Household hacks after coronavirus wipes out stores

There's more you can do than just making your own hand sanitizer

As the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to spread in the U.S., some Americans are stockpiling goods and trying to minimize their contact with germs, including at stores and events.

A few are even sharing the life hacks they plan to use should the communities in the U.S. shut down like China and Italy.


Houston resident Marina Vaamonde has been prepping for store shortages or closings since early February. Vaamonde, who co-founded real estate investment company PropertyCashin, stockpiled six months' worth of groceries and other supplies when she first heard about the virus in early February.

Vaamonde was born in the former Soviet Union and remembers standing in line in the "freezing winter" for egg rations when she was 5 years old, she told FOX Business.


Texas-based prepper Jesse Colombo shows his latest haul of supplies before repackaging them to maximize how long they last. (Credit: Jesse Colombo)

"The thought of having to put my children through this, along with the possibility of getting infected, [is] overwhelming," she said.

She has stockpiled an estimated six months' worth of food, plus water, medicine, vitamins and batteries.

1. Make your own hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer has been in high demand, with some social media users complaining about price gouging.

Others have said they plan to make their own with Tito's Vodka — something the brand has been quick to push back against online since it doesn’t have a high enough alcohol content.

Shelves that held hand sanitizer and hand soap are mostly empty at a Target in Jersey City, N.J., Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

FOX Business spoke with Dr. Jenelle Kim — the founder and lead formulator at JBK Wellness Labs in San Diego — to find out which DIY formula is best for minimizing the chance of contracting COVID-19. She recommends a combination of ethyl alcohol, aloe vera gel and essential oils for scent. The full interview with Kim can be found here.

2. How you store food matters

Many Americans are stockpiling food in anticipation of the virus spreading to their communities, but how you store your food matters too, extreme prepper Jesse Colombo told FOX Business.

"I have years of food stored up," he said, explaining that canned and dry goods, especially if stored properly, can last for a long time.

For goods like rice, the original packaging won't maximize freshness, so Colombo stores them in mylar bags inside food-grade buckets along with moisture absorbers. Mylar bags are available online and can be sealed with a clothes iron.


3. Handmade face masks may not help

The spike in coronavirus cases across the globe has brought with it creative solutions for people unable to find medical face masks. U.S. health officials stress that healthy people don't need the masks and should leave them for health care workers, but the items have been selling out online.

Chinese children wear plastic bottles as makeshift homemade protection and protective masks while waiting to check in to a flight at Beijing Capital Airport on Jan. 30, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Creative crafters have made their own masks from paper towels, fabric and even plastic bottles, but scientists recommend such measures only as a "last resort," especially since they often don't fit properly.

4. Start from scratch

Vaamonde said she stocked up on flour, not bread, which spoils much faster.

Houston resident Marina Vaamonde stockpiled flour and other goods when she first heard about coronavirus in early February. (Credit: Marina Vaamonde)

"Because sandwiches are a big deal with my family, I wanted to make sure we don’t run out of bread," Vaamonde said. "Instead of purchasing bread that will get moldy after a week, I purchased a large quantity of flour for baking. This way we can bake fresh rolls and bread on demand."

5. Be mindful of how much you consume

Vaamonde is also trying to teach her kids to pay attention to how much they consume, whether it's paper towels or milk for cereal.

"My kids are notorious for over-filling their bowls with cereal and milk, and then leaving it uneaten on the table," Vaamonde said.


The family is now using measuring cups to limit their first and second helpings of cereal and has instituted a ban on using paper towels, instead of cloth towels, to dry their hands.