Coronavirus Updates and Resources

How to Grocery Shop Safely During Coronavirus Outbreak

Published on April 24, 2020

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Even during times of social distancing and self-quarantine, there’s still a chance you may need to go to the store to buy essential items like groceries and medication. It can be intimidating to travel outside your home during the pandemic without knowing what to expect. The good news is that grocery stores across the country are taking precautions to ensure that you and your community stays safe. The FDA also says there’s no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging. With this in mind, there’s still a handful of measures you can take to make grocery shopping safe during coronavirus.

1) Limit who goes to the store 

If possible, try to grocery shop alone. Fewer people in an enclosed area makes it easier to social distance and decreases the risk transmitting or exposing yourself to COVID-19. If you need support while shopping or need to bring children along, make sure they are aware of the precautions and encourage them to adopt safety measures as well. 

2) Organize your shopping list

If available, you should try to go to a grocery store where you are familiar with the layout. Then, before your trip, you can organize your shopping list into buckets like “produce,” “dairy,” or “toiletries.” Having an organized list in hand helps you navigate through the store more quickly and limits your exposure to others.

3) Take advantage of low-traffic hours

To assist customers that may be more susceptible to coronavirus, many stores have altered their opening hours to give seniors and those at risk the chance to shop before anyone else. Walmart, Target, and Safeway are just a few of the stores that reserve this hour for customers. If you’re not in an at-risk group, it’s still recommended to go shopping during off-peak hours if you can. Both early morning and late at night are periods when grocery store traffic decreases.

4) Wash reusable bags

A handful of stores have banned reusable bags during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, if your store allows them and you decide you want to use them, it’s recommended that you sanitize this item after each use. You can do this by washing them or wiping them down with an antiseptic wipe.

5) Sanitize your cart 

Most stores will have a sanitization station set up before you reach the grocery carts. Make sure to utilize these stations to sanitize both your hands and any part of the cart you might touch. For additional safety, it’s also a good idea to bring your own hand sanitizer. That way, you can apply sanitizer before shopping, after paying for your groceries, and directly after you load groceries into your car.

6) Cover your mouth and nose 

The CDC now recommends wearing face masks when shopping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These masks can be anything from homemade cloth masks to scarves or bandanas. It’s advised that you don’t use the N95 respirators or surgical masks since those are in short supply. Covering your mouth and nose helps prevent symptomatic carriers (people who do not know they have the virus) from transmitting coronavirus to others.  

7) Keep a safe distance 

Most importantly, keep a safe distance while shopping. The 6-ft distance between yourself and others should be maintained as best you can while out in public. Many stores now have signage to remind other shoppers of this and have set up designated spaces to stand while waiting in the checkout line.

8) Wash your hands and produce 

Once you’ve finished shopping and have returned home, it’s crucial to wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so it’s recommended that you wash your hands before you put your groceries away. The FDA has said that there’s no evidence of coronavirus being transmitted through eating food. However, it is always advisable to give your produce a good rinse. Rinsing your fruits and vegetables helps to remove general bacteria from the outside. Make sure only to use plain running water, as soap residue can cause gastrointestinal issues.  


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For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov.

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

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