The novel coronavirus has changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives, including trips to the grocery store. Instead of popping by the supermarket to grab what is needed for tonight’s dinner, many people are now second-guessing those trips and wondering if it is even safe. They are concerned about going into a store and being exposed, not only to other people but to items that have been touched by others.
Before going to a store
The most important thing to do before going to a store is to evaluate whether the trip is needed.
“You should go to the store only for essential items that you cannot live without in the moment,” Kempf said.
If considered high-risk because of your age or if immunocompromised, Kempf recommends having groceries delivered or asking a family member or neighbor to pick up groceries for you on their next trip to the store.
If those options are unavailable but you still need to buy groceries, try going during special hours set aside for senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised.
For people who are not high-risk but still need groceries, making a list beforehand is an important step.
“You should try to minimize your time in a grocery store,” Kempf said. “One way to do this is to make a list so you know what you want. This will reduce the time that you are walking around looking for various items.”
She said that if you go, plan to buy the groceries you will need for the next two weeks to limit your number of trips to the store.
Protect yourself and others while grocery shopping
Once you arrive at the store, grab a disinfectant wipe, if available, or use your own to clean the cart or basket, especially around handles.
Some stores allow only a limited number of people inside at a time; but even if your store is not doing this, it is important to practice physical distancing from customers.
“Be patient, and give others their space. If someone else is in front of the product you want, wait for them to leave, and make sure you are staying 6 feet away from others,” Kempf said.
When checking out, put your credit card or money in a pocket or somewhere that is easily accessible so that you do not have to search in your purse and touch other items.
If you have to use a touchpad or pen or accept change, use hand sanitizer or a wipe to clean your hands after putting those items away.
As for reusable bags, Kempf said it is safe to keep using them as long as you wipe the bags down, especially on the outside, after each use.
Home from the store
When you get home, the first step is to wash your hands before unpacking groceries.
Kempf recommends setting up a sanitation station in the house, where groceries can be cleaned with antibacterial wipes. It is important to do this before you put groceries away.
“After you’ve washed your hands, wiped off your groceries and put them away, wash your hands again,” Kempf said.
If you wore a mask to the store, make sure to wash your hands after taking it off, and do not touch your face until you have clean hands.
For produce, you should continue to wash items before you eat them. Kempf said produce doesn’t need to be washed before it is put in the refrigerator.
For more information about protecting yourself and family from the coronavirus, visit UAB’s coronavirus website.
This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.