15 Cheap Things Your Family Should Have on Hand During the Pandemic

GabrielPevide / Getty Images

GabrielPevide / Getty Images

Many people are still hunkered down at home in the midst of the pandemic. And home isn’t just home anymore — it’s a one-size-fits-all deal where you relax, eat meals, do your work (for many) and entertain your kids.

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As you wait until more Americans can be vaccinated and the economy can fully reopen, here’s a nonexhaustive list of the things you should have on hand to stay safe, productive, satiated and sane.

Last updated: March 10, 2021


1. A Water Filter

  • Price: PUR Basic 7 Cup Pitcher, $14.49

You don’t want to have to keep leaving the house to stock up on bottled water, so make a one-time investment in a water filter instead.


2. Hard Cheese

  • Price: La Bottega American Grana Cheese Wedge, 4 ounces, $3.49

Hard cheeses, like Parmesan, have a much longer shelf-life than soft cheeses. And while it might be convenient to buy grated cheese, this will spoil sooner. Opt to buy blocks of cheese and grate them yourself.

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3. Cured Meats

  • Price: Hormel Natural Choice Hard Salami, 6 ounces, $3.69

Cured meats have a long shelf life and are versatile, too. Snack on them as is, use them to make sandwiches or — if you’re feeling fancy — use them to put together a charcuterie board.

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4. Thermometer

  • Price: Safety 1st 3-in-1 Nursery Thermometer, $4.99

Not sure if you or your family member has a fever? Having a thermometer at home will help keep you informed.

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5. Bleach

  • Price: Clorox Splash-Less Liquid Bleach, 55 ounces, $2.49

Soap and water are effective at killing coronavirus, according to the experts, but if you want to take it a step further, you can use bleach to disinfect surfaces.

“Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other germ on the face of the planet,” Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington Medical Center, told NBC News.

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6. Jigsaw Puzzles

  • Price: Springbok 500-Piece Puzzle, $13.95

You can only watch TV and movies for so long. Puzzles are an inexpensive way to keep the whole family entertained for hours.

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7. Pasta

  • Price: Barilla Thin Spaghetti Pasta, 16 ounces, $1.29

Pasta can make for an easy side dish or main course, so consider stocking up on a variety of pasta — skinny, thick, traditional pasta, whole wheat or quinoa pasta, mac ‘n’ cheese, etc. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also always a crowd-pleaser.

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8. Rice

  • Price: Birds Eye Steamfresh Selects Frozen Brown Rice, 10 ounces, $0.99

Rice also makes a great compliment to many meals, and it’s easy to store leftovers. Consider stocking up on white, brown and wild rice for a variety of flavors.

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9. Beans

  • Price: Iberia Black Beans, 15.5 ounces, $0.79

Beans are not only cheap, but they’re also incredibly filling. Add them to a rice bowl or enjoy it as a side dish.

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10. Frozen Fruit

  • Price: Sambazon Açaí Pure Unsweetened Superfruit Frozen Smoothie Packs, 400 grams, $5.99

Smoothies make a great breakfast or snack, and frozen fruit makes them so easy to whip up. Experiment with mixing different fruits for unique smoothie flavors.

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11. Frozen Veggies

  • Price: Birds Eye Steamfresh Selects Frozen Mixed Vegetables, 10 ounces, $0.99

Incorporate frozen veggies into soups, stews and stir-fries for added nutrition.

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12. Olive Oil

  • Price: Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Smooth, 16 ounces, $5.99

Olive oil is essential for cooking and also makes for a great salad dressing base — or even as a dressing on its own.

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13. Coloring Books

  • Price: World of Flowers: A Coloring Book & Floral Adventure by Johanna Basford, $9.73

Coloring books aren’t just for kids — though they could be a good activity to give to your little ones while you’re trying to be productive. Some research has found that coloring can reduce anxiety in adults, and even if they don’t for you, they’re still a fun distraction.

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14. Nuts

  • Price: Planters Mixed Nuts, 15 ounces, $8.59

Nuts are a great healthy snack to have on hand.

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15. Board Games

  • Price: Candyland Board Game, $5.99

Target sells a variety of kid-friendly board games for under $10.

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