Mid adult woman holding spray bottle with disinfectant

We can avoid some errands to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but stocking up on groceries isn’t one of them, especially if you don’t have a delivery service or prefer to pick out your own groceries.

You can make your trip count and take safety precautions before, during and after you shop. 

“There are a lot of steps to make your trip to the grocery store safer, so you don’t transmit the coronavirus or pick it up there,” says Rebekah Sensenig, M.D., physician specialist in infectious disease at Riverside Health System. “You will come into contact with people, but you can keep your distance and shop efficiently to reduce your exposure.” 

Here are seven ways to shop safely during the COVID-19 outbreak:

1) Wear a mask – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that everyone – regardless of risk factors – wear a mask or cover their mouth and nose with a cloth when in public settings where social distancing is not easy to maintain. This new recommendation is based on what researchers are learning about how many people can have the virus without showing any symptoms. 

2) Shop smart and early – Go grocery shopping early so you have access to the most options at the store. If you’re a senior, find out when the early senior hours are so you can shop in a clean, less crowded store. 

“Be organized with a list so you can make your way through the store quickly and consolidate trips to go to the store less often,” Dr. Sensenig says. “You may want to go with a paper list so you’re not touching your phone over and over again and possibly spreading germs on it before you have a chance to clean it.” 

You can even organize your list aisle by aisle with the help of a store map or app. Leave kids at home if possible so you can shop faster, and they can avoid exposure to the virus or the potential to pass it on. 

Be sure to get whatever over-the-counter medications you may need – and buy plenty of healthy staples. 

3) Bring disinfectant wipes and sanitizer – Many stores have disinfectant wipes available or wipe down carts for customers as they enter the store. Be prepared with wipes in case you need to clean the cart yourself. Use hand sanitizer as soon as you get back to your car to go home. 

4) Keep your distance – Keep your 6-foot distance as best as you can in aisles and at the register. Be mindful of other shoppers and try to take what you touch when picking out groceries. 

5) Checking out – Use a credit card instead of cash but make sure you disinfect your hands after touching the pin pad. Use Apple payPay or a store payment app, if you’re able. Give the cashier and bagger space for their safety, too. Using a cloth or reusable bag is OK as long as you wash it when you get home. 

6) Unpacking – Experts are split on whether it’s necessary to wipe packages after the store. But whether you do or not, wipe down surfaces where you unpack your groceries. 

7) Order online – If you prefer, you can order groceries online for a delivery at home or a to pick up outside the store. Delivery services offer “touchless” delivery where they leave the products at your door and you have no face-to-face contact. You can also order meal delivery services to make set meals at home. You’ll want to plan ahead, since the wait times can be several days now that many people are using these services. surfaces where you unpacked your groceries. 

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