Preparing for Coronavirus – Low Waste Options to Consider

Sustainable preparation for coronavirus quarantine
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Like most people, I have been following the news about the Coronavirus fairly closely. If I let myself get lost in it, I can easily get caught up in the fear and anxiety that I believe a lot of people are currently feeling. 

But each time I start to feel a little anxious, I remind myself that it doesn’t do me any good to worry about things outside of my control. So what can we control right now? Ourselves! To me, this translates to preparing for Coronavirus in responsible ways in order to minimize our contribution to spread and the already heavy burden on our healthcare system.

Preparing for the Coronavirus – Low Waste Options

If you’re in a privileged position where you can afford to stock up on a few supplies and hunker down at home with your family, then why wouldn’t you? I don’t think that hysteria is necessary, but I also don’t think that ignoring the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic is responsible either. If we all do our part to at least take care of ourselves and our families, we can collectively make a big difference in minimizing the spread!

Living a zero waste or low waste lifestyle is actually fantastic in times when single-use products are scarce (e.g. toilet paper). Because there are very few consumables needed in a zero waste household, scarcity becomes less of an issue. My advice right now is to invest in reusable alternatives to single-use consumables. These investments will last you for years vs a few weeks and will therefore reduce any stress you might be feeling about “running out” of supplies.

Stocking Up On Low Waste Food

If you’re preparing for Coronavirus self quarantine – you’re going to want to stock up on enough food to last your family for at least 2 weeks. Below are some ideas on how to do so while generating minimal waste.

Bulk Bin Food:

Bulk bins are the best place to start when stocking up on dry, shelf-stable pantry items! Start by investing in reusable bulk bin shopping bags. Next you can either repurpose old jars or purchase a handful of new jars in multiple sizes for bulk storage at home:


  • Reusable bulk bin bags – These washable canvas bags have a drawstring enclosure so you don’t need to use the grocery store tags. I just write the codes on my phone and recite them at the register when I check out.
  • Jars – I have a collection of Le Parfait and Ball Jars in our home that we love for bulk food storage, but any jars will do. Start saving your old sauce jars and peanut butter jars to refill with bulk storage to save money. If you do purchase jars, I recommend buying some in larger sizes for stocking up purposes.

Here is more information about zero waste grocery shopping if you’re interested.


  • Flour
  • Oats
  • Sugar
  • Rice
  • Beans/Legumes
  • Cereal/Granola
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Dried herbs and spices

There are SO many ways you can use just these ingredients in recipes from baking bread, to making soup, nut butter, granola bars, and more.

Freezing Fresh Food:

It is absolutely worth taking some time to freeze fresh fruits, veggies, and meat! One thing that has been working well for me the past few weeks has been buying close to double the amount of fresh fruit, veggies, and meat that my family normally needs in a week, then freezing the half that we don’t use. 


  • Freezer Bags – I use bags because they save space compared to glass or plastic containers. I have a collection of reusable baggies as well as a handful of Ziplocks that I plan to refill multiple times before disposing.
  • Ice Trays – These are great for freezing steamed greens, broth, baby food, and more in small amounts. Once frozen, I transfer the cubes to freezer bags for storage. Silicone ice trays make this process really easy!
  • Small Baking Sheets – I use these to freeze sliced fruits and berries before adding to a freezer bag. Freezing them this way prevents them from sticking together as they freeze. I like the small baking sheets because they’re easier to fit in my freezer!
  • Steamer – Use this to steam greens and other veggies before freezing.


  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach or other greens
  • Carrots

To create more room in your freezer, give yourself permission to eat your way through non-essential freezer items first (Ice cream for breakfast? Yes, please!) to make room for healthy frozen foods!

Canned and Jarred Food:

After you have stocked up on dry and frozen foods, it’s not a bad idea to grab some canned items as well. Try your best to stick to items sold in aluminum cans or glass and avoid plastic packaging. The zero waste solution here would be to can your own food in reusable jars, but not everyone has the time, resources, or skills to do so in a short period of time. 


  • Tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Fruit
  • Nut Butter
  • Honey (great to add to tea or hot water for sore throats!)
  • Tea (not necessarily canned/jarred but you can find loose leaf tea in tins in most grocery stores – stock up on a few that are good for treating and preventing cold symptoms)

Low Waste Cleaning Products:

Preparing for Coronavirus also means making sure we keep a clean, hygienic home! This is a good idea in general, but especially when we are trying to keep ourselves healthy.

With that said, I haven’t purchased a commercial cleaning product in years (see my full post on cleaning products). What’s great is that with a few key ingredients, you really don’t have to! So when you see chlorine bleach is sold out on the shelves of your local grocery store, don’t freak out, there are some great alternatives worth considering.

Cleaning Tools:

Before we get into products and recipes, first make sure you have the basic cleaning tools necessary to tackle any job while you’re quarantining yourself at home.

Cleaning Products:

For a list of the ways I use these ingredients, please read this post. Below is a high-level list, but this post will go in much further detail. 

  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Rubbing Alcohol (if sold out, just get a cheap bottle of vodka – it will work as a substitute in a pinch!)
  • Baking Soda
  • Dish Soap – I do recommend grabbing a bulk-sized liquid dish soap. It can be used to wash dishes as well as in a number of cleaning recipes.
  • Hand Soap – Bar soaps are your most eco-friendly option here, but if you must use liquid, I recommend investing in a bulk size hand soap and refillable pumps at each sink in your home.
  • Essential Oils (optional, but nice to have)
  • Laundry Detergent – Not zero waste, but buy a bulk size if possible because you’ll need it to launder your reusable cloths!
  • Laundry Booster – Also not zero waste, but essential in my opinion. Here is a post where I detail some awesome bleach free alternatives like Borax and OxiClean.

Low Waste Toiletries:

We have made it through the kitchen and cleaning closet, now it’s time for preparing for Coronavirus in the bathroom. A large number of toiletries we’re used to consuming are either single use or packaged in plastic. 

Zero Waste Bathroom Essentials:

  • Bidet – Toilet paper low at your local grocery store? Invest in a bidet toilet seat. This will minimize your family’s need for toilet paper!
  • Wash Cloths – We use washcloths to exfoliate in the shower, but I also have a stack next to my sink when washing my face. Instead of disposable makeup remover pads, I wash my face with a DIY oil cleanser, then press a warm, wet, washcloth to my face and eyes and gently rub away makeup. 
  • Safety Razor – You can buy a pack of like 50 replacement razors inexpensively to pop into a safety razor. No plastic waste, and no concerns about stocking up on expensive razor heads.
  • Bar Soap – Another inexpensive and low waste item to stock up on. I have been using bar soap exclusively to wash and shave with for a few years now and haven’t looked back. You can also use bar soap to wash hands!

Other Bathroom Essentials:

While these aren’t “zero waste” per se, it’s still important to make sure you’re stocked up on the following items:

  • Toothbrushes – you can purchase bamboo toothbrushes that can be composted after they’ve served their purpose.
  • Toothpaste and floss – I have yet to use a zero waste toothpaste or floss option I feel comfortable recommending, but feel free to suggest good ones in the comments!
  • Shampoo and Conditioner – If you can, buy these in bulk at a refillery near you, otherwise consider a bulk size of each.

Vitamins and Medication:

When it comes to your health, waste becomes a bit less of a concern in my opinion. Make smart decisions and consider this section a simple reminder to stock up on what makes the sense for your family’s needs right now. While preparing for Coronavirus, we should all do a once-over through your family’s first aid kit and make sure you have everything you might need. 

We have a few painkillers, natural cough drops, a bottle of cold medicine, and baby Tylenol and Benadryl on hand. I also made sure we have at least a month’s supply of our daily vitamins (prenatals for me) on hand. Lastly, I made sure my husband stocked up on inhalers and medication for his nebulizer because he is asthmatic. 

When it comes to medications and preparing for Coronavirus, simply be smart and make sure you have what your family needs. You and your doctor know best, so if you’re unsure ask your doctor for advice on what to have on hand.

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