absence of reported cases on the Pacific edge of the Russian Far East especially dubious, given the heavy contact that the area has with East Asian countries via commercial shipping, cruise ships, etc.

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      1. MH said, “America’s numbers are garbage. We don’t have testing. Putin is really not good at this stuff.”

        We have a much better shot at getting better numbers soon by virtue of having a more open society.

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      2. Mid-February would be a really good time to have good numbers. Kinda like fall 2015 would be a really good time for the Republican establishment to stick a knife in Trump’s electoral chances.

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  19. Inslee’s press conference online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSKn55EBp3s

    I thought it was measured, informative, sensitive, while imposing significant restrictions on us. Inslee is calling the work a “template” and I think it can be.

    People asked the questions (about 250, about ferries, about schools).

    The public schools are not closed, but have been told to prepare for closure, with an eye towards providing services (food, etc.) to the kids who get them through school.

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  20. Laura, I didn’t see any dry beans in your pantry photos. You have an instant pot. Also, beans cooked from dry are in my view tastier if they have been cooked in chicken broth.

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