(By Samantha Biggers) Since Matt and I both work from home, it is actually fairly common for us to stay at home for at least 5 days and then only go out briefly to the grocery store and the feed store for our animals. The COVID-19 situation has led to us experimenting with a longer bug in.
At this point, we have been at home for 19 days. No going out whatsoever. Just to be clear we have been using the mail-order system to get some things but we have been disinfecting packages. I will explain this process later on in this article.
The COVID-19 situation hit a nerve with me because I have been obsessed with how cells work since I was a kid. I took a lot of biology and microbiology during my college years. This thing sends up a lot of red flags to me. The prospect of biological weapons of this magnitude is truly horrifying. My Dad already has a lot of health issues. I don’t want to risk his health in any way.
This time at home got us thinking about how to deal with getting things. It is not like there are not things available right now. That could change. The current situation was an excellent chance for us to test out and figure out a few things. After all what harm could it do? We mostly just went to town to buy things anyway with the occasional visit to family thrown in.
We have done pretty well just staying at home. Our lifestyle doesn’t produce a lot of garbage to deal with so even though there is no garbage service at our house, not a lot has piled up.
I do realize that one of the big issues for so many is how to make an income while staying at home. My own brother and sister are exposed to a lot of people daily because they have to go to work. The average person can only limit their exposure so much. We work from home so we can eliminate more exposure than others. Limiting exposure doesn’t have to mean staying at home for 19 days like we have. It can mean just not going to stores as much or out to restaurants. Some of the things discussed in this article can help you determine ways to reduce exposure to any virus that may be lurking about.
Staying at home has actually led us to take on some projects that we meant to for quite some time, like more gardening. While we were always trying to avoid waste in the past, we are even better at it now. We are even more likely to think “What can I use that for?” and how we can repurpose things.
When coronavirus first started showing up in the news, on our final major trip to town, we got a rooster to ensure that our chicken flock was sustainable. Our mixed breed flock has proven to be phenomenal layers.
Talking to a few friends over at Prepper Broadcasting Network, including Backdoor Survival writer, James Walton, inspired me to write this article. It is the product of more than 3 weeks of figuring out how to procure even more from the mail and alternative resources without paying a huge premium for having things brought to us. Our experience has definitely relied on mail-order being possible in some ways but in others, it has been about just finding ways to do things to value add and bringing production back into the home.
To be clear, there is a big difference between bugging in on 11 acres and bugging in if you live on a smaller parcel or in an apartment. We can go out and get fresh air, exercise, work on gardens, hang out with dogs, etc.
I have a 120 lb dog that thinks if you sit on the floor she can just plop down.
Those unfortunate souls trapped in apartments in China are experiencing hell on earth. When the Diamond Princess passengers were quarantined to their cabins, I thought about what it would be like to be trapped in a small cabin with no windows and totally dependent on others to bring you what was needed and hope that they had took some care to not pass illness through the door.
That being said, I realize that some of the things discussed in this post may not be possible for your situation but I bet at least a few are. There are older people and disabled people that while they may not be able to physically do some things, they could benefit from some of the services and goods via mail that I discuss in this post. Some gardening and sprouting can be done with very little work and time as well.
Of course, it is important to realize that things could change fast as some items become harder to get or heaven forbid, this virus spreads badly enough that even basic mail order is not possible.
For more info on pandemic preparedness, also make sure to check out my previous post “Backdoor Survival Pandemic Preparedness Guide” and my post on alternative pandemic supplies if your store is running out.
Here are some of the tricks to figuring out your own bug in supply chain and adapting as time goes on.
Keep your useful junk.
We like to keep things neat. No hoarding up a bunch of junk. However, if you are going to bug in, some fo the things that you might consider junk during good times could be quite useful if the supply chain suffers. Items that are useful can include jugs, glass bottles, dish soap squeeze bottles, jars with lids, etc. Rinse things out and set aside. If you happen to not need them, they can be recycled later. You don’t have to keep every jar or bottle but some may be a good idea.
Consider your beverage situation.
You can get some beverages delivered via the following methods:
Amazon and Wal-Mart will ship you basically any beverage besides alcohol.
Market View Liquor ships wine and liquor to states that allow it.
Instacart can be used to get just about any beverage delivered.
Juice concentrates keep for longer than fresh juices and take up less space. I have some cherry juice that comes in a pint container that makes a gallon when mixed with water.
Soda and fizzy drinks can be delivered in cans and such but you can also make your own seltzer and soda at home fairly easily. Check out my post on making seltzer and soda for more information.
You can also buy wine and beer making ingredients online and make your own. This is the best bet for a very long term bug in situation. We got several batches of beer going right now.
Think about value-adding.
I like convenience sometimes too. Making everything by hand takes times and we all only have so much of that. At the same time you have to consider your budget and the fact that if you have to stay at home, you are going to have more time to do “home stuff”. If you live with others then they will be in the same boat.
For example, I cannot eat regular wheat pasta. I can buy premade pasta that is made with things I can eat but that is way more expensive than making my own. For a long term bug in, I will not be buying a bunch of ready-made crackers, bread, and pasta, but rather making my own. This means having flour, yeast, and salt on hand. A lot less expensive and I can make all those things from a few of the same ingredients.
We bought a pasta roller for our Kitchenaid Mixer. It has been a great thing to have.
Gardening and Sprouting
We started some vegetables inside but it is a little too cold to grow more than some greens in a cold frame outside. For fast returns, we started sprouting. All you need is a few jars, sprouting lids, and seeds and you can grow a ton of fresh greens for your family within a few days.
When it warms up we will grow some more vegetables outside.
Cooking needs and dealing with fuel supply chain issues are manageable.
We use propane to cook with but we are well aware that the supply of propane could be limited especially if we have to bug in for more than a few months. To conserve propane we have an electric hot plate and a larger countertop toaster style oven. At the moment we have electricity from the grid. This will allow us to make the most out of what propane we do have.
As far as baking things go, if I want to use the propane oven, I will make sure that I bake a lot of things in it if I go to the trouble of getting it hot. Instead of baking just a pie or something, I will bake 3 loaves of bread and a pie. Not much difference in the amount of propane used and more cooked food as a result.
Ordering Food Online
Everyone has to eat. Space, time, and physical abilities all vary by person. This section is going to discuss ways to get fresh or frozen foods via mail order or similar. Costs will vary a lot. Don’t expect to get the best deal each and every time on an item if you choose the convenience of having things delivered to your house.
This is available in many areas. In my own area, there are only two stores that use it but one is a grocery store and the other is a drug store so that takes care of a lot of needs. Yes, the prices are slightly higher than going yourself but it is not a lot and you have to remember that you are paying a personal shopper to gather items and have them delivered right to your door.
I honestly don’t see how they make enough to make the whole thing worth it to the store or driver for what they charge but somehow they do. Instacart can even be used to have beer, wine, or liquor delivered although there is a small surcharge for this to cover some of the paperwork costs and such and there is sometimes a limit on how much you can have delivered.
Online Meat Delivery
There are many family farms and meat subscription boxes that will deliver to your door. This is typically grass-fed or higher-end meats. If you want less expensive options than you should try out Instacart because that will allow you to shop at regular grocery stores and have items delivered. This is one way to get more budget-priced meats.
Perdue Farms has some excellent deals if you want to try out their service for frozen meats. The $50 starter packs are a good way to get some meat in the freezer without leaving home. Some of their meats are pricier than others, you just have to play around with the deals and shopping cart a little but there are some good deals there if you go with some of the bundles.
Schwan’s Frozen Food Delivery
Sure a lot of Schwan’s products are pricier than frozen foods at the grocery store but there are some deals to be had and there are coupons that you can use to cut the cost. It is sometimes worth evaluating how much you normally spend eating out and then compare it to convenience food that is frozen and delivered.
I would argue that the quality from Schwan’s is much better than some restaurants I have eaten at in the past and a lot of their food you can just heat and eat. If you sign up for their email list you can get $50 off your first order. That is not a bad deal to try out their food and see if you like it. There are no further commitments required. I don’t make anything if you do sign up FYI. Just passing along a deal. Just make sure to tell them to leave it at the door if you want to minimize exposure as much as possible.
Meal Subscription Boxes=Not A Good Deal
I have had friends give me these and I have done the trial offers just to see what they were about. In my own opinion, they are way overpriced and the packaging is very wasteful even if they say you can recycle it.
I also don’t trust fresher foods getting chopped up and pre-prepped at some undisclosed location and sent to me. They send salad ingredients and things that are meant to not be cooked and I just would not feel comfortable with that currently.
Cheese and Butter
You can get cheese and butter delivered too. Local cheese plants will sometimes do this. Ashe County Cheese in North Carolina will UPS you local cheese and butter. I advise looking for cheese and butter factories in your own area if possible. I got my cheese the day after I ordered it and the shipping cost was more than fair. Again, Instacart will bring you whatever you want from local grocery stores in many areas.
There are things you can do to minimize contact even if you choose to go to town or have the ability to do so.
Other options that offer minimal people interaction include doing your grocery shopping online and picking it up at the curb. Sure you have to interact with the person bringing it out but you don’t have to spend time wandering around the store picking out items, checking out, etc. Wal-Mart offers this service almost everywhere it seems and a lot of regional chains are following suit.
CSA Subscription Boxes and Pick Up
When I was in Alaska, Matt and I were part of a CSA. We would put an order in online and then go pick up our box at a single location. This was the best way to get fresh produce, eggs, etc. This allows you to get produce from select growers and eliminates running around a larger grocery store.
Methods For Sanitizing Packages
Some may be thinking about viruses living on a surface. I have strongly considered this myself. The amount of time COVID-19 can live on a surface is still being debated. I have heard a range of 5-28 days depending on the surface and the temperatures it is exposed to.
That is a big range and it makes me think that they don’t really know at all what they are talking about. I tend to be cautious about things. Better safe than sorry. If you are worried about packages being contaminated, I advise considering some of the following methods. We don’t always do everything exactly perfect but every bit helps when it comes to sanitizing. It takes some time to learn and not make mistakes that could expose yourself to germs.
Bleach the outside
When packages arrive at your door you may consider wearing disposable gloves and spraying bleach solution or Lysol all over the outside of the package. Let it sit.
Cleaning methods for actual items within packages are going to vary.
There are some things that you obviously cannot use bleach on or you will ruin them. Lysol can work in this case. Clothing and linens can be thrown directly in the washing machine and washed before any actual use.
A UV lightbulb can help decontaminate objects. You can get all different sizes and they are fairly inexpensive.
Consider letting a package sit for an extended period of time.
If you don’t need something immediately, consider bleaching the outer packaging and then putting it in a sealed tote and quarantining it for a few weeks. I had a seller on eBay lie to me about an item shipping from the USA. It actually shipped from China which was really concerning to me. You can bet your boots that is going to be bleached while I wear protective gear, put in a tote, the tote gassed with Lysol, and it will sit for weeks or maybe a month because it is something hopefully I will not need anytime soon.
Our Basic Package Cleaning Process Summarized
Always wear gloves while processing packages.
- Use a bleach solution to spray down the outside packaging.
- Let boxes set for a few days if a lot more are coming or if it is things we do not need immediately.
- When the time comes to open the boxes we wear gloves and spray down items with either bleach, Lysol, or oxygen cleaner solution, let it sit for a minute, and then wipe down the items.
- Any clothing that comes into contact with items is left at the door and sprayed.
- Take a shower.
This process can vary based on our perceived risk. At the beginning of the COVID-19 situation, we wore masks and goggles. If a package is contaminated, then it is on the surface and not likely to be aerosolized. In the interest of saving masks, we sometimes forgo them and use bleach and gloves.
Items You Should Get Sooner Rather Than Later
Medical equipment and medications should be acquired as soon as you can get them. This means if you can renew a prescription for 90 days then you should do it. Any homeopathic medications or supplements that you want you should stock up on now. Last year when there was just a normal flu issue, it became difficult to source some items. With many people already declaring a pandemic, it is likely that the problem of shortages will be much greater in the coming months.
Specialty items may also be harder to get. I have already noticed this happening. Anything that is usually made in China is going to be harder to find as the currently available stock sells out. This could also lead to huge price increases due to the basic laws of supply and demand.
Things that are made mostly in China are going to become harder to find. Here is a shortlist of everyday items to consider getting sooner rather than later. This is by no means a complete list of items that may become hard to find or more expensive.
- Shoes. Right now there are a ton of good deals on boots and shoes via Amazon Warehouse Deals. Ladies, consider looking at men’s shoes because you can often get an amazing deal, especially on boots. I recently got $200 worth of shoes for $40.
- Socks. Cotton socks are sometimes made in the USA but more often than not they are made in China. Even if the US factories start really pumping them out, there is a decent chance that demand will outpace supply at least part of the time.
- T-Shirts. Packs of 4-6 t-shirts are nice to have on hand. I recommend buying sizes that are versatile. For example, I usually get a size smaller than my husband but for stocking up, it makes sense to just buy the larger sizes so that we can share if needed.
- Pants, especially jeans. I tend to buy a lot of jeans at Goodwill. I go twice a year or less and just buy a lot of them at once. Women seem to throw out a lot of jeans. It doesn’t seem to be the case for men.
- Medications. I am listing this again because it is so important. Although India produces a lot of medications, a lot of the active ingredients are made in China. Get a supply built up now.
- Fish Antibiotics
- Any electronics you might need.
- Small appliances like toaster ovens and hot plates.
Treatment for COVID-19 Symptoms
I am not a medical professional but I am going to say that the best we can all do is plan out how we would treat some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and recover as fast as possible. Ask yourself the following questions and you will be off to a good start. I also highly recommend buying copies of both of Joe and Amy Alton’s books to help guide you.
- What do you have that can reduce fever? How much aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen do you have on hand for your family?
- Do you have electrolytes such as Emergen-C for staying hydrated?
- Are you prepared for anyone having diarrhea? Imodium-AD is easy to get now but may not be later.
- Are there foods in your house that are easy to eat and nutritious?
- Do you have enough vitamins for each household member to take a daily vitamin for at least 90 days?
Considerations For Major Symptoms Being Reported
This seems to be what is causing death. At home, you can use a nebulizer or face steamer to help loosen mucus. Severe pneumonia often requires supplemental oxygen. You can buy oxygen concentrators and masks on Amazon. According to Joe and Amy Alton, some essential oils are useful. I used to buy Vick’s Vapo Rub but I learned that the camphor they use is fake so I buy camphor essential oil now.
Increased Heart Rate
I have been reading reports that sometimes people get COVID-19 twice and that it causes a rapid heartbeat that can lead to heart attacks or permanent damage. Obviously trying to create a calming atmosphere is going to help. Here is a list of herbs that are known to calm people down. Of course, you should use anything with caution and if possible you might ask your physician or pharmacist about any potential interactions
- Passion Flower
So what about the isolation? How are we doing after 19 days?
As I said before, we are used to not going out that much. Over the years this was necessary for us because we were building a house in our mid-20s. We are doing alright. The most annoying thing is really the same thing that a lot of people are finding annoying and that is the uncertainty and lack of information surrounding Covid-19.
There is a lot to keep us busy around here. I have a lot of books to read and plenty of ways to write down words. Besides computers, I have word processors, paper, pen, etc. At the moment we have our health to be thankful for and a team of good dogs and cats to keep us company and offer some laughs.
We also have to start thinking about pruning and spraying 1600 grapevines. That takes some time.
The internet and power grid are still working so it is not like we cannot talk to others. Neither my husband nor I have been very social for quite some time so this situation is not really as huge a leap for us as it would be for some. Isolation takes some getting used to. I wrote an article about it that you may want to take a look at.
Even if the situation dramatically improves this has been a situation to learn from. Is our experiment extreme? I am probably going to get some letters from people telling me all about how horrible I am for living in fear and how I am part of the problem but I wanted to share with you what we have been doing so maybe it will help you think about what is best for you and your family and your own situations.
After all, we are all in this together. Remember that people have overcome a lot throughout history. The world is going to keep on turning.