Pantry staples you actually do need to get through self-isolation

Forget hoarding toilet paper – these are the key items to have on hand in your pantry, medicine cabinet and laundry cupboard during the coronavirus pandemic.

Australians are being asked to stay home to help contain the COVID-19 outbreak – but no one’s quite sure how long we will be in “lockdown”.

So knowing exactly what you need to get through this period – while avoiding the shops as much as possible – can be difficult.

University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay urges people to resist the urge to “panic buy”.

“Don’t buy things you won’t eat later, don’t hoard and don’t buy more than you’ll need for a two-week period,” Dr Mackay says.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says Australia is not at risk of running out of supply.

“There is plenty of stock in distribution centres to supply retailers of essential items across the country,” he says.

Dr Mackay recommends keeping a supply of the following items to keep you and your family healthy.

frozen pantry staples

Foods with a long shelf-life

“Try to get food that fulfil a need for carbohydrate, protein, and fibre,” Dr Mackay says.

While fresh food is great when it’s available, nutritionist Rick Hay says frozen and packet varieties can also provide important key nutrients and be stored for longer.

“Get some nice frozen fruit and veg, such as green beans, broccoli, organic frozen corn,” he says.

“They’re so nutrient dense – it’s the pigment where the most beneficial phytonutrients are, so look for brightly coloured foods.”

Rick also endorses nuts and seeds, tinned foods including fish, vegetable and fruits, as well as packet foods.

“Some packet soups are great – just make sure you’re choosing the right ones that don’t have too many preservatives.”

Rick says now is not the time to get too obsessive about what you’re eating as that can place the body under greater stress.

“Tinned spaghetti is better than nothing, and it’s going to give you some carbohydrates,” he says.

Look for:

  • Cereals, grains, beans, lentils, pasta
  • Tinned food – fish, vegetables, fruit
  • Frozen vegetables, meat
  • Oil, spices and flavours
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Ultra-heat treated or powdered milk
  • Baby formula or canned food

medicine cabinet

Medicinal and personal products

If you or someone you care for does get sick – whether it is coronavirus, seasonal flu, a pre-existing illness, or something else – you’ll need to have relevant medications at hand.

You should also check you have all your prescription medication filled, that it’s within its use by period, and whether you have enough repeats.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says there are no shortages of medicine in Australia, and has warned against stockpiling prescriptions.

Pharmacists have been told to dispense only a one-month supply of prescriptions and limit over-the-counter medicines like Ventolin and paracetamol to one unit per person.

Look for:

  • Prescription medications, asthma relief inhalers
  • Over-the-counter anti-fever and pain medications
  • Vitamins
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Disposable nappies
  • Family pack of toilet paper

cleaning products

Cleaning products

A good supply of cleaning products is important for helping to reduce the spread, says Dr Mackay.

One of the most important things you can do is wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, as well as ensuring good hygiene standards in your home.

Look for:

  • Hand rub and soap containing alcohol
  • Household cleaning agents such as bleach, floor cleaner, toilet cleaner, surface cleaning spray, laundry detergent
  • Tissues, paper towel

General household items

  • Batteries for anything that needs them, powerbanks
  • Pet food and care (dry and tinned food, litter tray liners, medicines, anti-flea drops)

More tips on getting through coronavirus lockdowns:

Essential coronavirus information

If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call the 24/7 hotline on 1800 675 398. You can also use the Healthdirect symptom checker.

Instant Consult offers on-the-spot online GP consultations and can issue medical certificates, prescriptions, radiology and pathology requests and specialist referrals.

Information, news and government guidance on COVID-19 changes regularly. For the latest official health and government advice, visit these websites:

Written by Claire Burke.