How to Safely Shop During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 April 9, 2020
covid shopping tips

What to do before you bring food in

While staying home and away from the public is important as we combat COVID-19, grocery shopping is still vital, especially for living a healthy lifestyle.

The same is true for ordering carry-out or delivery from local restaurants; the familiarity of a tasty dish from your favorite restaurant is a great way to stay positive and experience moments of joy as you continue to shelter in place. Plus, supporting these businesses will help reduce the economic impact of not being allowed to have dine-in customers. 

When social distancing, however, grocery store trips and ordering food can seem daunting. So how do we shop and order food while still protecting ourselves and the community during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Here, Rush dietitian Kristin Gustashaw, MS, RDN, CSG, LDN, shares some tips to help you shop and order food safely.

General shopping tips

These general tips to protect against COVID-19 can be applied to more than just shopping. Maintaining social distancing as much as possible, staying in when you are sick and minimizing contact are good practices even if you are out for a walk to get fresh air.

  • If you are sick for any reason, DO NOT go out to purchase food from stores or restaurants. Have someone else go shopping or have food delivered.
  • Wash your hands before and after you go out, and before and after touching any food or packaging.
  • Minimize how much you touch while out.
  • Wear a mask when in ANY establishment and continue to distance yourself from other people, including cashiers.
  • Designate one area in your kitchen for bringing in the items you purchase and wipe that area down with disinfecting cleaner regularly.
  • Transfer cooked food into your own containers and dispose of the carry-out packaging.
  • As always, wash fresh produce.

Grocery shopping

  • Make a grocery list so you spend less time in the store and only spend money on what you really need.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Go when the store is least busy, if possible.
  • Go to the bathroom before you go.
  • Wash/sanitize your hands before and after you go to the store.
  • Bring your own sanitizer to wipe down your grocery cart or basket.
  • Consider wearing gloves; when you are done shopping, remove the gloves promptly, dispose of them in a garbage can (do NOT leave them in your cart or basket, or throw them on the ground). Sanitize your hands after removing the gloves.
  • Touch only the items you need to purchase, including fresh produce.
  • Choose electronic payment if possible.
  • Try to take advantage of online ordering and curbside pickup.

Picking up ready-to-eat carry-out

  • Pay over the phone.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands before and after you go to pick up food.
  • Wipe down outside packaging.
  • Transfer food from travel packaging onto your own dishware.
  • Store leftovers in your own storage containers.

Drive-thru meals

  • Keep the inside of your car clean.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands before you go.
  • Keep hand sanitizer or wipes in the car.
  • Use electronic payment, but remember to clean your card before and after purchases.
  • If you must use cash, try to keep small bills and change on hand to make exact payment.
  • If you must eat in the car, open containers, sanitize hands and try to touch only the food.
  • Dispose of containers, then wash or sanitize your hands.

In all instances, even if you don’t leave your car or are outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing a mask. While a mask can’t prevent you from getting sick, it can keep you from spreading the coronavirus to others if you are sick. 

Help flatten the curve

While these tips can help you stay protected and protect those around you, it is pivotal that you stay home as much as possible during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Therefore, try to limit shopping to once a week or once every two weeks, and opt for contactless food delivery and carry-out when available.

Remember, we’re all in this together: Everyone plays an important role in flattening the curve, and taking protective measures when shopping or ordering from restaurants is just one way you can do your part to fight the spread of this disease.

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