Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Grocery shopping from your computer or mobile device is ultimately the safest way to ensure you're not exposing yourself—or others—to the virus. Most grocery stores are offering curbside pickup and/or delivery services to protect customers and employees during this time, even if it's not a usual perk. Grocery delivery or pickup services are especially beneficial for higher-risk populations, such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. You can also avoid contact by having the person delivering your groceries leave them at the door. Just be sure to tip them electronically! Take these small steps to keep yourself and your family safe.
Wash Your Hands Before and After Grocery Shopping
Health experts agree that properly washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to stave off COVID-19. Washing your hands before grocery shopping will better protect other shoppers and employees, while washing your hands after grocery shopping will help stop the spread of germs you may have picked up on your trip. Remember to use soap and water and suds up between your fingers, under your nails and your wrists. Sing Happy Birthday or the ABCs for twenty seconds.
Take Advantage of Sanitizing Wipes and Stations
A spokesperson from a local supermarket told us their stores have enhanced their cleaning and disinfecting protocols for high-touch areas such as refrigerator doors, grocery carts and basket handles, and each store has free disinfectant wipes for guests to use when entering and leaving. Be sure to sanitize the handle of your grocery cart or basket and your hands before and after shopping.
Ask an Employee for Assistance with Bulk Items
We love bulk bins as much as the next person, but the bulk section is another high-touch area that can be very germy. Whether you're looking for a bag of fresh coffee beans or walnuts, it's worth asking a nearby employee for assistance. They will likely have gloves on for loading up your own jars with grains, dried fruit and other goodies. Otherwise, buy these items in smaller qualtities already prepackaged. It's worth checking all your options at your local grocery store to buy the items on your shopping list.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself as Much as Possible
Social distancing rules apply in the grocery store, so a friendly wave is all that's needed if you run into your neighbor in the cereal aisle. Additionally, it's just as important to avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. Infectious Disease Specialists are adamant about not touching your face at all as this is one of the most common ways to introduce an illness into your body. Be sure to cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and then dispose of the tissue. If you need help reaching or finding something, ask an employee to help you.
Shop During Low-Traffic Hours
While there's probably no such thing as "normal" traffic hours at the grocery store these days, it's worth calling your local grocery store and asking them when a good time to come in would be. Hours are likely different during this time as stores need to spend more time on new inventory, cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Be sure to ask about any "senior hours" your store is offering—most chains are designating certain periods of time so elderly customers can shop safely—and avoid making a grocery run outside those times. If you do find yourself showing up during other hours, you should make sure you have a shopping list, wipe down your cart before you go into the aisles and move quickly to find all the items on your list.
Pay with a Credit or Debit Card
Take extra precaution by paying with a card over cash. Eliminating the need to exchange bills and coins allows you to keep your distance and avoid the spread of germs. Moive quickly out of the store and when you get home, wash your hands. Disinfect all nonporous containers and any surfaces your grocery bags touched. Keep your grocery bags off the counter if possible.