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12 Best Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Follow these basic guidelines to limit the risk of contracting or spreading the virus while buying food.
Cart full of groceries in a grocery store

Social distancing and hunkering down still require most everyone to go to the grocery store and load up on whatever products haven't been hoarded by everyone else yet. So what are the best practices to stay safe and lessen risks of contracting, or sharing, COVID-19?

What follows are some guidelines on what not to do when you're out food shopping, and what you should do instead. This way, you're armed with all the best tips that keep you, and perhaps more importantly, others around you, from contracting this illness… or any germs, for that matter.


Wash your hands.

Washing hands with soap

Yes, you almost certainly have heard this particular tip one thousand times, but here is the 1,001 time. The best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is still washing your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap for 20 seconds. If you are going to the market, make the last thing you do before leaving your home—and the first thing you do upon returning home—be a good hand wash. Want to wear surgical gloves? Fine, but do not let that give you a false sense of security that leads you to potentially touch your face like it's no big deal.


Go early.

grocery cart in aisle with blurred background

Because grocery stores are at their cleanest and most stocked at the start of the day, many shops have started opening senior-only hours of shopping in the first hour that they're open. It's the logical conclusion of "adult swims" from the community pool from decades ago! If you don't fall into that age bracket and those hours are not off-limits in your area, not only does going early lessen your interaction with others, but it also helps you get the products you want. Early birds get the worm and the toilet paper!


Avoid open food items.

Woman at grocery store serving prepared food at salad bar

Many grocery stores offer hot and cold food bars for shoppers to load up on prepared foods. While all feature a federally mandated "sneeze guard," it's best to avoid food that is open and vulnerable to any airborne particles during this time. (Honestly, even if the coronavirus pandemic weren't in the air, these food bars are something to think twice about if you're worried about catching potential germs.)


Be prepared.

hand sanitizer

Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need: reusable shopping bags, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. Make a very detailed list of the groceries you need, and if possible, order it by how you navigate your local store. Limiting your time in the store limits your risk of picking up any contagion. Fomites are particulates that put you at risk and exist on door handles and shop counters, so don't be afraid to hand sanitize or disinfect anything you need to touch.

RELATED: Here's One Full Week of Meals You Can Make at Home


Go alone.

meijer grocery store patron

Presuming you don't need to also keep an eye on your children, try to go shopping alone. The more people that are in the store, the higher the risk. And, since we are trying to limit all interactions, having to chase down a rogue toddler serves no one's best interests at this time.


Limit the touching.


Be deliberate and mindful while you shop. Limiting the number of items you handle not only puts you at less risk, but ultimately makes the store cleaner as well. And while palming your favorite piece of fruit for ripeness is a time-honored produce section tradition, it's best to probably put that particular best-practice aside until the pandemic passes.


Don't hoard.

Toilet paper in the hands of the buyer in the store

Unless you are stocking up for summer camp (which is most definitely not in operation at this time), absolutely nobody needs 144 rolls of toilet paper. Be thoughtful and courteous of others who are also shopping for their own families. Buy what you need and nothing more. We are all in this together.


Stand at a distance from other customers.

Supermarket checkout

Most supermarkets have implemented the six-feet apart rule when customers are heading to the checkout line. And even when you're shopping, be sure you're not standing too close to others then either. So if someone is reaching for a tub of ice cream when you were thinking of heading over there, perhaps circle back to the freezer aisle after you pick up other items so no area gets too crowded! And speaking of, here are 31 Healthy Store-Bought Frozen Foods To Stock In Your Freezer.


Don't go when you feel sick.


Even if you think you just have a cold, you should stay home and not venture outside. You don't want to risk spreading any germs to others. Wait until you are feeling better before going to the store!


Don't hoard.

Toilet paper in the hands of the buyer in the store

Unless you are stocking up for summer camp (which is most definitely not in operation at this time), absolutely nobody needs 144 rolls of toilet paper. Be thoughtful and courteous of others who are also shopping for their own families. Buy what you need and nothing more.


Touch your phone, face, nose, eyes as little as possible.

scrolling on a phone
Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

To help reduce the spread of germs and/or infection—especially now—try to stay away from direct contact with your face, eyes, or phones. When going to touch items at the grocery store, you don't want to accidentally contaminate these items or allow germs to enter your immune system. If you really have an itch, scratch away, but make sure you disinfect with wipes or hand sanitizer immediately!


Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and nose.

woman grocery shopping with mask

We're not here to make any fashion statements, we're here to get necessities and keep everyone safe while doing so. Many people have been using scarfs, bandanas, or creating their own masks from scratch using all kinds of fabric-like materials. Wearing a mask protects you from any air-born encounters and it also protects others in case you're a carrier of the Coronavirus.

We are all in this together. And if you're supporting local businesses and are ordering in dinner, here are 7 Tips for Safe Food Ordering Amid Coronavirus Concerns.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
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