10 Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping During the Coronavirus Pandemic
We reviewed the latest CDC guidance to find out how to shop safely to protect yourself, store employees and other shoppers.
We're living through a pandemic that continues to impact our day to day lives. Grocery shopping is one of those basic errands many of us still leave the house for, but there are things we can do to protect ourselves, other shoppers and store employees.
"In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread," per the CDC. Do your best to maintain social distancing as you shop (6 feet from others) and stay home if you're feeling sick.
Here are 10 ways to practice safe (and friendly) shopping next time you need to stock up.
1. Consider Grocery Delivery or Pickup
Grocery shopping from your computer or mobile device is ultimately the safest way to ensure you're not exposing yourself—or others—to the virus. Most grocery stores are offering curbside pickup and/or delivery services to protect patrons and employees.
Grocery delivery or pickup services are especially beneficial for higher-risk populations, such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. You can also avoid contact by having the person delivering your groceries leave them at the door. Just be sure to tip them electronically!
2. Wear a Mask
The CDC recommends that people wear masks when in public, which includes the grocery store. Make sure your mask covers your nose and your mouth and ideally it will have two or more layers. Dr. Fauci even recommends double masking right now, to help make your mask as effective as possible.
3. Wash Your Hands Before and After Grocery Shopping
Properly washing your hands is important for cutting down on germs. Washing your hands before grocery shopping will better protect other shoppers and employees, while washing your hands after grocery shopping will help stop the spread of germs you may have picked up on your trip. Check out our article on how to wash your hands correctly for a refresher. Using hand sanitizer, made with at least 60% alcohol, can be helpful to reduce germs until you're able to wash your hands again.
4.Take Advantage of Sanitizing Wipes and Stations
A spokesperson from The Fresh Market told us their stores have enhanced their cleaning and disinfecting protocols for high-touch areas such as refrigerator doors, grocery carts and basket handles, and each store has free disinfectant wipes for guests to use when entering and leaving. Be sure to sanitize the handle of your grocery cart or basket and your hands before and after shopping.
5. Keep Your Hands to Yourself as Much as Possible
Social distancing rules still apply in the grocery store, so a friendly wave is all that's needed if you run into your neighbor in the cereal aisle. Additionally, it's just as important to avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes if you can help it. Infectious Disease Specialist Amira Albert Roess, Ph.D., M.P.H., previously told us touching your face is one of the most common ways to introduce an illness.
6. Shop During Low-Traffic Hours
It might be worth calling your local grocery store and asking them when a good time to come in would be. Hours are likely different during this time, as stores need to spend more time on new inventory, cleaning and sanitizing protocols.
Be sure to ask about any "senior hours" your store is offering—most chains are designating certain periods of time so elderly customers and others who are high risk can shop safely—and avoid making a grocery run during those times, unless you're a senior yourself or have a medical condition that makes you higher risk.
7. Pay with a Credit or Debit Card
This one may feel a little nitpicky, but it's worth taking the extra precaution to pay with a card over cash—and Apple Pay is even better. Eliminating the need to exchange bills and coins allows you to keep your distance and limit the spread of germs.
8. Disinfect Surfaces
You don't need to drive yourself crazy cleaning every single thing in your home—and you don't need to disinfect your groceries. The CDC does recommend disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in your house. After you come home from the store and put your groceries away it's a good idea to clean your counters and wipe down your fridge handles. Then, don't forget to wash your hands.
9. Stop Stockpiling
Stockpiling your home with everything your family could possibly need for the next few weeks may seem like a good idea, but it's important to be mindful of other shoppers. Hoarding seems to have died down since the start of the pandemic, but it's still kind to avoid grabbing all the things in your store. Share the wealth and shop for one or two weeks of food and supplies at a time.
10. Wash Your Reusable Bags Frequently
You should wash your reusable grocery bags frequently. While the coronavirus lasts longer on hard, nonporous surfaces, it can still linger on soft surfaces like blankets, clothing and your tote bags (plus, these bags just get gross!). Check out the American Cleaning Institute for their tips on cleaning various types of reusable bags. Some stores paused allowing customers to bring or use reusable bags or they require customers to bag their own groceries if they're using them, so be sure to check with your local grocer for updated policies.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.