Let’s face it: Those groceries you shrewdly stocked up on last month will run out eventually (if they haven’t already). Whether you brave the supermarket in person or order online from the comfort of your couch, here’s what you need to know to help reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 when shopping during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Before You Go 

Consider Ordering Groceries Online

If at all possible, avoid going to the grocery store, especially if you or someone in your home is elderly, has an underlying medical condition that makes them susceptible to respiratory infection, or is experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, including fever or cough.

Instead, order groceries online to limit direct contact with other people. You can have them either delivered to your doorstep or made available for curbside pickup at the store. Some stores will load groceries directly into your trunk without you having to leave your vehicle, so you may want to explore that option, too (especially great when you’ve got kids with you).

Bring Your Germ-Fighting Essentials

If you must go to the grocery store, be sure to bring the following:

  • A secure mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth (make sure your mask is tight enough to stay in place with little to no adjustment while you’re shopping).
  • Gloves to serve as a reminder not to touch your face (keep in mind that the virus may transfer to your gloves, so you may still spread it with gloves on).
  • Disinfecting wipes to wipe down your shopping cart or basket.
  • Hand sanitizer to use throughout your shopping trip, especially after touching the door handles of refrigerated or frozen cases, and when paying at check out.

While Grocery Shopping…

You’ve made it to the grocery store … Now what?!?

  • Keep at least 6 feet between you and other shoppers. If possible, shop during “off” hours when grocery stores are less crowded.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose while you shop. 
  • If available, use the self-checkout and wipe down the screen/checkout area with a disinfecting wipe before ringing up groceries.
  • If it’s offered, use a pay-by-app option at checkout. If paying with a credit card, wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe or hand sanitizer when you get home. Avoid using cash, and if paying by check, bring your own pen to avoid coming into contact with other people’s germs (or spreading them yourself). If you need to hand the cashier your driver’s license or ID, wipe it down as well.
  • Sanitize your hands before opening car doors, and load groceries in the trunk. This will help prevent contaminating frequently used surfaces in your car and minimize potential exposure while driving home.
  • If your little ones must tag along, they should wear a protective face mask if older than 2. Before heading to the grocery store, explain to your child the importance of not touching things while you shop and why they should sanitize their hands before, during, and afterward. Grocery shopping looks a lot different than it used to … If your child asks, gently explain to them why there are no car carts, balloons, or free cookies – and reassure them that these changes are only temporary. 

Unloading Groceries

Designate an “Unloading Zone”

After you return home or receive your grocery delivery, place all items in a predetermined “unloading zone” (e.g., kitchen counter, table, or floor). Use the following guidelines to clean/disinfect groceries … BEFORE you put them away. 

Plastic-sealed frozen and cold foodWipe down with disinfecting wipes or wash under cold, soapy water. Dry with a paper towel before placing in the freezer or fridge.
Fresh produceWash under cold running water (no soap needed). Don’t use disinfectant directly on produce.
Non-refrigerated cardboard-boxed foods like cereal and pastaEither wipe down with disinfecting wipes or leave in the “unloading zone” for at least 24 hours before putting away. Alternatively, open sealed foods and discard cardboard packaging.
Frozen cardboard-boxed foods like frozen pizzasEither wipe down with disinfecting wipes or remove the cardboard box and put the plastic-sealed grocery item in the freezer. If you need cooking instructions, take a photo to save for reference, then discard the cardboard box.

Remember to wash your hands after handling groceries and before touching freezer, fridge, or cabinet handles. Do not touch your face or clothes until you have washed your hands. 

When you’re done unloading everything, discard or recycle the grocery bags. Brought reusable bags? Wash canvas and cloth bags in the washing machine; plastic reusable bags can be washed by hand with hot, soapy water. This will help prevent the spread of the virus in your home and the next time you go grocery shopping.

Clean and Disinfect the “Unloading Zone”

Once the “unloading zone” is cleared, it’s time to clean and disinfect it!

Use hot, soapy water to clean the “unloading zone,” then – using either disinfecting wipes or a solution of ⅓ cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water – disinfect the “unloading zone” as well as any other surfaces you may have touched since getting home (keys, door handles, light switches, etc.). Remember to keep surfaces wet with bleach disinfecting solution for at least one minute.

Don’t have disinfecting wipes or bleach? Use hot water and soap as your solution – while not as effective, it’s better than nothing!

It’s safe to say that grocery shopping has become less of a vacation for moms and more of a chore lately, but by following these precautions, you can help reduce your family’s risk of contracting this nasty virus.