#1 Know Your Store.
I think this is the most important bit of advice, should you choose to grocery shop and not Instacart. I’ve been venturing out more lately and some people (like my friend Sherida) like to shop themselves. So “my” Publix on Monza is super-small and the aisles are tiny, so I do not feel safe shopping there. But “my” Winn Dixie in South Miami (although I hesitate to claim it) feels much safer. It’s emptier and more spread apart.
#2 Know the time to go.
My aforementioned friend Sherida has determined “Trader Joe’s is the best” for shopping. They clean the carts, limit people (which I’ve yet to encounter) and have only one checkout line. She says 6 p.m. (when many people are home eating dinner) is the perfect time to go. There is a line, but it goes fast.
#3 Know the lay out of your store.
This is not the time to dilly-dally and debate the virtues of which sea salt is better, or which Chex Mix has lower calories (guilty). Get in, get out. Don’t squeeze the Charmin, or any of the produce. If you know where what you’re looking for is, you’re much better off.
#4 Make a List
The old fashioned kind, on a piece of paper. Try to put like items together (milk, cheese, yogurt) on the list to avoid missing something and having to revisit areas you forgot.
#5 Go Alone and Infrequently
Try to shop once a week. This is not the time for a family field trip. If you can avoid it (and I realize not everyone can), go solo. Three people in the grocery store triples your chance of exposure to the new (but not improved) coronavirus.
#6 When you arrive at your carefully selected Grocery Store…
Put on your mask, grab your list and make sure you have your hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes within easy reach. I have hand sanitizer attached to the outside of my purse for easy access and the Clorox wipes on top. Put your phone away (it is a germ collector), leave your reusable bags in the car, take a deep breath and prepare to enter the battlefield of grocery shopping in 2020. Almost all the articles I read said not to wear gloves shopping, as it creates a false sense of security. Unless you use them properly (and remove them properly), it’s better to go bare-handed and sanitize frequently.
#7 As you enter the Grocery Store…
Some grocery stores now have a designated in and out door, so pay attention to the signs. Most importantly, stay 6 feet apart from fellow shoppers. Your biggest risk of catching the coronavirus in the grocery store is from exposure to other people. If the carts/baskets haven’t been sanitized, grab your wipes and clean the handle and inside of the cart/basket. Throw away the wipe. Sanitize your hands.
#8 Get in and Out of the Store as quickly as possible
With your list, broken down into different departments of the grocery store, start shopping. Many grocery stores now have directional arrows indicating which way to proceed, so pay attention. If there’s someone stuck in an aisle you need to go down, and not moving, go to the next aisle and come back later.
#9 Can’t Touch This
This one is really hard, but try to be conscious of not touching your face. Don’t read the labels of items, just grab and go and sanitize frequently. Same with produce, don’t smell the bottom of a pineapple, or squeeze an avocado for ripeness. Just grab and go.
#10 As you Check Out…
Give the cashier and bag person some space. Many stores are now equipping plexiglass in front of the cashiers. I had a great experience at Winn Dixie (not crowded, quick), until I reached check-out. The cashier was behind plexiglass-glass, but I was inches from the Bag Boy. Let them bag your groceries. Reusable bags are not advised (and in some stores not permitted).
#11 Use a Credit Card, Apple or Google Pay to pay
If possible, use contactless payment such as Apple or Google Pay (on your phone). If not, use a Credit Card, making sure you sanitize your hands after touching the pay pad. Avoid using cash.
#12 Exit the Store
Breathe a huge sigh of relief (through your mask), but you’re not done yet! Unpack groceries (I’ve been putting them in the trunk). Sanitize your hands before touching the steering wheel and head for home sweet home.
#13 When home…
Unload groceries from car, putting bags on kitchen floor. Remove mask. Wash hands for 20 seconds.
#14 In the Kitchen…
Unpack the groceries, wash the produce in cold water and put away. Experts do not think it necessary to wipe down items from the grocery store, especially if you’re not using them right away. From the Department of Agriculture FAQ “We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.”
#15 Crack Open a Bottle of Wine
Pour a big glass and toast yourself! You’ve survived Grocery Shopping in this crazy-ass, totally bananas time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Up Next: Spring Meals to Savor and What to do with 10 pounds of Stone Crabs.