Frugal sniffles.

Last summer I did a guest post over at Bargaineering called “Sick happens: How to prepare for an illness or injury.” For the past week I’ve been in the grip of la grippe and practicing what I preached.

It’s not actually la grippe, but rather some other kind of virus: sore throat, headache, malaise and a cough that snaps me forward like a willow tree in a high wind. I’m acutely aware that my Aunt Elna was alleged to have broken ribs while coughing.

At least I was ready for it.


As noted in the Bargaineering article, I had the supplies I needed:

  • Generic versions of Advil, Sudafed and Robitussin
  • Sugar-free throat drops
  • Tea bags and cocoa mix (hot beverages are so soothing)
  • Soup, crackers, dried and canned fruit, eggs, hot cereal and other nourishing, easy-to prepare foods

Bonus: All were laid in at sale prices, sometimes deeply discounted. At least two of those items were free with coupons.

It’s only February, folks, and there’s plenty of cooties out there still. Now – when you’re not sick – is the time to check your own supplies and/or to start building your own emergency stash.

Cold meds and other items are still going on sale regularly. If you don’t have a well-stocked pantry, start watching grocery circulars for good prices on staples that are easy to prepare.

Best-case scenario: You make it through the winter without a single sniffle. That’s okay; most of these things will hold over.

“Be prepared” is more than the Boy Scouts’ marching song. It’s what will make you slightly more comfortable should you succumb to a rhinovirus after all. Imagine feeling sick as a dog and discovering there’s not so much as a single aspirin in the house, let alone a can of chicken soup.

You may find yourself shambling out to the nearest store – maybe even a convenience store – in search of supplies. It’s bad enough that you have to take something as nasty-tasting (though effective) as Robitussin. Overpaying for it would just be aggravating.

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  1. ImJuniperNow

    Poor Donna!

    Yes, you CAN break a rib coughing – I did it as a teen with walking pneumonia and have the x-ray to prove it.

    Also, never walk up stairs while coughing strongly – you will black out.

    And even tho I am frugal, I would rather throw away expired cold remedies and have boxes of tissues disintergrate from non-use than face the possibility of illness without them.

    Another item to keep handy in case of illness is pet food. No, this is not a reference to being sick as a dog. Your pet doesn’t want to hear that you’re almost too sick to even open a can or bag for them, nevermind go out and pick up a can of their favorite chow.

    Get well soon – I’m going to allow myself to succumb to the cold I feel coming on.


    • Donna Freedman

      @ImJuniperNow: Don’t worry — all the meds were bought at last autumn’s cold-and-flu season sales. This past Sunday, though, I did take advantage of the BOGO on generic Robitussin at Walgreens. I expect to use it every four hours until I leave.

  2. ImJuniperNow

    If only we could IV it!

  3. Yes, a supply is necessary so I can nip it in the bud. If I have to wait until morning, I am just sicker. Having my home remedies on the shelf beforehand is imperative.

  4. I do always make sure I am stocked up in case of illness with the food and supplies you mention. I was recently cleaning out my cupboards and noticed that my never-used Robitussin expired in 2008. But, I did not throw it away. Do you think it might still work OK if I needed to use it this season? Or am I better off tossing it and buying a new one?

    • Donna Freedman

      @DeeDee: Some people would say to throw it out. Myself, I would try it and see if it worked — but I’d have a new bottle on hand, just in case.
      Could you call the 800 number listed on the label and ask if those “active ingredients” are still active two years later? Or ask a pharmacist?
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  5. I hope you feel better soon! I use coupons to get discounts on hot teas, too. Lemon Zinger for me!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Bashtree: I got a box of Lemon Zinger almost for free with double coupons. 🙂 The warmth, the fragrance and of course the steam are all so healing.

  6. Hope you’re feeling much better now.
    You’ve been so kind to me — I wanted to return the favor. I just started adding blog photos, and found a terrific FREE source. Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll pass on the wealth.

  7. As far as throwing out expired medicine, this is what I have read. It is not dangerous to take expired stuff. The worst that can happen is that it loses some potency. So your idea of taking it and seeing if it works is a good one.

  8. MaryLambert

    Hope you feel better soon! I always keep a basket in my linen closet with “cold & flu supplies”. The idea about pet food is great. I’m a bad pet mama, didn’t even think of that! lol

  9. ImJuniperNow

    MaryLambert – The pet food idea is more for my comfort than my pets. C’mon, you know the guilt trip I’m talking about!

  10. average normal weirdo

    Recently asked my doctor for a new prescription of some pills cause the old ones “expired”, namely the date on the prescription bottle said it was past the usable date.

    He said: Most medication is good for ten years.

    The end.

  11. Not to mention that when you take your germs to the store you leave many behind for others to pick up. Guess I’m a little cynical tonight. When feeling punk, shopping would be the last thing I’d want to do. Listen to Guru Donna. She’s right. Be prepared.

  12. It helps to stay organized. I keep cold medications in a plastic shoebox in my closet labeled “Pharmacy.” I’d rather use the space in my medicine cabinet for things I use on a regular basis like cosmetics. Either way, if I feel a little cold coming on I know exactly where my stash is. In the event I must go to the pharmacy, I get only what I need and get out.

  13. Most cold medicines are all right after they’ve expired, as far as I know. However, other things like tetracycline can break down after they expire to cause kidney toxicity. Bottom line is to find out before you take expired medication, like ask a pharmacist.


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