Answers to your grocery shopping questions during COVID

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery shopping has become a cause of stress and anxiety for many of us. Here’s what you need to know to get safely in and out of the store.

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE STORE

Plan ahead for success. Before you set out for the grocery store, plan your meals for the week(s) ahead. This is a practical way to eat healthier, eat less, and spend less. Use a meal planning template to plan your weekly menu; save it, and re-use it. Keep things interesting and fun by incorporating new recipes into your meal plan. Whether you’re looking for quick and easy meals or more elaborate creations, Pinterest is a great tool for finding healthy recipes.

Shop with a list. Rather than walking aimlessly around the grocery store trying to remember what you need, write out a grocery list before you go to the store. Start out with a staples list and add to it based on your meal plan for the upcoming week. It may take some effort to prepare your list, but it will save you time in the end because you won’t have to run back to the store for missing ingredients.

IN THE GROCERY STORE

Minimize bringing objects and purses into stores. The fewer items that come in contact with other humans in public areas, the better. Only bring essential items with you into the store such as your credit card, shopping list, and keys. Don’t bring your phone into the store.  If you do, try not to touch it unless absolutely necessary.  Bring wipes and sanitize everything before heading home.

Sanitize shopping carts. Many stores provide sanitizing wipes as you enter the store – or you can bring your own. Use them immediately to wipe down the handles of the cart before using it.

Wear a face covering. The CDC says wearing cloth masks while in public (including the grocery store) may help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.  You don’t have to wear a surgical mask; a home-made cloth mask, bandana, or scarf is fine as long as it fights snuggly.  Be sure to properly clean it after use.

You don’t need to wear latex gloves.  Currently, experts say that it’s not necessary for most people to wear latex gloves while shopping. Instead, sanitize or wash your hands before entering the store, upon leaving the store, and once again when you get home. However, if you feel safer wearing gloves, avoid touching your face, use the CDC’s guide for removing them safely, and be sure to throw them away properly.

Keep a safe distance. Try to do your grocery shopping when there are fewer people in the store, and shop quickly. Keep six feet away from other shoppers and give cashiers adequate space.

Sanitize hands after paying. Credit card machines and self-checkout registers get touched by a lot of human hands. Although these areas are cleaned frequently by retailers, it’s a good idea to sanitize your hands after touching them. Choose no-touch payment when you can.

WHEN YOU GET GROCERIES HOME

Wash your hands properly. Once you’re home from the store (or have handled delivered food or food packages), the first thing you should do is wash your hands correctly using soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. You should also wash your hands after removing food from any packaging.

Put away your groceries. Do not leave groceries in your car or garage for more than two hours (1 hour if it is higher than 90°F outside). This can lead to foodborne illness especially with foods like dairy, raw meats and poultry, and other items that need to be refrigerated or frozen. Put those items away immediately.

Disinfecting groceries is not necessary. The USDA says that there’s no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the virus.  However, if it makes you feel safer to do so, go ahead and clean your groceries. Just make sure the sanitizing wipes or cleaner you’re using doesn’t come into contact with the food. It can potentially make you sick from ingesting the chemicals.

It’s not a good idea to use chemical solutions to clean your produce. It is not safe to use bleach, chlorine, or isopropyl alcohol when washing fruits and vegetables. The use of any of these products could be harmful to the body and cause digestive problems. Unfortunately, natural products such as vinegar are not effective at killing the virus. The best strategy for cleaning fresh produce is vigorous washing under running water.

It’s essential to wash all fruits and veggies – even those that have a peel, such as bananas. You can use a vegetable brush to clean firm produce like melons or potatoes. Don’t forget to clean the scrub brush thoroughly with soap and water after each use. Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling produce.

Clean and sanitize touchpoints when you’re finished putting everything away. Regularly clean and disinfect countertops and surfaces in your kitchen and dining area. Door handles or doorbells should be cleaned and sanitized frequently as well.

NOTE:  For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the online resources provided by the CDC.

I hope you found this article helpful during these challenging times. Don’t forget, we are all in this together. If you’re having a tough time, reach out to someone close and let them know. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t isolate yourself. We need to be physically distant, but not emotionally distant.

I’m here for you, too. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly if you need help and support!  Call me @ 732-494-1149.
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Lorraine Matthews-Antosiewicz, MS, RD

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