COVID-19 Food Quarantine

Grocery Shopping During COVID-19: Is It Safe?

When are the best times to go? Should I wipe down groceries? Here’s some safety advice for grocery shopping during COVID-19.

“Shelter in place”, “Stay-At-Home Order”, “Social Distancing” are all terms we can’t stop hearing right now, no matter where we turn. There is so much information out there and sometimes, it can be hard to make sense of it all and make decisions based on that information. Grocery stores have been deemed an “essential business”, but can be one of the most dangerous places to be during this outbreak. We have put together this guide to help you navigate grocery shopping during COVID-19.

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grocery shopping during COVID-19

When is the best time to go shopping?

If you must go to the grocery store, find a time that is least busy for that store. If you search your preferred store on Google, there will be a graph informing you of the busiest and slowest times for that store (see below). Also, seek out grocery stores that are implementing cleaning procedures and enforcing social distancing practices. If you see a grocery store that’s particularly packed, it’s a good idea to find another one or come back another day.

grocery shopping during COVID-19

Several stores have designated times for elderly people and people with compromised immune systems to shop. Experts urge others not to shop during this time, as it can increase the amount of exposure this vulnerable population gets to contaminants (unless you are shopping for this population).

Tips For Grocery Shopping During COVID-19

1.) Avoid going inside the grocery store, if possible.

grocery shopping during COVID-19
Target Drive Up

Grocery delivery services, like Target or Amazon, or curbside pickup are good ways to avoid the store, especially for shoppers who are more vulnerable to illness from the virus. Not only does it limit your exposure to the virus, it’s also a good option for those who are sick and want to limit their exposure to other people.

Absolutely DO NOT go inside the grocery store if you are sick.

If delivery or curbside services aren’t an option for you, please be mindful of vulnerable communities and it’s also a good idea to shop for friends and family members who are elderly or ill. 

The safest way to pay for your grocery items is through mobile pay apps on your phone, such as Apple or Google Pay. However, if the pin pad at your local grocery store doesn’t have a mobile pay option, then using a credit or debit card is safer than cash. Even before the virus outbreak, studies showed paper money can harbor thousands of microbes from various environments.

If you can avoid physically going inside the grocery store, do. Most stores offer drive up and delivery options. As much exposure to others you can avoid, the better.

2.) Wear a cloth mask.

grocery shopping during COVID-19

President Trump said at a White House news conference on 4.3.20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would revise recommendations to advise people to start wearing cloth masks in public to to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

If you must go to grocery shopping during COVID-19, make sure to continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines and then wash the cloth mask at home. You should also bring some hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes with you, in case the store does not provide them, to wipe down the cart or basket handles before and after use. 

There are people out there trying to capitalize on this virus, so make sure you do not get scammed when trying to buy a mask (or any other PPE). We recommend this cloth mask. If you do not want to buy a mask, here is a tutorial for making your own from supplies around the house (cloth, rubber bands, hair elastics).

It’s not necessary to use surgical masks or N-95 respirators, the CDC stresses. “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders,” the agency says. 

Please note that while it is advised to wear a cloth mask in public, it is not recommended that you wear gloves, unless you take sanitary precautions. It is almost impossible to do this, so just washing your hands will suffice.

3.) Bring in as little as possible.

Due to possible contamination, you want to limit the number of items that you bring into the store with you, that you are going to turn around and take back home. Leave your purse in the trunk of your car and take in only credit/debit card and car keys.

Also, try to limit the number of people in your party to just you. If you are able to leave your kids at home, do so. Not much is known about how the virus develops in children, but experts say leaving kids at home reduces the number of people in a store at one time. It’s also harder to keep children away from other people, and they don’t always have the best hygiene, by nature. However, not everyone has access to child care and can keep the little ones at home, so just do the best you can. If you have to bring the kids with you, try to impress upon them the importance of them staying with you and not getting close to other people.

4.) Only buy what you need.

grocery shopping during COVID-19

Experts say shoppers should NOT frequent the grocery store every day and should limit the time they spend there. However, please refrain from emptying shelves and avoid hoarding behaviors because there are families who don’t have the financial flexibility of stocking up and can only shop on pay day (every 2 weeks).

It is also recommended to make a grocery list to know exactly what you need and how much of it to reduce time browsing. Having a paper list is safer because it can be disposed as you leave the store. Making a list on your phone puts you at risk of taking contaminants home with you from the store.

When you’re in the grocery store, you should only touch items you plan to buy. Don’t pick them up and read them and then put them back. If you touch it (especially produce), you should buy it.

5.) Wash. Rinse. Wipe Down.

The FDA says there’s no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging. But if you’re concerned, it can’t hurt to wipe down non-porous containers, like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes. If that’s not practical, wash your hands well after putting away all packaging, including paper boxes and bags. It also doesn’t hurt to wash your hands after opening the containers and using their contents.

Always refrain from touching your face!

Wash all produce. Rubbing fruit and vegetables under running water—and scrubbing those with hard skins—can help remove pesticides and other contaminants. While there is currently no evidence to show that COVID-19 is spread by consuming food, the research on the virus is still very young, so it can’t hurt to rinse your fresh foods, that could have been handled by many people in the store.

6.) Distance, Distance, Distance

grocery shopping during COVID-19

I’m sure by now, you know everything there is to know about social distancing. However, I would be remiss if I did not discuss its significance as it applies to grocery shopping. The basics: allow 6 feet of space around you from other people. This serves to slow the spread of the virus from person to person.

Some supermarkets have set up lines on the floor so shoppers can have a visual representation of what 6 feet of social distancing looks like (see above). Other stores have designated aisles that flow traffic in a single direction to keep shoppers from passing each other. If your store does not have this, avoid busy aisles and stand 6 feet away from the person in front of you at the checkout line.

Some states are enforcing social distancing in grocery stores and some businesses are doing that themselves. But if you need to keep more distance between you and someone else when reaching for an item at the store, take a step back and wait or politely ask the person to give you more clearance (“Oh, I’m trying to keep my distance from everyone.”).

Grocery shopping during COVID-19 can be terrifying, but hopefully we have helped you make a plan for if you do have to go. We currently live in scary and uncertain times. Stay positive, be safe, and take care of each other.

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