Helping you safely shop for groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic could affect many aspects of our daily lives, including turning a simple task like going to the grocery store into a possible nerve-wracking ordeal. While we know the risks of spreading the virus person-to-person, some people may have concerns about other ways COVID-19 may spread, like by shared surfaces or food.

Here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says

Coronaviruses in general are usually spread through respiratory droplets from person-to-person. It may also be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes — but this is not the main way the virus spreads. Because COVID-19 doesn’t survive long on surfaces, CDC guidance says there is a low risk of spread from products or surfaces to people.

Still, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions.

3 ways to help you shop safely for food

1. Order groceries online

Certain stores offer grocery delivery or pick-up. The services typically include a fee, may have a more limited selection and waiting lists. However, it may be the safest way to get what you need while staying home. Check to see if your grocery store provides this option. Other options include home-cooked meal companies that deliver ingredients in a box that you can cook yourself.

  • When your food is delivered, consider wiping down the packaged goods with one of the CDC-recommended disinfectants, like chlorine bleach, iodine or quaternary ammonium solution. You may also want to soak your produce in two parts water and one-part apple cider vinegar.

2. Consider ordering takeout from restaurants

Ordering takeout is also a great option to get cooked meals while supporting your favorite restaurants. Order online or over the phone and check for delivery or curbside pick-up options.

  • When your food arrives, consider wiping down the containers. As long as the container is impermeable or nonabsorbent, like plastic, polystyrene or waxed cardboard, wiping it down will help disinfect it.
  • You can also transfer the food to a new dish, throw away the to-go box and wash your hands before eating.

3. Take precautions at the grocery store

If you choose to go to the grocery store, there are some strategies to reduce possible COVID-19  exposure.

  • Before leaving your house, make a shopping list to limit your time in the store. Wash your hands and consider wearing a cloth face mask that covers your mouth and nose, which the CDC now recommends.
  • At the store, clean the cart with a disinfectant wipe. Avoid close contact with others by staying about two carts apart, especially in the checkout line. Also, avoid touching your face or mask.
  • When returning to your car or home, use hand sanitizer right after leaving the store. When you get home, wash your hands, wipe down the packaged goods and soak your produce in the apple cider vinegar and water mixture. Don’t forget to wipe down your counter after you’ve put away your groceries.

Ask for help if you're at high risk

If you fall into a COVID-19 high-risk category as determined by the CDC (over age 60 and/or have a chronic condition or you’re immune compromised), consider, if possible, asking someone else to shop for you or using the delivery services.

It’s an uncertain time, but hopefully taking these extra steps and precautions will help you stay healthier. Remember that COVID-19 recommendations and restrictions are evolving, so please check with the CDC and your local government to stay up to date. 

Contributed by Dr. Jennifer Hone, Medical Director of Case Management, Optum Health

Dr. Hone is a Board Certified Endocrinologist, in practice since 1994. Her training began with a BA in Human Physiology/ Anatomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She attended medical school at George Washington University, then internal medicine Residency at the University of Colorado. Her Fellowship training was completed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with a focus on the genetics of Type 2 Diabetes.