As we crest the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are staying mindful of pandemic protocols and making fewer-than-normal 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. Shop for family members in the most vulnerable groups, such as seniors and immunocompromised individuals, if you can. Go to the store 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 year of social distancing, don’t stop to chat with friendly strangers.
Wear a non-medical mask and bring wipes
Government sources recommend wearing a non-medical disposable mask, or a homemade fabric mask, when venturing to public spaces such as grocery stores. The mask should cover your mouth and nose tightly, with no gaps. Homemade masks should have three layers, including two layers of tightly woven fabric, with a filter or filter fabric between layers.
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 inside 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. You can help by packing your own groceries, if you are able. 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.
Upon arriving home, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds (the most effective cleaning method against the virus).
Currently, there are no known cases of COVID transmitted through food or packaging. While COVID-19 likely isn’t transmitted by eating food contaminated with the virus, it is still important to wash your hands before preparing or eating any food. Learn more about COVID and food safety from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Order online or go during senior shopping hours
Online grocery delivery services are now widely available across the Lower Mainland, with minimal waits and plenty of selection. Some stores offer free delivery, while others charge a small fee. If you’re able-bodied and mobile, you can also take advantage of senior shopping hours that some stores are offering (usually the first hour of opening).
A meal-prep service is another great option for having fresh ingredients delivered. These companies typically supply a recipe, along with everything you need to prepare it – pre-measured, pre-chopped and delivered to your door in a tidy kit. Here are a few local meal-prep services we love:
- Fresh Prep. Using this Vancouver-based service is simple: just create an account, declaring your tastes and dietary preferences. Then every week, the company delivers prepped and portioned ingredients for your chosen recipes, and however many meals you’d like, along with easy-to-follow recipe cards.
- Hello Fresh. As part of this subscription service, customers select from a variety of packages to suit their lifestyle and dietary preferences, such as the Meat & Veggies, Veggie or Smart Plan. From there, curate a personal menu, choosing from 25 recipes each week.
- Goodfood. This flexible service offers a combination of meal kits, grocery items and ready-to-eat meals. Each meal-kit recipe comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a healthy balance of protein, veggies, and carbs.
With these tips in hand, we hope you’ll be able to shop with greater confidence and safety. Stay well, everyone!