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7 Ways You're Grocery Shopping Wrong During COVID-19

These seemingly innocuous habits could be putting your health—and the health of others—in jeopardy.

With online grocery delivery slots being snapped up in seconds, many intrepid individuals are still braving trips to the supermarket, hoping against hope to stay safe while doing so. However, even with the benefit of a mask, gloves, and sparsely-populated aisles at their disposal, many shoppers are accidentally making serious errors at the store that could put them and others at risk.

While you may not be able to avoid the grocery store entirely, you can do a better job protecting yourself while you're shopping for your staples. Read on to discover which grocery shopping mistakes health experts want you stop making immediately. And for more insight into how to stay safe, brush up on these 100 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.


You're getting close to other shoppers.

Two women in a medical mask enter a modern grocery market, a store. Coronavirus protection, quarantine, self-isolation.

While many stores are implementing measures to limit the number of people shopping at any given time, that doesn't necessarily mean people are maintaining adequate social distance once inside.

"Social distancing is the best weapon we have right now against COVID-19," says Alexa Mieses, MD, a family physician in Durham, NC. To keep yourself and others safe, Mieses recommends abiding strictly by stores' one-way aisle arrows and six-foot checkout markers.


You're not wearing a mask.

smiling glad friendly bearded guy choosing potato chips at grocery store

If your face isn't covered when you're at the store, you're putting yourself at risk—and if you're an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus, you could be spreading the illness, too.

"Wear a face covering/mask per the guidance from the CDC," says Mieses. "Those who aren't following these guidelines can potentially further the spread and put themselves and others in harm's way."


You're touching shared surfaces without washing your hands afterward.

shopping cart gloves

From the supermarket door to the handle of your shopping cart, odds are you're putting your hands or gloves on multiple shared surfaces when you do your shopping. Unfortunately, that means if anyone who touched those surfaces before you had coronavirus—or any other communicable disease, for that matter—you're likely to have picked it up, too.

So, how should you protect yourself?

"If you are able to use disposable gloves when touching any shared surface, that should be your first choice," says Vandana A. Patel, MD, FCCP, clinical advisor for health essentials company Cabinet. When you're done shopping, throw those gloves away to avoid cross-contaminating any other surfaces. And for more ways to protect yourself, avoid these 15 Coronavirus Habits That Put You at Risk.


You're not wiping down your cart or basket.

Men's hand holding an empty basket in the supermarket

If you've accidentally left your gloves at home when you hit the store, you could be coming in direct contact with contaminated surfaces.

"If you do not have gloves available, wiping down surfaces with a sanitizing wipe and sanitizing your hands after use is an alternative," says Patel. However, it's not just the handle you need to wipe down—if you're putting your purse or reusable bags in the cart, they could be picking up the virus or other bacteria, too, so make sure to clean any area they might touch, as well. And if you want to keep those errands safe, discover the 12 Best Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping Amid Coronavirus Concerns.


You're paying in cash.

paying with cash

Handing money over to a cashier at the end of your shopping trip could be putting your health at risk in more ways than one.

"You can sanitize a credit card easier than cash while reducing the transfer of material from person to person," explains Patel. When in doubt, break out the plastic instead.


You're not sanitizing your credit cards after use.

Woman at the supermarket checkout, she is paying using a credit card

However, even if you are using credit cards instead of cash when it's time to check out, you could still be inadvertently cross-contaminating your body and possessions.

"If your credit card touches another hand, you should sanitize it after paying and before putting it back into your purse or wallet," cautions Patel.


You're touching your face while shopping.

man face closeup with a sore throat, sick due to a virus, tired and overwhelmed

Whether you're scratching your nose or sneezing, any contact between your hand and face while grocery shopping is potentially exposing you—and others—to illness.

Infectious disease physician Jeanne Breen, MD, says that you should wash your hands after touching any high-contact surfaces at the store, but if that's not possible, "try to avid touching your t-zone (i.e. nose, eyes, mouth) and wash your hands when you get home."

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah