Grocery shopping can be a challenge especially for high-risk people during the coronavirus pandemic. You need food, but the grocery store can be a minefield for potential infection, say experts interviewed by Vox.
The most important advice from the experts is reducing your trips to the store, thereby reducing your exposure to other people.
“If you can get it down to once every week or once every two weeks, that’s great,” said Anne-Marie Gloster, a lecturer in the nutritional science program at the University of Washington. Avoid peak hours, adds Joshua Petrie, an assistant research professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
You may also want to consider delivery, say the experts at Vox. If the idea of stepping into a grocery store where you are bound to be with other people is terrifying, consider contactless home delivery where you will come into contact with no people at all.
Here are some other general rules:
- Keep physical distance from other people. While some stores offer special hours for seniors, this can backfire when hundreds of seniors crowd into the grocery store for that allotted hour. Go when the grocery store is least busy even if that means the shelves will not be fully stocked. Be flexible and swap out items such as pinto beans for black beans or heads of lettuce instead of the box of spring mix salads, if your first choice isn’t available, advises Genevieve Ko, in the Los Angeles Times.
- While health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently do not recommend wearing gloves or masks unless you are sick, these guidelines may be changing. Gloster uses an extra produce bag as a makeshift barrier while handling the rest of her produce.
- Reusable bags are fine as long as your wash them, says Vox. Cloth bags can be machine washed in cold water. If you do bring your own bags, pack them yourself and don’t ask the cashier to handle them, for your safety and theirs, according to Wirecutter.
- Pay with a contactless option such as Apple Pay, says Gloster. Paying with a credit card puts you in contact with a pin pad, and cash is notoriously dirty. “Whichever way to pay, wash your hands when you’re done,” says Petrie.
- Sanitizing your groceries doesn’t seem to be an issue for most experts who say that touching infected surfaces “doesn’t seem to be the major way this virus spreads,” says Petrie. However, since studies have shown that the virus can survive a number of days on certain surfaces, there is no harm in throwing away cereal boxes and other nonessential outer packaging or wiping down cans and jars with disinfectant. You can also set aside non-perishable groceries for a few days before using them, says Wirecutter.