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33 Cheap Things Your Family Should Have on Hand During the Pandemic

Many people are now hunkered down at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Homes are now not only where you relax, but also where you eat all your meals, do your work (for many) and entertain your kids. As you settle in for the long haul — with many businesses closed for another month and many schools closed for the rest of the school year — here’s a nonexhaustive list of the things you should have on hand to stay safe, productive, satiated and sane.

Last updated: March 23, 2020

A Water Filter

  • Price: PUR Basic 7 Cup Pitcher, $14.49

You don’t want to have to keep leaving the house to stock up on bottled water, so make a one-time investment in a water filter instead.

Minced Garlic

  • Price: Iberia Minced Garlic in Water, 32 ounces, $3.82

Minced garlic lasts longer than fresh garlic will, and it can add tons of flavor to any dish.


USB Mouse

  • Price: Logitech M185 Mouse, $13.99

Assuming you already have a laptop issued by your employer, it’s worth it to invest in a few other home office supplies to make working from home easier. If you only buy one extra piece of equipment, make it a USB mouse.

Hard Cheese

  • Price: La Bottega American Grana Cheese Wedge, 4 ounces, $3.49

Hard cheeses, like Parmesan, have a much longer shelf-life than soft cheeses. And while it might be convenient to buy grated cheese, this will spoil sooner. Opt to buy blocks of cheese and grate them yourself.

Cured Meats

  • Price: Hormel Natural Choice Hard Salami, 6 ounces, $3.69

Cured meats have a long shelf life and are versatile, too. Snack on them as is, use them to make sandwiches or — if you’re feeling fancy — use them to put together a charcuterie board.

Laptop Stand

  • Price: Lorell Angled Laptop Stand, $10.59

Additional monitors and other equipment can be pricey, but a laptop stand is another cheap item that can be a worthwhile investment for your home office.


Root Vegetables

  • Price: Quail H Farms Sweet Potatoes, 3-pound bag, $3.49

Root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and radishes can last for weeks in the produce drawer.


Rubber Gloves

  • Price: Made By Design Heavy Duty Latex Gloves, $3.99

If you are cleaning with bleach, make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using disposable gloves that you can throw out after each use, or, if you use reusable gloves, dedicate them only to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces for COVID-19.


  • Price: Safety 1st 3-in-1 Nursery Thermometer, $4.99

Not sure if you or your family member has a fever? Having a thermometer at home will help keep you informed.

USB Keyboard

  • Price: Logitech K120 Ergonomic Desktop USB Keyboard, $8.99

If you use a laptop stand, then you also need to invest in a USB keyboard. These are more ergonomically designed than your laptop keyboard and are surprisingly low-cost.

Read More: The Best and Worst Things About Working From Home



  • Price: McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning, 0.75 ounces, $2.99

You’ll likely be doing a lot of cooking at home in the coming weeks so if it’s been a while since you’ve stocked up your spice rack, now is a good time to do so.


  • Price: Clorox Splash-Less Liquid Bleach, 55 ounces, $2.49

Soap and water are effective at killing coronavirus, according to the experts, but if you want to take it a step further, you can use bleach to disinfect surfaces.

“Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other germ on the face of the planet,” Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington Medical Center, told NBC News.


Canned Fish

  • Price: StarKist Chunk Light Tuna in Water Can, 5 ounces, $0.99

Canned tuna and salmon can be the basis of quick salads, and canned anchovies and sardines can be eaten as is or used to add more flavor to a basic dish.

Boxed Broth

  • Price: Swanson Chicken Broth 100% Natural, 32 ounces, $2.19

Broth can serve as a base for soups, stews and sauces.


Nut Butter

  • Price: Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, 15 ounces, $2.89

Nut butters can be added to your smoothie, used as a dip for fruit and veggies or enjoyed by the spoonful (no one is around to judge). You can also use nut butters to make your own salad dressing.


Rubbing Alcohol

  • Price: CVS Health 91% Isopropyl Alcohol, 16 ounces, $2.59

Bleach can be harsh on surfaces, so you might also want to stock up on rubbing alcohol. It’s safe to use on all surfaces but might discolor plastic. Rubbing alcohol products that are at least 70% alcohol will kill the coronavirus, NBC News reported.

The CDC recommends routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks.


  • Price: Eggland’s Best Grade A Large Eggs, 12-count, $3.19

Eggs are traditionally a breakfast food but they can really be enjoyed any time of day. They also can be added to a number of dishes for extra flavor (fried rice, anyone?) and last a long time in the fridge.

Jigsaw Puzzles

  • Price: Springbok 500-Piece Puzzle, $13.95

You can only watch TV and movies for so long. Puzzles are an inexpensive way to keep the whole family entertained for hours.

Hand Lotion

  • Price: Vaseline Advance Repair Fragrance-Free Hand and Body Lotion, 2 fluid ounces, $1.49

Washing your hands frequently can dry out your hands. Not only is this uncomfortable but it also can cause cracks in your skin where germs can hide. Keep lotion on hand to prevent this from happening.



  • Price: Barilla Thin Spaghetti Pasta, 16 ounces, $1.29

Pasta can make for an easy side dish or main course, so consider stocking up on a variety of pasta — skinny, thick, traditional pasta, whole wheat or quinoa pasta, mac ‘n’ cheese, etc. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also always a crowd-pleaser.

Worth Paying For: 13 Splurge-Worthy Items That Will Keep You Healthy


  • Price: Birds Eye Steamfresh Selects Frozen Brown Rice, 10 ounces, $0.99

Rice also makes a great compliment to many meals, and it’s easy to store leftovers. Consider stocking up on white, brown and wild rice for a variety of flavors.


  • Price: Iberia Black Beans, 15.5 ounces, $0.79

Beans are not only cheap, but they’re also incredibly filling. Add them to a rice bowl or enjoy it as a side dish.



  • Price: Tylenol Extra Strength Pain Reliever & Fever Reducer Rapid Release Gelcaps, 100-count, $10.49

Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, so keep a fever-reducer on hand to help battle a less severe case of the virus. There is some expert debate over whether ibuprofen is a suitable treatment, but there seems to be agreement that acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol, can be effective.

Frozen Fruit

  • Price: Sambazon Açaí Pure Unsweetened Superfruit Frozen Smoothie Packs, 400 grams, $5.99

Smoothies make a great breakfast or snack, and frozen fruit makes them so easy to whip up. Experiment with mixing different fruits for unique smoothie flavors.

Frozen Veggies

  • Price: Birds Eye Steamfresh Selects Frozen Mixed Vegetables, 10 ounces, $0.99

Incorporate frozen veggies into soups, stews and stir-fries for added nutrition.

Cough Syrup

  • Price: Delsym 12 Hr Cough Relief Liquid, 3 fluid ounces, $10.49

Along with fever and shortness of breath, coughing is a common symptom of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Have cough syrup ready to go to manage this symptom at home.


Olive Oil

  • Price: Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Smooth, 16 ounces, $5.99

Olive oil is essential for cooking and also makes for a great salad dressing base — or even as a dressing on its own.


Coloring Books

  • Price: World of Flowers: A Coloring Book & Floral Adventure by Johanna Basford, $9.73

Coloring books aren’t just for kids — though they could be a good activity to give to your little ones while you’re trying to be productive. Some research has found that coloring can reduce anxiety in adults, and even if they don’t for you, they’re still a fun distraction.



  • Price: Planters Mixed Nuts, 15 ounces, $8.59

Nuts are a great healthy snack to have on hand.


Dried Fruit

  • Price: Ocean Spray Craisins, 6 ounces, $2.19

Dried fruit also makes for a healthy snack or dessert and is also great as a salad topping.



  • Price: Land O Lakes Salted Butter, 1 pound, $3.99

Store some in your fridge to use now, and some in the freezer to use later.

Board Games

  • Price: Candyland Board Game, $5.99

Now you have the time to make family game night a regular thing. Target sells a variety of kid-friendly board games for under $10.

A Journal

  • Price: 52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy, $10.22

Journaling can manage anxiety and reduce stress, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, so take time at the start or end of your day to journal. You can use the time to write down your thoughts, track how you are feeling or to jot down a few things you are grateful for.

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