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Affordable Food To Buy During An Emergency

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Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading globally, this weekend’s grocery shop was chaotic, nerve-wracking, and concerning. 

With my regular shopping list handy, I groaned just thinking about the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the grocery store. I was right – once I arrived in front of the mechanical sliding doors at Trader Joe’s, I saw the crowd gasping for air whilst swimming up to grab the last of the dry food items. 

It’s important for us not to panic about the coronavirus, yet, still, be diligent in preparing for the worst-case scenario. Along with stocking up food items, it’s a great idea to also keep household staples including laundry detergent, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and disinfectant. You might also want to add prescription medicine on that list, too. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is assumed to be spread mainly from person-to-person. A person may become infected from close contact of another person who has the virus, or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

Why Are People Stocking Up? 

As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, folks are concerned they may face self-isolation or potential city “lockdowns,” which neighborhoods in Wuhan, China are currently experiencing. 

Similar to preparing for an impending storm or outage, many people just want to have what they need – just in case.

What To Buy? 

When stocking up on food for a long stretch of time, consider cheap non-perishable food items. Also, stick with items you’ll most likely consume. For example, if you no longer need an emergency food supply, you can still use it in your everyday cooking. 

Examples of my best non-perishable food items I use on a regular basis include rice, beans, lentils, potatoes, nut butter, and oats. All of which I always have in my pantry and on my grocery shopping list. 

My #1 tip: don’t buy anything you won’t normally use, won’t enjoy, nor use in a basic recipe. 

My #2 tip: visit the grocery store equipped with a shopping list. Not only will this save you time, but this will help ensure you’re buying everything you need while sticking to a budget. 

What Food To Store For Pandemic

  • Canned Food (beans, soups, and sauces)
  • Dry Food (beans, lentils, and pasta) 
  • Frozen food (mixed vegetables, bread, and fruit) 
  • Seasonings & Spices (salt, black pepper, and garlic powder) 
  • Produce (potatoes, apples, and dried fruit) 
  • Nuts & Seeds (sunflower seeds, nut butter, chia seeds) 
  • Grains (brown rice, oats, cereal) 
  • Snacks (granola, trail mix, tea) 
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, hot sauce) 
  • Oils & Baking (flour, baking powder, baking soda)

Where To Find Affordable Food?

While grocery stores might have just about everything you need, here are a few places you can consider if you’re tight on cash: 

  • Local food pantries  – Local food pantries are a great resource if you’re facing hard times and cannot afford to buy adequate food. To find a pantry near you, check out ampleharvest or
  • Dollar stores – Here you can find plenty of canned food items. Keep in mind that the dollar store does not always have the best deals. However, they are convenient and maybe an accessible option if grocery stores are challenging to travel to. 
  • Ethnic grocery stores – I usually find the best deals at ethnic (Latin, East Asian, Indian) stores. You can also find food in bulk including beans, rice, and pasta for very cheap. 

List Of Food To Buy During An Emergency 

Here is a list of affordable food to buy during an emergency, pandemic, or for the coronavirus. All of the foods listed are easy-to-find, with cost in mind. Let’s get into what you should consider for your emergency food supply.

Canned Food 

Black Beans

Red Kidney Beans

White Cannellini Beans

Chickpeas / Garbanzo Beans  

Pinto Beans 

Tomato Sauce

Pasta Sauce 

Tomato Paste 

Crushed Tomatoes 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes 




Green Beans 



Coconut Milk 

Dry Food 


Split Peas 





Instant Potatoes

Frozen Food 

Mixed Vegetables 


Green Beans 








Seasonings & Spices 


Black Pepper 

Italian Seasoning 



Garlic Powder 

Onion Powder

Chili Powder 

Smoked Paprika 



Garam Masala 



Cumin Seeds 






Sweet Potatoes


Nuts & Seeds 

Peanut Butter

Sunflower Seeds 


Brown Rice 

White Rice 

Oat Bran 


Rolled Oats 

Whole Wheat Pasta 







Chips & Salsa 


Energy Bars 

Trail Mix 






Hot Sauce 

Soy Sauce 

Teriyaki Sauce 

Barbecue Sauce 

Salad Dressings 




Worschestshire Sauce


Olive Oil

Coconut Oil

Canola Oil

Baking Items




Baking Soda

Baking Powder


Recipes Using Pantry Items 

Need recipe ideas? I got you. Below are breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that use only or mostly pantry and cheap non-perishable food items.

Puerto Rican Style Beans from Scratch 

habichuelas guisadas from scratch with potatoes and sliced avocado

Puerto Rican-style beans are perfect with a side of white rice, sweet plantains, and sliced avocado.

Veggie Fried Rice 

This oil-free veggie “fried” rice is perfect if you have a bunch of vegetables lying around that need to be used up. If you prefer an oil version, check out “chicken” stir-fry.

Chocolate Gluten-Free Muffins 

Craving chocolate for breakfast? These are perfect for your morning meal – packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and deep cocoa flavor.

Creamy, Savory Oat bran 

How about a bowl of creamy oats? Add a dab of butter and a pinch of salt. Breakfast is ready!

Cinnamon-Spiced Breakfast Rice Pudding 

If you’re getting tired oats, cinnamon-spiced breakfast rice pudding is a great way to use that pot of leftover rice.

Vegetable Lentil Soup 

Warm yourself up with a bowl of vegetable lentil soup.

Smoky Mac and Cheese 

Large bowl of smoky, vegan mac and cheese with thick macaroni noodles

Mmmmm mac and cheese! Just about everything used in this recipe is plant-based, using raw cashews for the cheese sauce.

Red Lentil Coconut Curry 

Easy-peasy red lentil coconut curry best with a side of white rice.

If you’re unsure how to protect yourself from the coronavirus, check out these tips from the World Health Organization (WHO): 

  1. Regularly clean your hands with hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand rub. Or, wash with water and soap. 
  2. Distance yourself from anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms including coughing or sneezing. 
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

To learn more about the coronavirus, or any other diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Check Out 25 Affordable Recipes From Pantry And Frozen Ingredients

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