How to Stay Safe At Home Part-1: Grocery shopping during the Coronavirus, Smart Shopping Tips
By now, you probably heard that people hoarded food and toilet paper, stocking up for the worst days to come. Our daily routines are about to change during this Covid-10 pandemic. Therefore, it is only reasonable to fill up our freezers and cabinets with supplies. Fortunately, supermarkets and grocery stores are doing their best to keep the shelves rich in products and their doors open – even if some shops have started to implement “seniors-only shopping hours.” In contrast, others allow a limited number of people to enter a store at a time. So let’s discuss today how to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic but also shop smart in the stores.
Social Distancing and In-Store Shopping
Experts recommend that people should follow the principles of social distancing when they go outside the house and especially when they go shopping in stores to buy supplies. Moreover, we all should go outside and in public places (shops included) only if we feel well and are sure we have not been exposed to the virus.
As we all know, symptoms can show in between 2 and 14 days. In other words, you may be a carrier and not even know it. Moreover, you can be in the proximity of a person having the infection that doesn’t display symptoms either.
Limiting our exposure to crowds of people, avoiding staying in line at the market, and keeping the 6 feet recommended distance are the best ways to stay safe and protect the others while we shop in stores.
Who Shouldn’t Go Grocery Shopping in Stores?
According to MPH, Ph.D. Dr. Chris J. Wiant, Chair of the Water Quality and Health Council,
Coronavirus high-risk individuals include the elderly population, immunocompromised patients, people with respiratory diseases, patients undergoing cancer treatment, and others. The CDC also includes pregnant women and people with heart diseases or diabetes in the risk group. These people
Should avoid any crowds and avoid going in public at present unless necessary. Those who are not high-risk can go to the store but should practice good personal hygiene. To help protect the elderly and sick, lower-risk individuals may want to offer to get groceries or other necessary supplies for them,
according to Dr. Wiant.
In an interview for Washington Post, Bettina Fries, MD, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, said that setting shopping hours for risk groups are beneficial, as they keep fewer people cramming in stores. Moreover, she recommends the risk population to ask healthy family and friends to shop for them or use grocery delivery services whenever they can.
How Often Should We Go Grocery Shopping?
We cannot stockpile food for eternity, especially since many day-to-day products come with expiration dates. According to Dr. Fries, once or twice a week is enough to enter a supermarket or another grocery store, pick up what we need, respect the rules while we are there, and go home with our bags.
But what can we buy from the grocery store to make sure we have enough food to go through the pandemic and the lockdown without having to make unnecessary trips to supermarkets?
The authorities recommend we should all have a reasonable plan when it comes to our food and supplies. However, preparedness does not mean hoarding or stockpiling. According to the CDC’s Household Plan for Action, people should have sufficient quantities of household items and groceries in the event that they need to stay home "for a period of time". Here is in short what they say:
Consider the 2-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food, and other essentials.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is recommending two weeks' worth of supplies as well.
The conclusion here, supported by the specialists, is that we should go shopping for groceries once a week, every two-three weeks.
First things first, toss away from your pantry and fridge all the expired, freezer-burned, and stale foods you may have. Take the opportunity to clean and disinfect your pantry shelves, fridge, freezer, etc.
The best and smartest way to go about shopping in-store is to make an inventory of what you already have so you make sure you don't overbuy anything. If you already have the recommended two-weeks' worth of balanced foods and produce, there is no need for you to empty all the supermarket shelves. The same goes for toiletries, medicine, bread, diapers, cleaning supplies, and other necessities.
The logic behind grocery store shopping every 2-3 weeks during the pandemic is to consume fresh products first. Then add on the list the non-perishable items, the long-lasting perishables, frozen fruits, and canned vegetables, together with all other items your family consumes: coffee, tea, chocolate, water (if you don’t drink from the tap), shelf-stable boxes of juice, etc.
Making a mindful, reasonable shopping list might seem hard. Make sure you buy the foods that you and your family actually eat. Here are some suggestions:
- Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables;
- Dried fruits;
- Fresh fruit and vegetables that last up to two weeks: potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
- Canned fish;
- Frozen meats/or fresh meats that hold well in the freezer: chicken, turkey, pork, bacon, beef, etc.
- Eggs – but be mindful about expiration dates;
- Long-lasting dairy, like shelf-stable boxes of milk or hard cheeses;
- Pasta, rice, popcorn, lentils, other grains that you eat, cereal;
- Olive or sunflower oil, grapeseed oil if you eat;
- Nuts and seeds;
- Dry beans.
What Are the Best Times for Shopping?
The simplest way to answer this question is this: go shopping when it’s not crowded. However, since people are starting to work from home and stores began to modify their schedules and their rules, here is some common sense advice:
- If it is the case, respect your country’s or city’s curfew and do not go outside the permitted hours of day or night for grocery shopping;
- Respect the shopping hours implemented by grocery stores or supermarkets;
- Respect the 6-feet distance between people if you stand in a line to pay at the cashier’s booth.
- Keep your distance from the store employees as well;
- It is better to shop early in the morning to avoid crowds, but first, make sure you follow the isolation rules implemented in your community;
- If you arrive at the store and you see people cramming in it, come back another time, in accordance with the shop’s rules.
Should You Wear Gloves or a Mask When You Go Grocery Shopping in Store?
According to the experts, it is not necessary for you to wear gloves or a mask while shopping. The best advice remains to wash your hands before and after you go shopping, do not touch your face, and keep your distance from others. However, you can implement some precaution measures to stay safe, protect others, and shop smart when in the store.
How to Handle Shopping Carts and Baskets
It is unlikely to catch the virus from the handle of a shopping cart, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Carry sanitizing wipes with you and clean shopping carts or baskets. Stores may provide you with such wipes, but it is better to have some of your own;
- Keep hand sanitizer on you and use it after you enter the store, while you are in the store, and especially after you left the store;
- Avoid touching unpackaged products with your bare hands. Use the means provided by the store to pick up bakery products, bulk produce, etc.;
- Touch store surfaces as little as you can (shelves, stair railings, elevator buttons, etc.).
How to Handle Shopping Bags
We are all more than happy to get plastic or polypropylene shopping bags from the store when we shop, but during the pandemic, it is best to avoid touching surfaces that hundreds of other people have touched before us.
Instead of touching and handling the plastic bags offered by your grocery store, bring your own reusable shopping bags you can wash and disinfect at home as many times as you need.
If you have to touch fresh food, vegetables, eggs, or other products to buy them use your reusable cotton or jute pouches as “gloves” to pick your fruits and veggies and safely carry them home.
What Do You Do When You Arrive Home with the Groceries?
Once you arrived home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap. Remember to do the same after you unpacked the groceries.
- If you are getting ready to cook or eat, clean and sanitize your kitchen table, countertop, kitchen appliances, etc.
- The virus is not food-borne. However, for your peace of mind, disinfect your cans, jars, bottles, and non-porous boxes with disinfectant wipes or soap & water;
- According to the FDA, you should treat the coronavirus with the same mindfulness you do when handling and cooking all the foods. Respect the proper cooking times, wash fresh produce thoroughly, and manage your leftovers following food safety provisions.
Clean Your Reusable Canvas Bag for Endless Safe Shopping
One of the best ideas to implement these days is to use reusable… everything, from napkins and wipes to shopping bags. It is enough that we cannot avoid 100% touching money, knobs, doors, and even people, but we can limit our exposure to bacteria and viruses.
One way to go about it is to make the best use of shopping tote bags in canvas, jute, or polypropylene. You can also use canvas/cotton/burlap pouches for bulk or fresh produce shopping.
The secret of their safe reuse is to keep them clean and sanitized. So here is our Guide On How to Clean A Canvas Bag for more information on the subject.
When it comes to cleaning reusable shopping bags, we have a complete guide here teaching you how to clean:
- Cotton and canvas shopping grocery bags;
- Nonwoven polypropylene and recycled PET;
- Insulated shopping bags;
- Polyester bags;
Besides learning how to wash and clean your reusable shopping bags, in this guide you will also learn how to use reusable shopping bags and pouches to avoid food cross-contamination and the contamination of bags during this time.
If you want to learn more about preserving the life and safety of your burlap items, here is our Jute Tote Bags Maintenance Guide!
Researchers so far say that the risk of contracting the new Covid-19 from contaminated surfaces like bags and packaging is low, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Smart Shopping in Grocery Stores: Bottom Line
To stay safe and protect others during this period of social distancing and isolation, going to the grocery store (or other stores, for that matter, for strict necessities) should become a mindful act.
People in the low-risk categories, who are healthy and less vulnerable to severe threats should practice proper hygiene, take all precaution measures, and avoid close interactions, especially with the groups that are more vulnerable to the disease.
- If you do go out shopping for food, medicine, hygiene products, and other necessities, don’t empty shelves to put even more pressure on the vulnerable categories and consider supporting your community by following the rules.
On the other hand, if you are among the high-risk individuals, avoid shopping as much as possible. As most specialists say, we all should rely more on online shopping and home delivery. We discuss the safety of online shopping of groceries and other items in the following article.
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