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The 2021 Guide to Safe Grocery Shopping

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Once upon a time, grocery shoppers socialized in stores, lamented the outrageous prices of meat, occasionally even sampled a plump red grape before committing to buying a whole pound. In 2021, though, in the wake of the coronavirus, the days of leisurely browsing the aisles of your local market have yet to return. With new variants of the virus cropping up, shoppers are forced to play it safe, especially when grocery shopping.

Until those carefree days return, here is a guide to the safest habits before, during, and after shopping for groceries.

Couple shopping at grocery store, using face mask

Preparing to shop

If you are not the kind of person to make a grocery list, perhaps now is the time to reconsider. Preparing a list of items to purchase in advance is a sure way to limit your time in the store, which is key to limiting yourself to possible exposure.

Shoppers should also stock up on and bring their own wipes. Most groceries attempt to have wipes readily available, but the strength and volume of wipes is not a guarantee. Though the Food & Drug Association (FDA) has made it clear that no evidence exists of people transferring COVID-19 through food packaging, the FDA has also noted that using wipes to wipe down products as an added precaution is a good idea as long as you allow them time to air dry.

Additionally, if you normally bring your own reusable bags to do your shopping, make sure the bags are washed before each trip to the store. Be advised that certain stores are not currently allowing customers to BYOB, so check with your local grocery store before assuming.

Safety while shopping

Naturally, the number one priority when venturing into any public setting is to wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) now recommends doubling up on masks when possible. The best of the best are generally considered the N95s. The masks are meant to create a barrier between your nose and mouth and any bacteria or airborne pathogens, so properly fitting the cloth to seal over the bridge of your nose, over your mouth down to your chin is imperative for the masks to function properly. Though it’s safer to shop alone, if you have to bring your children, be certain each child is fitted with kids’ face masks from Green Supply of the proper size. 

Though most markets are making a conscious effort to sanitize carts themselves, disinfecting your shopping cart with your own wipes before beginning your stroll through the store is still recommended, and be mindful not to touch your nose, mouth or eyes during the excursion until after you have washed your hands. While in the aisles and when standing in line, remain a minimum of six feet away from other shoppers.

Touch as few items as possible, reserving the “squeeze test” only for products you are certain to purchase and do not sample products. When checking out, seek out touchless payment options if available. If you do touch a card, keypad or currency, use hand sanitizer immediately after.

Safety when returning home

If you want to take the added precaution of using disinfectant wipes to wipe down all products before bringing them into your home, there is no harm in doing so, but the coronavirus requires a living host to survive, thrive and transmit, so there is currently no evidence that suggests you can catch it from food packaging or produce. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that hands should still be washed after handling any products, and fruit and vegetables should still be cleaned to remove debris or pesticides just as was done before the COVID-19 epidemic.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has forced many changes upon us, and though light can be seen at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we must stay vigilant in minimizing the risks. By following FDA suggestions before heading out to the market, using CDC recommendations while shopping and the WHO’s guidance when returning home, we can be safe while taking care of necessities.

Human hands holding earth global over blurred blue nature background. Elements of this image furnished by NASA (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/885)
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