Don’t bring home more from the store than expected. Find out how to grocery shop without getting sick so you can stock up safely.
Until recently, grocery shopping was just another task that kept our households running smoothly but which we did without much fanfare. Maybe you’d decide daily what to make for dinner and shop on your way home from work. Or perhaps you strategically crafted week-long menus and grocery lists. Either way, it was just part of our regular routines.
Now, though, we’re all encouraged to limit our trips out of the house, especially to public places like grocery stores. It’s not just for our health and that of our families’ — it’s to help protect store employees’ health, too.
Unless you stockpiled like a paranoid prepper, at some point, you’ll have to leave the house to pick up supplies. That’s when knowing how to grocery shop without getting sick can keep you safe, so you don’t bring home anything that puts your family at risk.
9 Tips to Grocery Shop Without Getting Sick
1. Wear What You Can Wash Together
If you’ve been stuck at home wearing sweatpants and skipping makeup, it can be tempting to use a trip to the store as an excuse to gussy up. Hey, if that helps give you a mental boost or function as a form of self-care, go for it!
But it is absolutely essential that you choose clothes and shoes that can be laundered, preferably in warm water, the instant you get home.
See, it’s not simply what you touch that can bring home a nasty surprise — it’s also what travels through the air and lands on your clothes or the floor, which you then walk through. So, an essential part of how to grocery shop without getting sick is prioritizing your home’s health over fashion. (Related: How to Disinfect Laundry)
2. Disinfect Handles and Edges of Carts
Pretty much every store has disinfecting wipes available at the entrance. If you’re worried that your store might not, tuck a few into a reusable plastic bag to bring with you. (Related: Homemade Disinfecting Wipes)
When you get to the store, disinfect your cart or basket’s handles, but don’t stop there. Give the top edges a thorough wipe-down, too, since you’re very likely to touch them as you go. Remember, you need to use enough disinfecting wipes to saturate the area thoroughly, so grab a fresh one once the one you’re using starts to dry out.
And, please, don’t leave used wipes in the bottom of the cart or basket for someone else to deal with. Use the trashcan at the store’s disinfecting station, or tuck the used ones back into the resealable bag you brought and discard them when you get home.
3. Keep Your Distance
Right now, most stores have markers on the floors near checkouts to show people how to remain six feet apart. That’s where you stand, not your cart. It’s not an arbitrary distance — it’s what’s currently recommended by public health officials. If your store doesn’t have such markers — or when you’re shopping in the aisles — remember to stay two grocery cart lengths away from others.
At the register, it’s not always possible to stay that far away from the cashier, which is why you’ll see a plastic shield in front of the cashier. Don’t try to lean around it, and don’t touch the shield. It’s for your protection as well as the cashier’s.
4. Follow the Signs
If there’s one good thing coming out of the current situation, it’s the new one-way aisles you’ll find in most grocery stores. Rather than some shoppers going up the aisle while others go down, everyone travels in the same direction.
Don’t be the jerk who ignores this. Yes, it’s inconvenient if you forget something in an aisle since going back for it is no longer a matter of taking the most direct approach. But the idea is to keep everyone safer by reducing our exposure to each other through crossing paths.
So, organize your list based on the store’s aisles and go in that order. But, if you do forget something, don’t get in a huff about the extra steps required. (Related: How to Plan a Weekly Menu and Shopping List)
5. Touch as Little as Possible
Now is not the time to compare product labels or examine ingredient lists. With stores limiting the number of people allowed inside, the right thing to do is quickly get what’s on your list and get out of the store to let someone else do their shopping, too.
While in the store, even if you choose to wear gloves to protect yourself, only touch things you intend to purchase. This measure reduces the transfer of contaminants between surfaces.
And, of course, don’t touch your face! Even if you disregard all of the other tips on how to grocery shop without getting sick, don’t dismiss this one. (Now that everyone is supposed to wear a cloth face-covering while out of the house, following this tip is much easier.)
6. Travel Light
Take as little as possible, and as few people as possible, into the store. Leave your purse in the trunk and tuck your credit or debit card into your pocket. Leave your phone in the trunk, too, if you can. When you leave the store, disinfect both.
Also, shop solo, even if your family is going stir-crazy from being cooped up at home. Most stores have instituted a “One Person Per Cart” rule to reduce crowding. If shopping alone isn’t possible, you may be stuck with store delivery or pickup.
7. Clean Your Hands ASAP
Once you’ve loaded your groceries into your car, stop and clean your hands before getting behind the wheel. If you wore gloves, remove and dispose of them in one of the trash receptacles at the store’s entrance or in their parking lot. (Please, don’t drop them on the ground.)
Otherwise, use hand sanitizer after you open the car door but before you get into your car. This step removes any nasties you might’ve picked up in the store without getting them all over your vehicle, too.
8. Disinfect Purchases if You Want
Currently, the messages are mixed about how long germs linger on food packaging and whether everything needs disinfection after bringing it home from the store. So, whether to bother with this step or not is a matter of personal preference — but a little added caution is seldom a bad thing.
To disinfect groceries after shopping:
- Plan ahead by stashing a container of disinfecting wipes or a bucket of soapy water and a stack of washcloths near the door to your home. Also, put an empty laundry basket there to carry things inside.
- Unload your groceries outside and wipe food packages, setting the clean ones in the laundry basket. Don’t put them back into the shopping bags, and don’t touch them again until you’re done.
- Toss the plastic shopping bags and disinfecting wipes.
- Dump the soapy water outside. Let the bucket sun dry outdoors.
- Disrobe, if possible, and remove your shoes. (See Step #9 on How to Grocery Shop Without Getting Sick)
- Take the laundry basket containing your cleaned purchases inside.
9. Wash What You Wore Right Away
Before you put away your groceries, change out of the clothes and shoes you wore to the store. This point is where selecting an outfit that can all go into the washer pays off: just toss your stuff into the machine and start it up.
If you took reusable shopping bags to the store with you, add them to the laundry, too.
Most importantly, do not wear your shoes into the house. Since respiratory particles eventually settle on floors, your shoes have walked through a germ minefield. Don’t bring that danger indoors. Either leave shoes outside and wipe them with a disinfecting cloth or wash them immediately. (Related: How to Wash Shoes.)
And, of course, wash your hands when you’re done. You can’t clean them too often these days.