How to Do Your Grocery Shopping Safely in Time of COVID-19

Nearly 4 billion people, or half of the world’s population, is on lockdown at this time and stuck inside their homes. With shelter in place orders in effect, many people are only going out for their groceries or essential supplies. It is important right now to follow as many precautions and social distancing guidelines as you can while you do your grocery shopping and market runs.

First things first, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, you should absolutely follow these rules when going out, including grocery shopping:

  • Practice social and physical distancing. Keep a difference of 6 feet between you and other people

  • Wear a cloth face covering or mask while in public to prevent the spread of the virus

  • Wash your hands before going out and use sanitizer periodically while in public
Source: WHO
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, or mouth with your hands before disinfecting them, especially if you have touched any surface other might have touched
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow

According to CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, a quarter of cases of coronavirus are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic and presymptomatic patients can still infect other people up to two days before they develop any symptoms. So, it is better to be safe now than being sorry later. Here are the questions and things you should ask yourself and consider doing while out shopping.

Consider Delivery Services or Ask a Friend

Ask yourself this: Do I absolutely need to go out or can the stuff or food you require be delivered to your house? Curbside pickups or food deliveries are an easy way to practice social distancing and decreasing chances of cross infection.

It is the best option if you are feeling even slightly ill and have symptoms like sore throat or a slight cough. If you are sick or among a venerable community, consider asking a loved one to do a market run for you. People who already have a serious health condition or who are elderly, should especially not go out right now.

When the stuff you asked for is delivered, leave the money outside beforehand, and ask the courier or the loved one to leave the package outside your home. When they leave, you can easily go out and pick up the order. If you do not have cash at hand, you can also prepay using your credit card, in many cases.

Consider ordering enough stuff for at least 15 days. Remember to disinfect the delivered goods as soon as possible, before you use them. For how to disinfect groceries, read on.

How to Shop While in Market

Always start with minimizing your trips to the market. Do as much shopping you can in one go. An easy way is to consider going to the market only twice a month. But remember not to do panic buying. That does not help anyone right now.

Shop at off-peak hours and do not go in the store if it is crowded. Remember the emptier a place is right now, the safer is the community. Go alone if you can, limiting the number of people exposed to the outside is important right now.

Plan before you go. Make a list of all the things that you need and their quantity. If you are familiar with the place you are shopping in, it is better. You will know where everything is, and you will take less time shopping.

Consider leaving all the things that are unnecessary at home or in your car, like extra keys or even your phone. The less the number of things that you take outside, the lesser you will have to disinfect when you come back. Only carry cash, your identification and payment cards that you need.

When you step inside the supermarket and take a cart disinfect it first and sanitize your hands before you begin shopping. You can disinfect the cart with wipes or disinfectant spray. Pick or touch only the things you intend to buy. Before you touch a product, commit to buying it. Avoid touching surfaces and leaning as much as you can.

Move as quickly as you can, and double check before you reach the checkout counter, so that you do not forget anything and have no need to come back.

Payment Options

Right now, avoid handling money as much as you can. If you have options like Apple Pay on your phone or credit cards, use them. Remember if you have to bring your phone for Apple Pay to the store, keep it in your pocket till you absolutely need it.

After paying with credit card and punching in your pin, or handling cash, sanitize your hands. Always remember to disinfect the credit card with a disinfectant wipe. Pick up your stuff and take it to your car. Put the shopping items in the back as much as you can. Try not to put your grocery on the seats.

If you can avoid the car altogether and have deserted streets, and a very little shopping to do, consider making the grocery run on foot. Remember avoiding contact is key here, with as many things as possible.

How to Disinfect Groceries and Yourself

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that disinfecting groceries is not necessary. FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, says, “There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”

However, the truth is we just don’t know enough about the virus right now. Just as CDC recommendation change over time, so can FDA’s. It is better to be safe.

When you reach back home, take out your groceries and put them near your front door. Take a wipe and clean the back of your car, the handles on the car, and the steering wheel along with the gear shaft. Basically, anything you have touched should be wiped down.

Next, see if you absolutely need your groceries in the house right away. If not consider leaving them outside for at least three days. The latest research suggests that the virus can survive on cardboards for 2 days and on plastic up to 3 days. After this time the virus disintegrates and is not infectious. If you have perishable goods, you can take them inside and disinfect them.

For fruits, vegetables and eggs, make soapy water and leave them inside it for 15 to 30 minutes. Then gently rub everything and wash them off. Let them air dry and put them away. If you have ordered food and need to eat, consider putting the food in the microwave for a minute. Microwave rays may help disinfect your food, according to previous research.

All the stuff that is in plastic wrappers should also be cleaned with soap and water, or a wipe. If something comes in a cardboard, open it outside, take out the ingredient without the box touching the surfaces of your container, and leave the cardboard outside. Put everything away.

Now disinfect everything your groceries or you might have touched during this whole process. Use a disinfectant wipe and clean doorknobs, tap handles and refrigerator handles. Also wipe down your credit cards and your phone. If you handled cash, put it away where no one comes in contact with it before you absolutely need it again.

Remember to disinfect the wipes you took outside or the disinfectant spray you used too.

Now wash your hands or sanitize them. If you have an immunocompromised individual living with you or anyone who is at risk, or if you have some health condition, take off your clothes, put them in washing machine and take a shower.

Taking a bath is not necessary every time you go out. Consider your risk and make a judgment call. It is better to err on the side of caution. Another hack for this problem can be that make your grocery runs before you have to shower, this way you can rest easy afterwards.

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