Safety Advice If You Must Visit the Grocery Store

Fully Grocery stores are considered an essential service in most North American jurisdictions. So, what’s, are the safest ways to navigate the aisles and crowds? We asked some experts on what they recommend.

The Guide to Practicing Safer Shopping

Is it safe to go grocery shopping? Yes, it can be if you follow precautions. Here are some helpful tips during the coronavirus pandemic:

Is It Safe to Go Shopping at a Grocery Store During COVID-19?

Yes, if you follow some guidelines, it is relatively safe. According to Benjamin Chapman, a professor of food safety at North Carolina State University, “The biggest risk factor is being around other people.”

Try and go at times when the store is less busy. If you type in the store’s name and location in Google search, a chart with often will pop up showing when foot traffic there is highest.

COVID-19 is spread by droplets from nearby people coughing or sneezing. To avoid this, the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend you keep a distance of 6-feet (2 metres) from other people.

When checking out, try to use self-checkout when possible, as it’s hard to maintain a 6-foot distance from cashiers. That said, more stores are adding plastic screening around the check-out counters protect staff and customers. Use stores with these if possible.

Google search showing busy times at a store

Should I Wear a Mask and Gloves to the Grocery Store?

The CDC is now advising all Americans to wear cloth face masks when out in public.

Instead of gloves, the CDC is advising people to use sanitizer before you go out and rewashing hands when getting back.

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Gloves can help, but only if you don’t touch your face (including eyes and nose) with them – you’re just transferring anything on the gloves to you. If you choose to use gloves, use disposable pairs and throw them out before getting your vehicle.

Also, avoid using your phone while in-store, as coronavirus can be transferred to it and back to you after washing your hands.

Should You Order Groceries Online or Go to the Store?

If you can afford to, it’s best to order groceries online. Using a delivery service can dramatically reduce your contact with other people.

When ordering online, try to:

  • Avoid direct hand-off. Instead, ask to have the items delivered to your doorstep or a place nearby instead.
  • Tip with the App if possible. Most apps and online ordering systems include an option to add a tip for the delivery person.
  • Order earlier than you usually do. Though it’s not a safety issue, you may find that amid higher demand you have to wait longer.

Should I Bring Wipes With Me? What Should I Wipe Down?

Yes, bring some wipes if the store doesn’t provide them as it’s a good idea to wipe down the grocery basket, the shopping cart where you’re touching it or other areas like the store freezer handles or the tongs used in self-serve bins. You can find a list on the EPA’s website of products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Should Seniors or Those With Underlying Medical Condition Use the Store During Special Seniors Hours?

Yes, definitely if the options are available. Most stores’ website will mention if there have special hours. Can if not sure. Also:
  • Try to order your groceries online or have a family member or friend deliver them while taking precautions themselves.
  • Yes, go shopping at a less busy time. You can sometimes find this information on Google. Type in the store’s name and location into Google, and you hopefully will see a box like the one below that shows when foot traffic there is highest.
  • Use a credit or debit card instead of cash. This limits your contact with other people and surfaces. Also, bring a pen from home to sign receipts. If you have a touchless payment system like Apple Pay, use this so that you don’t have to open your wallet at all.
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Should I Dispose of Paper or Plastic Bags or Packaging When I Get Home?

While there have been no documented cases of transmission as of yet, experts recommend rather than wiping down cardboard boxes and plastic bags; people should concentrate on washing their hands. However, wrapping items like boxes and containers should be disposed of.

Can I Get COVID-19 From Eating Contaminated Food?

At this time, it’s not believed that coronavirus can enter the body through the digestive tract (mouth and stomach). However, regular food cleaning (like washing grapes and oranges) should still be followed as you’d regularly do, and scrubbing those with hard skins. Just use water though, as the chemicals in wipes and other cleaning solutions can be dangerous.

Instead, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and don’t eat your food with your hands.

Will My Clothes Be Contaminated When I Come Back From the Store?

It’s a good idea to remove your clothes when you get home. Don’t the clothing but place it in your laundry hamper instead. The CDC recommends laundering contaminated clothes in the warmest appropriate water setting and drying them thoroughly.


In conclusion, the main things to keep in mind are:

  • If possible, order online
  • Wear a mask (or some kind of face covering) when going out. Keep your distance, 6-feet (2m), whenever possible from other shoppers.
  • Use self-checkout if possible and avoid using cash
  • Wash your hands before going out on return home
  • Wash clothes and perhaps shower on arrival home.
  • Wash fresh food with water. Avoid eating food with hands.
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