With winter around the corner, I know so many of us are in full prep mode. Or at least as close to full prep mode as we can be while also managing work, online school, and preventing a household COVID outbreak. Oof. So I’ve tried to take some of the leg work out of shopping for you by creating a list of things that may be subject to shortages as the colder months hit.

Because I think I speak for everyone when I rifling around the house to find an alternative to toilet paper is not something we want to live through again. Who’s with me?!

With that in mind, here are some items we think will be in high demand this winter. Grab yours now!

Here’s how we’ve sorted them:

-Pantry staples
-Home health appliances
-Health tech
-Cold & flu remedies and drugstore staples
– Heat lamps
-Stuff to keep the kids entertained, indoors and out
-Fitness gear
-Paper goods and cleaning supplies

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Related: 15 of my cold and flu season must-haves, all in one place. 


Everything to consider stocking up on for winter right now


Allll the pandemic pantry staples

How to organize your pantry during a quarantine so it's efficient and well-stocked | cool mom eats

If you haven’t read this brilliant post on stocking a quarantine pantry, written by an ex-Mormon who trained her whole life for survivalist planning, well, read it now. It’s worth it to get everything shelf-stable stocked up and ready to go now, in case there’s another run on ramen noodles in bulk from Costco.

I’d also suggest going heavier on soups and other canned goods which¬†double as a great therapeutics for colds and flus and also shelf-stable meals to keep on hand in case of shortages.

If you want to be really prepared, make one of these easy soups to freeze for later. Who can turn down homemade chicken soup when they’ve got the sniffles in December? In fact, check out the Cool Mom Eats meal plan archives and start thinking up some fall and winter dinner recipe staples, so you have an idea of what you’ll really need now, that you didn’t need so much of this spring and summer.

And it can’t hurt to check out these recipes featuring natural immune boosters¬†like garlic, turmeric and green tea which are also worth stocking right now.

Home health appliances

PureZone's HEPA filter air purifier is a great purchase before winter starts, but hurry while you can get one!


– An air purifier:¬†As it starts to get colder, opening a window won’t be an option for getting fresh air. So I’m guessing there may be a run on air purifiers, like this amazing hybrid Hot-Cool Link Air Purifier from Dyson, which doubles (triples?) as a compact heater and cooler. (This other Dyson HEPA Air Purifier model may be a little more affordable without the WiFi connectivity)

A ¬†bargain option is the PureZone Elite 4-in-1 Air Purifier with HEPA filter and a UV-C sanitizer (shown above). And it looks so nice — but hurry, it will definitely sell out.

There’s also a tabletop model of the PureZone Air Purifier¬†for just $59, if you have a smaller room, or want one for the kids.

Tip: it can’t hurt to invest in some natural air purifiers in the form of cool houseplants that you can order without leaving home.

– Humidifier: Dry air can exacerbate cold symptoms and existing breathing issues, so I especially recommend having a clean, well-functioning one during this COVID winter. This Honeywell HCM-350 model is a top pick from Wirecutter.

Cool gifts for men: The Tush is an affordable bidet and it's awesome

– A bidet. No kidding. There’s a reason we named the Hello Tushy bidet attachment an affordable, practical Father’s Day gift. And think of all you’ll save on toilet paper!

Space heater: With more of us home during the day (as in, the whole family, perhaps) your heating bill may be subject to a big increase. If it’s better to keep your thermostat lower, and just heat a bedroom or home office as needed during the day, look for an affordable small-space option like this well-reviewed Honeywell Uberheat Ceramic Heater; or for a larger room, this Lasko Electric tower heater.


Health tech

Everything you need to stock up on for winter: Zacurate pulse oximeter | Amazon

– Pulse oximeter: According to this opinion piece by an NYC emergency physician, pulse oximeters like this Zacurate model could be key in helping people detect COVID-19 before they need to be admitted to the hospital. If you missed them this spring when the pandemic first started, now is a great time to buy one. Have an Apple watch?

Or if you get in on the Apple Watch series 6 and later, they can now read your oxygen saturation levels pretty accurately. Cool!

– Digital thermometer: You may¬†already¬†have one, but double check and see how it’s working¬†right¬†now. My husband and I bought this iHealth digital thermometer when the pandemic started, and it’s averted many a does-the-baby-have-COVID anxiety spiral. Because when you take your infant’s temperature this often, a rectal thermometer is NOT the way to go, we’ve learned.

Liz is a fan of the Braun ThermoScan Ear Thermometer, which you may find right in your local CVS or other drugstore — if you act fast.


Related: 10 arguments to convince your friends to wear a damn mask

Drugstore remedies and cold & flu prevention

Just do a quick check of your medicine cabinet — you may not realize what you’re low on, and it’s better to refill it now while you can. Here’s what I’m prioritizing for my family:

– Cold and flu medicine: We’re a DayQuil and NyQuil family, but you probably have an idea of what your family needs to weather a bad cold. Whatever it is, make sure you have plenty on hand because there’s a chance of the shelves growing bare this winter.

– Vapor rub: I love that this Vick’s VapoRub comes with lavender essential oil to help ease kids into bedtime. Or anyone else who needs a little help breathing (or sleeping) these days.

РCough drops: Since coughing makes you a persona non grata anywhere you go these days, definitely stock up on these before you really need them. Hopefully just for a mild winter cold.

– Pedialyte, juice, or Gatorade: Keeping a sick kid hydrated is tough, but I find that having Pedialyte or juice on hand makes drinking an easier sell. I think this Pedialyte in powder form is a brilliant idea for saving space.


A patio heat lamp for outdoor entertaining

Stock up now on winter items that may sell out, like a patio heat lamp like this one from Fire Sense

Mark our words, a patio heat lamp is going to be impossible to find, especially as more restaurants stay open outside, longer. If you want to continue those socially distance backyard visits with friends and neighbors — or just use your backyard grill a little longer than usual — start looking into a decent outdoor heater. This one from Fire Sense gets terrific ratings and isn’t too spendy, though it’s definitely a splurge.

Don’t forget a¬†propane tank and the propane refills, too!


Toys, games, and stuff to keep kids entertained inside

Everything you need to stock up on for winter: Pikler triangle from Etsy seller Home for Dreams

Remember how by oh, mid-June, there wasn’t a single Slip n Slide, backyard sprinkler, or kiddie pool to be found? You can get a head start now if you start thinking what your kids might need to compensate for shuttered playgrounds, gyms, or schoolyards.

-Baby/kid gym: I used to take my children to the YMCA kids’ gym religiously. And while we’ll be missing the bouncy castle and padded climbing area this winter, I’ve been looking for alternatives, like this cool pikler climbing triangle¬†(above) from Etsy seller Home for Dreams. It can be adjusted to be safe for babies and toddlers, or more challenging for bigger kids.

Another reco: Nugget’s part-furniture/part-toy¬†is almost always sold out, even in non-pandemic times, but COVID has driven still more demand. You know, since we’re all spending more time at home lounging and learning. So if you are lucky enough to catch a Nugget futon/playhouse/daybed in stock, it might be worth the splurge.

Valentine's Day gift ideas for boys: Not Parent Approved card game

-Puzzles and games: If your kids aren’t too sick of puzzles yet, consider refreshing your supply. Jigsaw puzzles went fast this past spring! Who knew! Most independent toy sellers have refreshed their inventory, so grab. But honestly, we have so many toys and games for kids and families, browse through our archives and refresh your own toy closet.

Be sure to catch our associate editor (and toy guru) Kate’s recent roundup of the¬†best educational board games for kids. If that sounds a little too daunting after online schooling, see our posts on¬†games that older and younger kids like playing together,¬†fun card games for kids to play with the whole family,¬†new family board games that take 30 minutes or less to play… we have so many terrific ideas!

And if you don’t yet have Not Parent Approved, our whole team swears by the original “Cards Against Humanity…but for kids,” even after years of play.

A Nintendo Switch. You know, if you can find a Nintendo Switch in stock, do it. Now.


camp care package ideas: embroidery floss for friendship bracelets. This one is under $10!

Craft supplies and kits: Crafting is another solid indoor activity, so stock up on craft supplies from your favorite craft store or indie toy store, like lanyard string, embroidery floss, construction paper, pipe cleaners…you never know what will be in short supply these days.

Kits can also be a fun surprise to pull out for the kids when they’re feeling bored (again) — from the DIY winter hat kits¬†for a cause that we shared recently, to edgy craft kits for teens, to these cool craft kits for creative kids who want to make their own gifts¬†to give to friends. We have soooo many ideas on our site!

As for me, I love these custom paint-by-numbers kits which let you choose your own photo.

Outdoor toys and gear for the kids

Cool tween boy gifts: giant polar bear snow tube | cool mom picks holiday guide

– Sleds, snowshoes, tubes: If we do end up quarantined again, I think getting outside to have fun will be essential. If you need a sled, a snow tube, saucer, or other cold weather sporting goods, I guarantee they’ll be as tough to find as kiddie pools were in August.

– Ice skates: If you have a local pond that freezes each winter, great! Or you may have an outdoor rink for skating — but we have no idea if they’ll be renting skates or not. Can’t hurt to get the kids some affordable (or even used) ice skates. Especially for those of us who tried to get our kids roller skates this summer. Oof!

– Gloves, mittens, hand warmers. Make sure you have everything you need to spend more time than usual outdoors this winter, including plenty of outerwear and a great pair of boots. For you and the kids.

Fitness gear to help you stay active

Everything you need to stock up on for winter: Exercise gear like dumbbells

Cyril Saulnier via Unsplash

– A good set of dumbbells:¬†These have been in short supply ever since the pandemic closed down tons of gyms. But now, as some YMCAs and gyms reopen, you might just be able to find some available, like this Fitness Republic set at Amazon. Check Facebook marketplace in your town if you’re looking for a deal. And do it soon — because we have a suspicion that lots of gyms won’t stay open for long.

– An exercise bike: Similarly, so many spin studios are still shut down or have only recently reopened. Since breathing heavily near other people is one of the more dangerous things we can do during an outbreak, you might want to consider buying your own stationary bike. Kristen looooves her Peleton! But even without the splurge, you can subscribe to their classes live or on-demand while using a cheaper brand of bike.


Paper goods and cleaning supplies (again, sigh)


Not like you need reminding, considering lots of these are still out of stock in local shops — or can be found online only through massive price gouging. But it can’t hurt to add them to your grocery list so that you remember to look for them when you see them.

– Toilet paper and tissues: After the year we’ve had, I don’t need to explain to you why having extra toilet paper and tissues is a good idea. Thankfully, these items are back in stock in stores and most have lifted their “maximum of 2” restrictions. But don’t crazy; there’s enough to go around.

– Antibacterial wipes: I’ve been happy to see more stores supplying their own wipes near the grocery carts, but I still never leave home without my own. These SIPA brand wipes are a great deal, or you can also buy antibacterial wipes made specifically for hand-washing on-the-go.

– Paper towels and reusable cloths: Some of us took this year’s paper towel shortage as motivation to wean ourselves off of our paper towel addictions and get in the habit of using eco-friendly paper towel alternatives. But if there are some messes you still need them for, make sure to have a few rolls on hand.

Top image: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash