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As COVID-19 cases surge across the nation, many states and cities are adding new restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. That, coupled with winter weather in certain areas, has people worried about having enough necessities at home in case of statewide or countrywide shutdowns—especially given the product shortages we’ve seen over the past couple of months.
While there is no need to panic buy or hoard anything, there are some essential items you should always have on hand. At the beginning of the pandemic, many household essentials were nearly impossible to find due to hoarding and supply chains unable to meet demand. According to Joe Vernon, Supply Chain Analytics and Transformation Practice Leader at the consulting firm Capgemini, these supply chains are at their max capacity.
“It’s really just a matter of the consumer not hoarding and unfortunately, there’s nothing any of us can do about that,” he said. “Stores have done some stockpiling and consumers have already started to stockpile. Though stores are now putting up limits [on what individuals can buy].”
Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict what items will specifically sell out if there is a second lockdown. “Announcements around the upcoming release of a vaccine and pending outbreaks of the flu, or a second wave of relief checks, will drive consumer behaviors at unknown times and rates of reoccurrence,” Vernon said.
That being said, it’s a good idea to make sure you are stocked up on household essentials, but avoid hoarding such items or else there won’t be enough for everyone. Here are the 10 essentials to buy now in case of a potential lockdown or product(s) shortage.
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1. Toilet paper
Toilet paper was one of the most sought-after products at the beginning of the pandemic and is once again becoming hard to find as cases rise across the country. As Vernon explains, the paper supply chain is an efficient supply chain, meaning they won’t make more than is typically needed. Basically, what you see is what you get.
How much should you buy? To be on the safe side, it’s recommended to buy one more pack than usual of whatever you can find.
2. Disinfecting wipes and spray
Cleaning wipes and spray are still one of those items that are hard to find. Vernon says Clorox is at its max production and it’s been reported that Clorox wipes could continue to be low in supply well into 2021. While you may not be able to find the brand of disinfecting products you’re looking for, there are still some others on the market, with many stores limiting distribution to reduce the risk of a shortage.
How much should you buy? It’s best to have one or two extra disinfecting sprays or wipes depending on your cleaning needs.
3. Hand sanitizer
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed like hand sanitizer was impossible to find, but Vernon says it should be more readily available as many retailers pivoted to making their own. While hand sanitizer is in stock right now, you’ll want to make sure you have an extra bottle or two in case it becomes hard to find again. Just make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol content so it’s effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How much should you buy? One to two bottles, or more depending on the size of your household.
4. Hand soap
While hand sanitizer is a great way to disinfect on-the-go, the CDC says that washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water is more effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We saw popular brands of hand soap go out of stock at the beginning of the pandemic, so if you don’t have any spare soap bottles, it might be good to get some more, just in case.
How much should you buy? One to two for each sink.
5. Paper towels
Paper towels are another household essential that you’re going to want to make sure you have at home, especially because they were harder to find earlier this year. Like Vernon said earlier, paper products are at max production capacity. Not only are paper towels great for wiping up spills and drying hands, but they’re essential for disinfecting surfaces from the coronavirus as you can dispose of them immediately, so get an extra pack, if you can.
How much should you buy? One to two packs of rolls, depending on the size of your household.
Tissues are another paper product that was hard to find during quarantine and is essential to have during another shutdown. Not only are they good for blowing your nose during cold and flu season, but they can be used as a barrier between you and other objects that might have the coronavirus on them like doorknobs and gas pumps. We found that Puffs Ultra Soft tissues are the best tissues because they’re strong and won’t irritate your nose. Be sure to have an extra box lying around.
How much should you buy? One to two boxes per person.
Before another potential lockdown, you’re going to need a thermometer in your house. It’s essential for checking if you have a fever, which is one of the first symptoms of the coronavirus, according to the CDC. During the pandemic, thermometers were initially very hard to come by, and as cases are increasing across the country, you’re going to want to make sure you have one to check your temperature just in case.
How much should you buy? One. Two if you have a bigger household in case one person gets sick.
8. Face masks
Face masks have pretty much become ingrained into our daily life at this point, but it’s always good to have some spare ones as more states are issuing mask mandates and you may have to replace your cloth face coverings over time. The Athleta Non Medical Face Mask is the best face mask we’ve ever tested as each one is triple-layered, comfortable and comes with an adjustable nose piece and ear loops. We found them to be comfortable and breathable, too. They initially sold out when they were first released, but are back in stock with more color options.
For a more affordable option, the Old Navy Triple-Layer Cloth Face Mask is our best value pick and only cost $12.50 for a pack of five.
How much should you buy? For reusable masks, we’ve found that having five per person (or more) works well.
9. Trash bags
Another item that was hard to find at the beginning of the pandemic was trash bags. Not only are they essential for removing your household waste, but the CDC recommends having a designated lined trashcan if someone gets sick with the coronavirus. That way you can keep it separate and quickly dispose of anything that could have been in contact with the virus, so make sure you have enough in stock right now. The Glad ForceFlexPlus bags are the best trash bags we’ve ever tested because of their superior strength and odor-blocking material.
How much should you buy? One to two packs per household.
10. Canned goods
Non-perishable items are always good to have on hand for a quick and easy meal. After the initial shock of the pandemic, canned goods were swiped from grocery store shelves and the internet. While you shouldn’t overbuy these items, it might be a good idea to grab a few extra of your favorite soups, beans, and vegetables, just in case. Though you’ll probably only see popular items on the shelves currently, as Vernon explains that manufacturers have been delisting certain items temporarily, so they can more efficiently produce popular items.
How much should you buy? Not more than you actually plan to use. It’s unlikely that you would not have access to canned goods—online or in store—for a span of even three months.
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