As we stay inside as much as possible and distance ourselves from other people to slow the spread of COVID-19, we’re all making fewer forays into the world. But grocery shopping is still a necessity. Here’s how to do it as safely as possible:
If you’re able-bodied and mobile, do your shopping alone to limit household exposure, and shop for family members in the most vulnerable groups, such as seniors and immunocompromised individuals, if you can. Go to the store once a week or less frequently, and plan your list carefully to make sure you buy enough to last until the next outing. (See our roundup of immunity-boosting foods for help with making your list.) As tempting as it may be after a week of social distancing, don’t stop to chat with friends or friendly strangers.
Wear a non-medical mask and bring wipes
Government sources are now recommending the use of non-medical or homemade fabric masks when we venture to public spaces – mostly to protect other people from the risk of infection. You can use dust masks manufactured for construction, buy fabric masks online, or sew your own, using publicly available patterns. (Studies show that homemade masks are better than wearing nothing at all.)
Before you leave home, put on different clothing from what you wear inside, and outer layers that are easy to wash. Take along disinfecting alcohol wipes or liquid sanitizer with paper towels (alcohol with a minimum concentration of 70% works, as does hydrogen peroxide or bleach diluted in water at a ratio of 4 teaspoons to a quart). When you reach the parking lot of the grocery store, wet the paper towels with your disinfectant, and use it to sanitize surfaces you touch, such as shopping cart handles.
Keep your distance
Grocery stores are now required by law to limit the number of shoppers in the store at one time, but you’ll need to do your part by staying at least two metres (six feet) away from other people at all times. Many stores have added floor markers to assist, and limited aisles to one-way walking to prevent close calls. Try to touch only the items you’re going to buy, and avoid touching your face or adjusting your mask while in the store.
Be patient and respectful with store employees
This is a stressful time, and grocery store workers are risking their health and safety to be on the front lines, ensuring we all have food on our tables. Because stores are taking extra precautions, lines are likely to move more slowly than usual, so we all need to be as patient as possible. A kind word or extra thank-you goes a long way, too.
Pay with a tappable card if possible
At the best of times, coins and bills are one of the dirtiest items we touch. So protect your health, and that of workers, by paying with a credit or Interac card when possible; ideally one you can tap to pay, instead of touching the PIN pad.
Wash hands, clothing, food, and packaging
When back outside, spray disinfectant on your hands (or sterilize your hands with disinfectant wipes), then remove your mask, if you’re wearing one, with clean hands by the ear strings, without touching the outside.
When you arrive home, take off your shoes and jacket and leave them outside if possible. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds (the most effective cleaning method against the virus), then change clothes and put everything into the washing machine, including fabric masks. Wash your hands again.
Finally, go through your groceries and remove exterior packaging where possible. A recent study found that COVID-19 can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days. In general, it appears the risk of infection from groceries and packaging is low, but experts are still learning about the virus every day. So if possible, dispose of outer cardboard or packaging as a precaution, and store dry items like crackers and cereal in their plastic lining, or reusable food containers.
Then wash the remaining plastic or metal packaging with soap and water. Also, wash fruits and veggies with soap and water. Anything you can’t wash well, like spinach or broccoli, plan to cook before eating. Learn more about COVID and food safety from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Order groceries online if you can’t go out
Online grocery delivery services are widely available in the Lower Mainland; however, most are overwhelmed right now. So getting your necessities this way may take longer than you can afford to wait. If you’re able-bodied and mobile, you might consider leaving online shopping for vulnerable populations, and taking advantage of the senior shopping hours that many stores are offering (usually the first hour of opening).
With these tips in hand, we hope you’ll be able to shop with greater confidence and safety. Stay well, everyone!
PARC is a network of independent-living communities for BC seniors. To help our residents and other aging adults during this challenging time, we’ve been pulling together resources to help. Stay tuned for more as the COVID-19 situation develops.