The coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty in the lives of millions around the world.
Although the constant updates can feel overwhelming, experts say take stock and make sure you have what you need to get you through a possibly extended period of self-isolation.
With coronavirus restrictions and shelter-in-place orders sweeping through the country, a trip to the grocery store may be imperative soon.
But also imperative is your health. Here are some tips and options for how to safely buy groceries during a coronavirus quarantine.
When should you go?
Generally, the best time to go is in the morning or late at night.
Stores cutting their hours to reduce person-to-person contact may complicate this, so it’s a good idea to double check with a call before leaving home.
An early morning trip may yield fuller shelves but longer wait times, especially amid the current panic.
Later in the day, the crowds might be gone, but so might the food in stock.
No matter your age, be aware of the senior-only hours many stores have introduced for older, more susceptible individuals.
Make a grocery list
You’re on a mission to stock up on provisions as safely as you can. Make it easy by creating a game plan before you leave.
Create a list of the ingredients you’ll need for the meals that you’ll eat in the coming days. Use this to guide you when you shop.
Don’t go straight for the canned stuff. While you certainly will want to include non-perishables, your body will thank you for also including fruits and vegetables. According to Celine Beitchman, director of nutrition at the Institute of Culinary Education, "Fruits and vegetables provide a wealth of nutrients that support whole body health, including a strong immune system."
Sanitize as much as you can
The virus can live on surfaces for hours. It may be wise to bring hand sanitizers, wipes and/or rubber gloves with you.
When you get to the store, wipe down carts or baskets, which are touched by many people throughout the day.
According to Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert in Woodland Hills, California, it's a good idea to use the wipes that grocery stores provide at their entries and use them to scrub down cart handles.
Nelken also advises using a credit card instead of cash, which has greater potential to harbor more bacteria after being passed from person to person.
Remain on task
Make your trip brisk.
You know what you need thanks to your grocery list. Now come up with a plan of attack once you’re in the store.
Get fruits, veggies and dairy along the store’s periphery where perishables are usually kept.
Then make your way to center aisles for non-perishable like canned, jarred and processed food.
Avoid touching items unless necessary
This isn’t the time to pluck every melon until you find the perfect one. A lot of people are touching the same items you are.
“The people in a supermarket are all squeezing the avocados and tomatoes,” Nelken says, adding, “by the time you get home from the market, you’ve got the germs of like 100 people on top of your produce.”
Avoid unnecessary contact by shopping with your eyes, examining produce for bruises or brown spots.
When you do have to pick something up, Nelken suggests putting your hand in a plastic produce bag, picking your items up with that, then dropping it into another bag and sealing it. That way, you aren't touching everyone else's produce
Clean up at home
When you get back from the store, make sure to wash your hands and your produce.
The CDC recommends washing or scrubbing fruits under running water, even if you don’t play to eat the peel, where the virus can live for hours.
Dispose of your bags promptly. If you utilized reusable bags, give them a thorough wipe or, if applicable, throw them into the wash.
Order groceries for delivery
For ultimate caution, get groceries delivered through special apps. Your local grocer may also offer special delivery services.