COVID-19: Sheltering in place; how I spent my entire monthly grocery budget in 1 day

Not a very FIRE-like post title, I know. But COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, the markets are taking a nose-dive, and Canadians have cancelled hockey. Shit’s gotten real folks.

While my community hasn’t had any COVID-19 cases yet, when you look at the data from Hubei, China, the virus was spreading weeks before there were any confirmed cases (see Chart 7: Timeline of Events in Hubei). Thankfully, my area is taking this VERY seriously, with lots of cancelled events and services, to help flatten the curve to prevent healthcare system collapse. That said, panic is setting in, people have been told to stock up, and this is now the most valuable commodity around:

Why is everyone buying so much toilet paper?

I’ve been keeping on eye on the situation for a while now. Our neighbours to the South were hit before us, and hit harder due to lack of testing and a sluggish response by a truth-averse President. Americans on Reddit were talking about toilet paper shortages weeks ago. Lots of people here were mocking it; after all, COVID-19 causes respiratory problems, not the squirts, right?

Well, it’s more about being able to “shelter in place”. With estimates that upwards of 70% of the population will be infected in short order, businesses will be short staffed and we’re going to get supply chain disruptions. With quarantines and shut downs, we’re going to get transport disruptions. And when (not if) my family gets this, we’re stuck in the house for 14 days. And I’ll be damned if I’m running out of TP in a house full of boys!

Prepping for COVID-19

So I stocked up on TP, diapers, and prescription meds last week, and already had a good supply of hand sanitizer. We shop in bulk and keep a 2-week supply of food in the house at all times, so we just did our normal grocery shopping to top up what was running out.

That said, in the last week it soon became apparent that we should have enough of everything to last a month, not just a few weeks. I had enough TP (this was the final kick I needed to order a bidet, heh), but not enough food. In fact, I hardly ever buy canned food, so when my frozen food ran out after 2 weeks, that would be it, we’d have to venture out into the zombie hoard public places.

So we hit up Costco, Walmart, and some grocery stores to make a quick apocalypse pantry for our family of 5 plus cat. Now we finally have some non-perishables in the house.

This, folks, is why it’s so important to have good cash flow and an emergency fund. With three young kids, powdered milk was at the top of our list and our most expensive item. We stuck to frozen fish for protein (we’re pescatarian), but also got a lot of canned and dried beans. We never buy canned veggies, but got both veggies and fruit. Instead of bread (since our freezer was full), we got flour to make our own. We also got Gatorade powder in case the kids get tummy troubles, as well as personal care backups like toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant. We got fever reducing meds and cold meds, and lots of pasta. We’re ready to shelter in place.

Here was the damage (and yes, I know, we like cheese, ok?):

Category Expense
Powdered milk 142.74
Canned or dried fruit / veg 120.90
Frozen seafood 108.93
Cheese 77.94
Flour, oil, margarine, butter, sweeteners, seasonings, baking 77.02
Personal care 69.91
Fresh fruit/veg 65.19
Non-prescription drugs 34.82
Canned (beans, lentils, etc) 33.56
Pre-made veggie meats 24.98
Condiments / sauces (spreads, dips, dressings, pesto, pasta) 24.26
Canned milk 24.00
Pasta 22.50
Tea and coffee 20.95
Frozen fruit/veg 19.98
Eggs 19.98
Dry (TVP, beans, lentils, peas, etc) 19.47
Crackers, croutons, etc. 18.77
Cleaning supplies (detergents, cleaners, road salt) 18.47
Canned seafood 16.99
Pet Food 14.43
Fresh dairy (yogurt, cream, milk) 13.98
Vitamins and supplements 13.79
Drinks (soft drinks, juice, dealc beer, etc) 8.02
Nut butters 7.49
Bread products (bagels, tortillas, buns, pizza crusts, etc.) 4.99
TOTAL 1,024.05

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