How to Prepare for a Coronavirus Quarantine

(By Daisy Luther) All over the world, people are in quarantine at their homes due to Covid19, a coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands. Some are in quarantine voluntarily – either they’ve recently returned from a place where the virus is widespread or they feel that social distancing is a good idea for them. Others are in mandatory quarantines enforced by local governments.

Either way, the basics are the same. I’ve gotten lots of questions about preparing for the possibility of a quarantine, so I wanted to address the basics. This article is written with the non-prepper in mind, so if you’re new to the preparedness world, you’re in the right place. This is a very basic primer. If you want to get more into the specifics of preparing for this particular virus and outbreak, check out this book.

What is quarantine?

First things first, we’ll go over some of the rules of quarantine.

The main rule is, nobody comes in and nobody goes out. If you are in quarantine, you are distancing yourself from people aside from the ones in quarantine with you, like your family or roommates. The reason for this is to stop the spread of an illness or possible illness.


  • You have it and you don’t want others to get it
  • You’ve been exposed to it and don’t know if you have it but you don’t want to spread it in case you do
  • You want to avoid catching the illness and you don’t know who has it so you’re staying away from everyone to avoid exposure
  • You are under mandatory quarantine – the government has told you and possibly everyone else to stay home under penalty of law

It doesn’t really matter which of these reasons you’re in quarantine. The basics are the same.

Whatever supplies you start your quarantine period with will need to last you throughout the length of time you are unable to leave your home.

What supplies do you need to stock up on for a quarantine?

Let’s start with a very basic list and then I’ll go into more detail further on in the article. Imagine that right this minute, you had to stay home for a month. What would you need that you don’t already have?

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medications
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Sanitation and cleaning supplies
  • Pet supplies
  • Special needs supplies (for babies or elderly family members, for example)
  • Entertainment

You may have a lot of things on hand already or you may need to go buy things. Before you go spend a fortune on supplies, check to see what you already have. I know it’s nerve-wracking to wait when you feel like you need to get to the store RIGHT NOW, but it’s much better to spend your money wisely and see what gaps you need to fill, as opposed to getting duplicates of what you already have.

While the urge to just order everything online may be strong, it would be advisable to get as much as possible locally so that you can have it on hand without waiting. The emergency food I recommend is sold out of most things. In this article, you can find some emergency food buckets that are currently still available.

At the very least, grab supplies locally to meet your immediate needs. If you’ve waited too long and the shelves are nearly bare, here are some ideas for the last-minute shopper.

If you want a downloadable quarantine checklist, go here to sign up for my email list and get one absolutely free.

Now let’s look at each of these categories more closely.

Food and water for a quarantine

When you set out to purchase food for a potential quarantine, there are a few things to consider. One of these things is whether or not you expect to have power and running water throughout the event. There are a lot of variables (more on that in this article) but it’s advisable that you focus on non-perishable foods as much as possible.

At the same time, you want to get things your family will actually eat. Picky eaters can be tough to feed at the best of times and they often become even more stubborn during stressful situations. Think about ways to make your picky person’s favorites with shelf-stable supplies. For example, a friend of mine has a son who is autistic. He only wants to eat hot dogs, particularly when he is under stress. So she stocked up on canned Vienna sausages. It’s not her son’s ideal choice but it’s pretty close.

Another thing to consider is that if the power does go out, you may not be able to use your normal cooking methods. I like to keep a variety of food on hand that doesn’t require any cooking for this purpose. You can find a list here of no-cook emergency foods.

If you have power and running water, things are a thousand times easier. Think about the things you normally eat – it’s good to stay as close as possible to your normal diet to keep your digestive system happy and to prevent a mutiny in your home. (However, it can be extremely expensive to buy a couple of months’ worth of food at a time.)

Start with the fresh foods that you normally eat. Then, shift to the foods in your freezer and those that last a bit longer on the shelf or in the refrigerator. Finally, move on to your shelf-stable foods.

For a tasty one-month menu of shelf-stable foods along with a handy shopping list, check out this PDF guide, The Stockpile Cafe. (I just made it half price – you can grab it now for only $5)

Here are some ideas for foods to stock up on. This list is very general so you can tailor it to your family. For example, you can choose the organic version or the inexpensive version, you can opt for your family’s particular favorites, etc.

  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned meat (tuna, chicken, ham)
  • Canned soup and pasta meals
  • Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Pasta
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Dehydrated soups
  • Jerky
  • Meat for the freezer
  • Coffee/tea
  • Powdered milk
  • Granola
  • Dried fruit
  • 100% fruit juices
  • V-8 or other vegetable juices (use these instead of water to rehydrate your dehydrated soups)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Canned beans
  • Snack food – granola bars, cookies, chips – an occasional treat will help with the monotony – HIDE THESE or they’ll be the first to go
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Cereal/oatmeal
  • Soft tortillas
  • Refried beans
  • Condiments

Add some long-lasting fresh food:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Apples
  • Oranges

Again, this is a general guideline – go with the things your family likes. This book is a thorough guide on building a pantry on a budget. If you just want to order stuff and get it done, this article offers some recommendations for emergency food buckets that are still in stock.

As far as water is concerned, before you go and drop a hundred bucks on bottled water, fill up all the empty vessels you have at your house. You can store quite a bit of water this way in the same amount of space the vessels themselves were taking up. I purchase water in either 5-gallon jugs for my water dispenser or those countertop  3-gallon jugs with the spigot. Hopefully, the water will remain on for the duration of the quarantine, but you will want to have some put back just in case.

A water filtration device is also important because it isn’t guaranteed that the water from the taps will be safe if the local breakdown of services is long-lasting. Here’s an inexpensive portable water filter and a high-quality countertop model. For more information about water preparedness, check out this book.

Medications and medical supplies for a quarantine

You’ll see all sorts of articles about the PPE (personal protection equipment) that you should purchase for a pandemic. If you can find it and you can afford it, great – definitely get some supplies.

But if your budget is tight, focus on necessities first. As well, remember that PPE is what you’d use if you were going out. When you are in quarantine, you should not be going out. You’d also need it if a family member became ill, but it’s quite likely, with the high contagiousness of this virus, that if one person becomes ill, the household will get sick despite precautions.

This doesn’t mean that you can totally skip over this category, however. If someone has an upset stomach or a fever, you’re not going to be able to run to the drugstore. Furthermore, you’ll want to avoid doctor’s offices and hospitals as much as possible, as they’re likely to be full of people with the virus you’re hoping to avoid. be prepared for things that can be treated at home.

  • Vitamins (especially a good multivitamin, B-complex, C, D3, and Zinc lozenges)
  • Cold and flu meds – if someone gets sick, you’ll be able to treat the symptoms at home
  • Expectorants – this one is very important with the current outbreak – get that gunk out of people’s lungs
  • Cough drops or lozenges
  • Peppermint tea and other herbal teas
  • Basic OTC medications you might need over the period of a month without going to the store – think about what your family uses regularly (heartburn meds, ibuprofen, antidiarrheals, etc.)
  • Wound care supplies – if it’s reasonable to do so, you’ll want to treat wounds at home instead of sitting in a germ-filled emergency room. Here’s an article about building your first aid kit.

Don’t forget prescription medications. If you have family members who take medications on a regular basis, try to get a few months ahead. You may have to pay out of pocket for extra months but you can’t risk running out of something essential.

Sanitation and hygiene supplies for a quarantine

You’ll still have sanitation and personal hygiene needs during a quarantine. Use this list as a general guideline and pick up the items your family uses regularly.

  • Lysol spray
  • Lysol wipes
  • Bleach
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial soap

Even if you never use things like bleach or Lysol, this might be the time that you’ll want to do so. Sometimes situations call for natural remedies, but sometimes they call for chemical ones or a combination of the two.

  • Soap
  • Feminine hygiene supplies
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Lotion and skincare products
  • Toilet paper
  • Razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Toothpaste
  • Baby supplies
  • Deodorant

You may not require everything on this list and you may already have most of what you need – use this as a guide and personalize it.

Pet supplies for a quarantine

Don’t forget your pets during a quarantine.

  • Pet food
  • Pet litter
  • Treats
  • Pet medications
  • Pee pads
  • Poo bags

Think about how your pets will do their business during a quarantine. If you have a yard, it’s fine to let them go outside – your goal is to stay away from other people, not to stay cooped up inside in the dark. However, if you’re in an apartment building you may need to think about other options for Fido.

Special needs to consider before a quarantine

Do you have any family members with special needs? These could be health-related or based on age. Here are a few things to think about.

  • Baby food
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Ensure or other meal replacements
  • Special equipment

Print off instructions for using any special equipment just in case you can’t access the internet.

How will you entertain yourself and your family during a quarantine?

What will you do if you have to stay home for a while? If you or your family members are always on the go, you may begin to get cabin fever pretty quickly. Hit up the dollar store and the Goodwill for some cheap entertainment and stash these things away to pull out when people begin complaining about being “bored.”

  • Cards
  • Games
  • Books
  • Craft supplies
  • New toys
  • Puzzles
  • Puzzle books

Don’t forget batteries and chargers! You can also check out this article for ways to keep adults entertained and this one to keep the kids busy.

How much food do you need for a quarantine?

This is the million-dollar question. It’s difficult to guess how much food you’ll need for a quarantine because you don’t know how long it will go on. (More on that in a moment.) I suggest you start with a two-week supply and then add extra weeks as quickly as possible.

The good thing about shelf-stable food is that if you don’t need it for this particular emergency, you’ll be able to use it later and work it into your menus when things go back to normal.

Will you still have money coming in during a quarantine?

A major concern that isn’t mentioned often is the cost of being in quarantine. If you can’t go into work, you may not be getting paid (unless you have a job where you can telecommute.) As well, buying all these supplies isn’t cheap.

Even if your money is not coming in, barring something utterly catastrophic, the bills will be.

Before things get to the point of quarantine, it’s a good idea to sell unused items to make some extra money. Take a look at your budget and see what non-essential spending you can cut. If the quarantine does occur, talk to your creditors. They’ll most likely be willing to work with you, since you will not be the only person in this situation.

This article goes into far more detail about preparing financially for a quarantine.

How long will you be in a coronavirus quarantine?

The problem with preparing for a quarantine is that nobody knows how long it’s going to last. At one point, the length of quarantine for those potentially exposed was 14 days. However, newer research has suggested a person could be contagious with the Covid19 virus for up to 27 days – and a person who has had it and recovered can have a recurrence.

If the quarantine is mandatory, it will go on for as long as the government feels it is necessary. Millions of people in China have been in quarantine for well over a month. People in northern Italy just began a quarantine of indefinite length. If it’s voluntary, you’re in control of how long you remain in lockdown.

In a perfect world, you’d be prepared to stay home for 6 months. For those just starting out, this may be unattainable due to finances, storage space, and other variables.

A quarantine that is managed ideally would last from the last date of diagnosis plus 27 days (the longest incubation period noted.) That already puts quarantine at one month. It’s extremely unlikely that the day people go into quarantine will be the date of the last diagnosis.

I would suggest being prepared for anywhere from 1 month to 4 months as a starting point and then adding supplies as you can. It’s unfortunately impossible to predict what the length of time will be – we can only do our best to prepare.

Do you have other questions about quarantines?

I hope that you find this guide helpful. If there’s anything I missed covering, please let me know in the comments. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have – ask below!

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.