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Hold a pantry party to sell COVID-19 items

A pantry is a storage space for foods, dishes, linens and other household essentials. Millions of families panicked and stocked their house and pantry this spring as they bought countless items in preparations for very long term COVID-19 lockdowns. Now maybe they want to get rid of those goods in their pantry as they are close to expiring. Or maybe they want to raise a little money for their bills or to buy their kids Christmas gifts, or families are a little more reasonable in their outlook and they want to clean up. A pantry party may help.

This very practical area for getting ride of surplus items lends its name to the pantry party, an event that can be a fundraiser. They can also be combined with traditional garage sales. At a COVID-19 pantry party, people put tickets representing a set monetary value in drawings for a chance to win items of any kind at bargain prices. Ticket values are commonly 10 cents, 15 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents and one dollar with maybe even some costing five dollars. Following is one way to hold a Coronavirus pandemic or COVID-19 pantry party to raise money. Or, in a perfect world, even donate the goods to a clothing bank or charitable food bank.

Items That Can Be Offered To Win

Any product can be presented to the audience. However, since foods are commonly found in pantries and people went crazy grocery shopping for COVID-19, some of which can expire, items at a traditional pantry party include, but are not limited to, foods in packages (pasta, rice and pancake mix, for example) and cans (green beans, pineapple and soup, for example) and even perishables such as milk, eggs, meat and poultry.

Of course, people of a certain ethnic background or with an enthusiasm for foods of another country may offer foods very different from the ones mentioned above. Practical household items such as laundry detergent, bleach, dishwashing liquid, fabric softener, cleanser, paper towels, dish towels and dish cloths are also found at a Coronavirus pantry party. Now of course if you stocked up on dozens of rolls of toilet paper in the spring in preparation of Coronavirus lockdowns, that can be kept for years!

Items can be offered separately or they can be put in groups. For example, bananas, cereal and milk may be grouped as breakfast items. Or, a box of cereal alone or a container of laundry detergent alone may be put up for consideration. Many COVID-19 pandemic pantry parties have moved away from tradition, however, so that now there are baby shower pantry parties, which offer items that an expectant mother will need to care for her child, and pantry parties (or garage sales) that feature luxury goods such as designer shoes and designer handbags.

Where the Items Come From

During March and April is when many families went crazy shopping and wiped out the grocery stores. There was COVID-19 panic, and now maybe you want to unload those items to raise some cash to pay the bills or cover holiday expenses. Or you want to minimze and clear up the “junk” in your home. Individuals can select new or good quality items they have around the house. In all cases, check to make sure that the expiration dates of food items have not passed. Do not offer items from a smoker’s home because people do not want items that smell like cigarette smoke.

People Needed To Stage a COVID-19 Pantry Party

Ticket takers. They take the tickets of people who prepaid, and they sell tickets at the door. Make sure this is a well trusted person! Many organizations and people prefer to sell tickets ahead of time to guarantee a certain amount of money and to know roughly how many people to expect.

Master or mistress of ceremonies. Someone to explain to the people attending how the event works, what the ticket denomination for a specific item is and when the audience participation round for each item begins and ends.

Change makers. Since the ticket denominations are usually small in order to get people to bid, these people need nickels, dimes and quarters in addition to bills. The Ticket Taker can done this as well. Of course pantry parties that have expensive items will need bills rather than coins.

Presenter. Someone to show the item up for consideration by showing it to the audience by holding it up or walking around the room with it.

A go-fer. Someone to take the items to the winner. Depending on the circumstances, the presenter and the go-fer may be the same person.

Takers of the denomination tickets. When people consider an item to buy at the Coronavirus pantry party, this person collects their money and ticket with their number on it. Then the ticket taker delivers the tickets to the person who will draw the winning ticket. Usually the change makers and the ticket takers are the same person if they have one container for the tickets and another for the money. Or, they may wear an apron with two pockets. If there’s a large crowd of, say, 25 or more, more than one person is needed. One person per 25 or 30 people is suggested.

Someone to serve refreshments at the COVID-19 pantry party. Often, simple food and beverages such as chips and pretzels, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wings or chicken nuggets and sodas are included in the admission price. Even serve some of the items from your pantry! One or more people can handle the food table, being careful to observe the rules of safe food handling. An option is to not include food in the admission price but to sell the food a la carte.


Tickets to sell with the event name, date, time, place and price on the ticket. Maybe even sell the COVID-19 pantry party tickets at the same time you have a garage sale at your home.

Many Coronavirus pantry parties charge a modest fee to attend, perhaps three, four or five dollars in order to ensure some money for the effort put into organizing the event. If you have extra money with that, be sure to tell people and give away those funds to a local charity.

Tickets with numbers on them. These tickets, enclosed inside a packet or envelope, have a specific number on them and each person gets one packet. Often, each member of the audience gets to choose the number he or she wants at the door. The number of tickets to a COVID-19 pantry party in a packet may be, for example, 20.

Afterwards, if the person wants more tickets with that same number, he or she can buy them at a reduced price, perhaps one or two dollars for 15 more tickets. (The additional packet may include fewer tickets than the original packet.) The idea is to keep people bidding and buying tickets. However, if they want a packet of tickets with a different number to go with the number they already have, the price for a new set of tickets may be the admission price, not a reduced price. This decision, as are many others, is up to the organizer of the event.

How the Presentation Works

The master or mistress of pantry party ceremonies says, for example, that each ticket for a chance to win a group of items consisting of dish detergent, scouring pads, dish towels and dish cloths is 50 cents. People who want a chance to win, give the person collecting the money and the tickets 50 cents if they want to put one ticket in the drawing, one dollar for two tickets and two dollars for four tickets. The winning number is drawn. Then the next item up for the drawing is announced, and the collection of money and tickets begins again.

Giveaways at COVID-19 Pantry parties

Many Coronavirus pantry parties give door prizes to people who did not win anything. This may be done at the end of the COVID-19 pantry party, but it is wise to start giving away door prizes about halfway through the event. This gives an air of goodwill to the event. With enough door prizes available, the people attending can think they have a chance of taking something home. At some pantry parties, the giveaways are wrapped and put on a table for the winner to choose one or put in a bag for the winner to draw from.

Possible items include watches, umbrellas, corkscrews, reusable shopping bags, cookie jars, spoon rests, clips for resealing bags of chips and pretzels and anything else that the organizer’s budget or imagination will support.

A COVID-19 pantry party is an event that can raise money in a fun atmosphere of suspense, and it free up money you “invested” in items this spring that you no longer need. use that money to pay some bills or save it for a rainy day. And even for people who do not want money involved, tickets can be issued at no cost for a few hours of enjoyment in a casual setting.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.