Tips for grocery shopping during the COVID-19 crisis

grocery bags

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many aspects of our lives more stressful, and grocery shopping is near the top of the list. After all, we can get by without concerts or parties or sporting events, but we still need to eat.

Conflicting reports of the precautions we should take add to the anxiety. Should we wear gloves? Disinfect our groceries? Wear masks?

To calm your mind and fill your pantry, follow these guidelines. 

1. Order online for delivery or pickup if possible.

 Almost all grocery stores have a pickup or delivery option now. Order online from a grocery site (such as Kroger.com or Meijer.com), check out with a debit or credit card, and then select a pickup or delivery time. Delivery services will charge a fee; at many stores, pickup is free. (You can also order from a limited selection of grocery items from Whole Foods on Amazon.com, which are delivered to your door through Amazon.) 

Delivery: During the designated time window you selected, your groceries will be delivered to your doorstep. No contact required. 

Pickup: To pick up your groceries, park in the designated pickup area at the store at your scheduled pickup time, and then call the provided phone number to let them know you have arrived. Grocery workers will bring your order out to the car and load it into your car.

Unfortunately, so many shoppers are taking advantage of these services, it may be difficult to get a pickup or delivery time, especially if you need groceries right away. In that case….

2. Shop small.

If the soonest delivery or pickup time available is several days away, fill in the gaps by purchasing must-have items like milk, eggs and bread at a convenience store or drug store. They’re smaller, so you can get in and out faster, and you will usually encounter fewer people. Still, you should follow all the same precautions outlined below in “Brave the big-box store safely.”

3. Brave the big-box store safely.

So, you couldn’t get a delivery or pickup time, and now you’re running out of a lot of grocery items (not just milk and eggs). It’s time to brave the supermarket. Here’s how to do it as safely as possible.
  • Wear a mask. Whether you make your own cloth mask out of an old t-shirt or just tie on a bandana, it’s important to protect yourself and others by covering your nose and mouth when you are out in public.
  • Keep your distance. It may not be easy, but do your best to maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and other shoppers.
  • Make a list.The goal is to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Make a grocery list and organize it in the same order as the aisles at your store. This will eliminate the need for backtracking through the store and exposing yourself to more shoppers.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. If you’re out of wipes, wet down a few paper towels with disinfectant cleaner and tuck them in a zipper sandwich bag. Out of hand sanitizer? Bring some soapy paper towels in another sandwich bag.
  • Wipe down your cart handle with disinfectant wipes, and clean your hands with hand sanitizer or the soapy paper towels after you have paid for your groceries and are ready to leave the store.
  • Optional: Wear rubber gloves. If you have them, rubber gloves can offer an added layer of protection. Just remember: Germs can get on gloves just as they would your hands, and then you must touch the gloves to remove them, so be sure to remove them properly: pull the glove from the base of the palm so that it turns inside out when you remove it, and then discard.

4.  Make sure your groceries are safe.

Follow these guidelines whether you get your food by delivery, pickup, or shopping in-store: Remove all items from the bags and then discard the bags (or wash reusable cloth bags). After you put away your groceries, wash your hands thoroughly.

Should you disinfect your grocery items before putting them away? Experts disagree on whether this is necessary. The chances of contracting the virus from a food package are much, much smaller than the chances of getting it from personal contact. But if you do want to take the extra precaution, clean food packaging using soap and water, NOT disinfectant sprays or cleaners. Chemicals from the cleaners could contaminate your food. You can also remove dry goods from their packaging and store in containers (for example, cereal, pasta, flour, sugar, etc.).  

For produce, follow these standard food safety guidelines from the FDA.  

Follow these precautions and you can add to your pantry safely, without adding to your daily stress. For more information on COVID-19, go to our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page.  

Posted Date: 4/22/2020


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