I used to love taking my kids to the grocery store. They’re young, and it was fun to wander the aisle and practice our words and colors together. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, all of that has changed. Just the thought of grocery shopping stresses me out now.
To maintain social distance, avoid crowded aisles, and long tines, many people have moved to grocery delivery services since shelter-in-place orders began in March. SuperMarketNews reports that online grocery sales have actually increased by 40% this year. But for those of us who don't have good delivery options, going to the grocery store in person is still necessary. Here are the ways I've been making grocery shopping as stress-free and as safe as possible.
Make A List (But Don't Hoard)
The key to a quick visit to the grocery store is to make a solid list or plan for how you're going to navigate the store. I typically break my list up into the sections of the store—so I don't have to circle back for anything. I map out the meals and essentials I know I'll need that week, and put every item into a category, based on their location in the store.
I also keep a running list at home of staples I'm using every week, and stock up on those items weekly. Most of these are shelf-stable items like rice, beans, cereal, crackers, and broths.
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Shop In The Morning
A lot of stores have changed their hours so they can restock and sanitize in the evenings. I typically try to squeeze in a trip to the store in the morning hours during the week—when there are fewer people in the store, and everything is stocked. I limit my trips to one grocery outing a week.
Bring Sanitizer and Don’t Touch Your Face
My grocery store checklist includes hand sanitizer, a mask, wallet, headphones, and a good list. Sanitizer is the top of the list.
Most stores are wiping down carts and surfaces (if they aren’t don’t shop there), but I always spray my hands and my cart when I enter the store, before I touch my car to load my groceries, and before I get into my car to leave.
PRO TIP: According to the CDC, for hand sanitizer to work, you have to rub your hands together for 20 seconds, and allow the spray to dry completely.
And of course, the CDC recommends never touching your face, mouth, or eyes until you can wash your hands with soap and water. So I often wear glasses at the store to remind myself to keep my hands off my face.
Download an Audio Book or Podcast
One of my secrets for a stress-free trip to the store is to consider it "me time." Me time is listening to an audiobook or podcast. Having an engaging audio track to listen to while I cruise through the store helps me stay calm and in a stress-free zone. I wear large headphones, so it's obvious I'm listening to something (and not ignoring people if they say something to me). I've "read" so many books this way!
Just be sure not to turn it up too loud, so you can see and hear people around you. And if you’re touching your phone throughout the store, be sure to spray it with sanitizer whenever possible.
Check Out Graciously (And Safely)
When I check-out, I always turn off my audiobook and take some time to show my gratitude to the essential workers. They have worked during this pandemic and considerable risk to their health.
I say thanks, and ask how they’re doing.
I also use hand sanitizer on my credit card after paying, and on my hands after signing for my receipt.
Final notes: experts say that close contact with infected people poses the highest risk for getting coronavirus and that the virus doesn't survive that well on paper or cardboard. That said, I always spray down my grocery bags and dry them out before bringing them inside. I also take off my shoes before coming into my house and immediately throw my mask in the washing machine.
Here’s to stress-free, safe shopping.