Shopping During Coronavirus: Best Practices (Snowflakes Edition)
April 18, 2020 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Starting to quietly panic about visiting the grocery store in the coming days. Help me not do that.

I haven't left my apartment for just over three weeks, and I'm starting to run low on supplies. The prospect of heading out into the world is more than a little scary, even though I've been generally avoiding the news and social media in the hopes that I wouldn't get super-anxious about it. So much for that plan.

I've read articles from the FDA and other outlets about the safest ways to grocery shop. I have a mask. I do not have wipes. Even though I live alone, I've been pretty diligent about washing my hands regularly and wiping down surfaces. I know deliveries are recommended, but I'm not in a financial position to take that option. (In fact, I got some bad news recently about summer employment, which may be another Ask.) I also don't drive, so I bring a backpack to transport some of my purchases. Should I be running it through the washer before and after a shopping trip? I've heard of people changing clothes and putting what they wore to the store directly into the wash. Is that a good idea?

Basically, there's a lot of info out there about this, and MeFi is pretty mindful in general, so my most pressing questions: Aside from the recommendations in articles like this one, what else have you done to stay safe before/during/after a public shopping trip? Any additional recommendations for what someone without the taken-for-granted advantages (car, no-touch payment options, finances for delivered groceries) should be doing?

posted by xenization to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Another alternative to going to the supermarket might be to pool orders with neighbors, if that's an option for you. It'll cut down on the delivery costs, and larger orders tend to get picked up first on many platforms because they come with a larger payoff for the shopper.

Also: I do indeed keep indoor and outdoor clothing separate and wash anything like a backpack immediately after I return home.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m not sure if you’ll but so much that you’ll need a cart but in line I like to keep the car behind me so I can control to some degree how much someone comes up on me and then I can control the distance between me and the person in front of me.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2020 [14 favorites]

If you are going to catch COVID-19 from grocery shopping the odds are overwhelming that it'll be from another person, not from a piece of produce, a shopping bag, or the credit card reader. Wear a mask, gloves if you have them, stay 6-feet away from everybody, and you'll be fine. Wash your hands ASAP, ideally with hand sanitizer at your car then with soap and water at home. We've been washing loose / open produce with soap and water but that is probably overkill.
posted by COD at 12:25 PM on April 18, 2020 [48 favorites]

Go as early as possible, go on a weekday. Have a list, shop quickly to minimize your time in the store. Most stores around here are wiping down their carts. Wear a mask, don't touch your phone, don't touch your face, use hand sanitizer after leaving the store. I do change my clothes after returning from the store but that might be overkill.
posted by gnutron at 12:26 PM on April 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

If you spend as little time at the store as possible, avoid touching your face while you’re out, and wash your hands the minute you come home, that’s going to take care of most of what you have control over.

To minimize your time in the store make a list (sorted by aisle if possible) and mentally rehearse your shopping trip. Think about substitutions for things on your lis BEFORE you get to the empty shelf. (Like, my list says “green vegetable” not “broccoli” or “spinach”.) Ask friends/neighbors/local Facebook groups when is the quietest time to shop at your preferred store. Weekday is probably a good bet but around here early seems to be bad - I prefer mid-afternoon.

Further things that you could do (which have significantly less evidence to support them) would be letting the things you purchase or take with you sit for a few days before you handle them again - last I heard there was no evidence that *anyone* has gotten COVID from packaging. It’s theoretically possible though. You can wash them if you want, but letting them sit is a lot easier.

I usually do change out of my clothes after I visit the grocery store and I’ll put them in the washer but not turn it on unless I need to do a load: again, the virus is already dying on the clothes, and the good evidence seems to say that as long as I don’t rub the clothes on my face it doesn’t matter if there’s virus in my washer or hamper.

I think we all have a tendency to think that if we do THE MOST to keep ourselves safe then we will be safe. But there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns. And there’s nothing you can do to keep yourself *completely* safe. Someone could cough on you the second you walk out the door. Even if you stayed inside you could fall and break your leg and then catch it from the paramedic who comes to rescue you. And the good news is that even in the very high risk groups, the great majority of people with COVID do recover. COVID is a public health crisis but it’s not a death sentence. Take reasonable precautions.
posted by mskyle at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2020 [26 favorites]

I think it will depend somewhat on where you are and where you are planning to shop. On my recent shopping trip, I waited outside in a line. There were marks on the sidewalk to keep people 6' apart. People respected that. I had gloves in my pocket and a mask. I enjoyed the fresh air and waited, I listened to a history podcast while I waited and send some text messages. When I got to the front of the line, there was a person there who was wiping down every cart and managing the flow of people inside the store. There were only 25 shoppers allowed in at a time. See if you can find out what your store is doing. This was a small store. A smaller store feels more manageable to me.

Once I got to the front of the line, I adjusted my mask and put on my gloves. There was also a hand sanitizer station. I kept my gloves on throughout the shopping experience. All employees had on masks and gloves. There was a "sneeze guard" at the check-out and I was not allowed to use my own bags. There were marks on the floor indicating one-way travel and people were good at keeping a distance. There were also employees checking in to see if you left anything back behind.

I checked out and touched the card machine with my gloved hands. I put my items in my car and before I got into my car, I took off my gloves and put them in my pocket.

I got home and unloaded my groceries. I washed my hands inside and took a little break. Then I put all my groceries away. I did not wash my groceries. Then I washed my hands again and made my lunch.

The items on the shelf have been sitting there awhile. They likely do not harbor any viruses. The employees are being very careful and wiping things down regularly. Those things are likely not harboring any viruses. Everyone is keeping a distance and nobody coughed or sneezed in my face. Even if they had, they would need to be a carrier of this virus in order to transmit that virus and I have a well-functioning immune system. There are air change systems and open doors bringing in fresh air to this grocery store I visited. I'm not worried about the air.

I would say, that it is quite easy to be cautious and behave with caution in such a way that lowers your risk of catching anything let alone this particular virus. I also carry a bandana in my pocket (easy to throw in the wash) that I can use to touch certain things like doors. I feel that coming home, putting that in the wash and then washing my hands is sufficient to mitigate risk.

Keep in mind, that while this particular virus is overwhelming our medical system, if you don't encounter it (and you're unlikely to) and you have a functional immune system, then you are unlikely to get sick from anything. If you must take public transport or if you aren't able to get enough food to sustain you, I'd encourage you to reach out to local aid organizations and see if they can help. Lots of people are making deliveries to neighbors. Sending you lots of hugs as it is a particularly hard time right now if you have any sort of anxiety.
posted by amanda at 12:33 PM on April 18, 2020 [17 favorites]

Note: some grocery stores are banning outside bags/totes. Also check the floor to see if they have directional arrows, ie one-way aisles.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:34 PM on April 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

it takes a lot of fortitude to stay inside for three weeks; you're stronger than you maybe think you are. but it's understandable you're anxious about going to the grocery store in these times.

my routine is simple and is based on the precept i can control my own actions and not others'. i wear disposable gloves once i get to the grocery store. i don't touch anything on my person while wearing them. sometimes i fail at this but i accept that i am human and i make mistakes. i don't dilly dally in the store and browse. i know what i need beforehand. when i checkout i take off one of the gloves so i'm not touching cards/phones/however i'm paying, with a used glove. i leave one on to take out the bag. then before i get into the car i take the gloves off and dispose of them.

i understand you don't have a car; but the principle remains the same. gloves are best worn when you're in a public space that requires touching something shared; when not in that situation gloves are largely pointless. and the countless times i've seen folk with their gloves on looking at their phone, driving their car and so on, is mystifying.

and of course wear a mask. i've been doing so since it became advised to do so. well a bandana that is tight across my face. i understand this is a precaution to help others but it reassures me and that is all i need.

i am not a naturally anxious person but i have a routine now that gives me comfort which i didn't have "before." i hope you're able to run your errands successfully!
posted by iboxifoo at 12:37 PM on April 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Mask and gloves is more than enough. Make a list. Only touch what is going in your basket. Stay away from others. Better to keep your distance than to rush through the store.

Do not wash your produce with soap. That is likely to make you sick. Just water is fine.

Dispose of gloves and wash hands when you get home. You will be fine.
posted by like_neon at 12:54 PM on April 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

I have a mildly immunocompromised partner and I do all the shopping. I carry my one tiny bottle of hand sanitizer to use before I go in and after I come out. I wear a mask and don't touch it while I shop, and decant it into a ziploc after I come out and deal with cleaning it later. I take my shoes off right inside the door.

I bring all the bags in, wash my hands and face and glasses, and put my clothes either in the washer if I know I'm doing laundry soon, or I hang them in the garage to use again a few days later, and then wash my hands again. I'm not worried about it hanging around that long on my clothes, more about dragging them around the house more than necessary immediately after coming in. While I go change my husband wipes down the doorknobs and things I might have touched on my way in.

After I change I go put the groceries away - I don't wipe them down, but I don't touch my face until I'm done and then I wash my hands. We're doing a just-in-case wipedown of kitchen handles and knobs on a regular basis anyway, so I do that after put-away.

Our stores are not allowing reusable bags, which is understandable, and I have a million bags at home already, so I am mostly throwing away the ones I come home with.

While I have some suspicions that my husband and I have already had mild cases, without proof I'm still going to take precautions as if we have not. This feels like enough. I did make myself a travel squirt bottle of castile soap and carry a bottle of water in the car for hand-washing if I feel like I have had to touch or handle something I'm not comfortable was clean, but I have only used it once so far and that was fairly early on before masks and before stores were limiting capacity inside.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:56 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I can't swear to what it's like in your area but I have experimented with shopping at various points in the day and it seems like the best bet is the earlier the better. I did this week's shop at 7am on Friday (store opens at 6) and it was well-stocked, not busy, already fully-staffed in anticipation of larger midmorning crowds, and everything available was neatly stacked and not riffled-through. They didn't have rotisserie chickens out, I don't think those usually roll until closer to lunchtime, but I wasn't there for that anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:03 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our grocery does free curbside pickup. No reason you can't do that without a car. My limited understanding is that you are most at risk from breathing the same air as other people, so staying outdoors is best, followed by going in the morning before other people are awake or have been there breathing the air, followed by finding places with good ventilation and air flow. (I know it's "droplets" not "airborne," but still.)
posted by slidell at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Since somebody mentioned it up above: Don't wash your produce with soap.

"The FDA and USDA say you should not wash produce with soap; a peer-reviewed publication from UC Davis explains that antibacterial soap and dish detergent residues can remain on the produce. Fruits and vegetables are porous and those microscopic pores can absorb the residues, which are not for human consumption.

Perhaps more convincing are messages from the companies and organizations that would financially benefit from increased soap and produce sales. In the safety data sheet of Dawn dishwashing detergents, it states: “Ingestion: May result in nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.”"
posted by warble at 1:06 PM on April 18, 2020 [12 favorites]

I'm in a pedestrian-heavy area (NYC) and in addition to going in the morning, I try to go shopping on rainy/windy/super cold days, i.e. days that it's unpleasant to be outside, as that both noticeably reduces the number of people on the way there and seems to lead to lower turnout in the grocery store.

(YMMV of course if you are in a place with consistently nice weather and/or a car-dominant locale.)

I do think that unfortunately some of the strategies to reduce crowds and minimize time shopping will be dependent on your local store. For example, I've tried going to mine before it opened, but I found that during the first half hour or so that the store is open they are often still restocking produce, which means I end up spending a longer total time there as I make multiple trips back to the produce section as things become available.
posted by andrewesque at 1:52 PM on April 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

My normal grocery store has not been limiting the number of shoppers inside, and I don't see anyone wiping down carts. Some of the workers are wearing masks and gloves, some are not. Most shoppers seem to be wearing masks and mindful of social distancing, but there are always a few people who seem oblivious to the situation. I keep one eye out for those while I am shopping, and do my best to evade them.

My routine is this: I have a small, cross-body purse I use now, so I don't have to set my handbag in the shopping cart. It contains my wallet, a small bottle of sanitizer, some sanitizing wipes in a baggie, a bandana, and a few paper towels. I put my phone in a zip-loc bag, because I have my grocery list on it and I don't want to be touching it with my potentially-germy gloved hand. (I tried cleaning my phone once with alcohol and it just took some of the finish off my phone case, so it's better if I just keep it wrapped up when I'm out.) I keep my debit card in a side pocket of my purse so I'm not fishing around inside my purse and handling my wallet with my germy glove.

I put my gloves and mask on just before I get out of my car in the store parking lot. If the grocery store has wipes available, I will use one to wipe down the cart handle; if not, I use one of my own wipes. (If no wipe were available I would not worry too much, as I am wearing gloves, and also being careful not to touch my face. I have heard, though, that disinfecting wipes can be made using a bleach-water solution and paper towels, but I have not tried that yet as I can't even look at bleach sideways without ruining an item of clothing with a bleach stain.)

I strive to maintain 6 feet of distance from others as I move through the store. My shopping list is set up the way the store is arranged, so I can make one efficient path through the store, without backtracking much.

At the checkout, they have marked off six feet intervals. (Last time I was there the guy behind me kept creeping forward which was making me super anxious. I was giving him the stink-eye and was just about to ask him to back off when another cashier called him over to her line, thankfully.) There is a plastic "sneeze guard" between the customer and cashier, so I try to make sure I stand behind that as much as possible. I've been bagging my own groceries when I can, because the bagging area is not far enough away from the payment card reader where I would normally stand.

I keep my gloves and mask on until I get in the car. I have a plastic bag with me to put my worn gloves and mask in, so I can drop it in the dumpster outside my building when I get home. I sanitize my hands after I take off my gloves and mask before I drive home.

My husband brings in the groceries and puts them on the dining room floor, and washes his hands. I strip naked and throw my clothes in the washer, gargle with Listerine, and take a shower. I then drink a cup of hot green tea, chew up some vitamin c and suck on a zinc lozenge. (Does any of this help? I don't know, but it can't hurt and it makes me feel less "contaminated".)

I don't worry super much about the packaging. I put away the perishables, but I normally leave the non-perishable stuff languishing on the dining room floor in their bags for a couple of days anyway, due to sheer laziness. So I figure that can now serve as a bit of buffer time for any germs to die off.

I'm honestly not sure how much of the above is strictly necessary, but it all helps me to feel less anxious, which is worth a fair amount of trouble to me.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I live alone and am not considered vulnerable. This is what I consider to be reasonable for myself. I minimise the number of trips and plan my trips so as to hit the sweet spot between adequate stock levels and busy. I use my own bags and use hand sanitiser before I get a cart and after I leave the shop. We are not required or even advised to wear a mask here at the moment so I don’t. I keep my distance from other shoppers and use the self scan feature/contactless paying if available. I take my shoes off when I come home and wash my hands and put my stuff away. I don’t wipe down anything or wash any purchases beyond what I would have done two months ago. On my last trip Friday evening I saw only a handful of people with masks and a few more with gloves.

As context, these are the restrictions in place at the moment, currently in place until the end of next week only. Schools are closed but will provide childcare for children of key workers. Nurseries are open at their own discretion. People are requested to stay at home as much as possible, work from home if possible but you are encouraged to get fresh air/exercise outside observing social distancing rules. All events have been cancelled. Online shopping is thriving and moving companies are still operating as are repair people. I can see vans from all common logistics providers, supermarkets, meal box services, food delivery services and the post office every day. Grocery stores and pharmacies are open, all other retailers are closed, restaurants are allowed to sell take away only. Our curve seems to be under control at the moment so I would expect some of the restrictions to be lifted after the coming week.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:37 PM on April 18, 2020

People are freaking the heck out about "germy" hands and such, when really everything we have seen so far indicates that by far the most likely means of transmission is airborne droplet or possibly aerosol. I think it's because we instinctively understand and feel like we can control surface-to-surface transmission, whereas what we can do with non-medical equipment about droplets is pretty limited: put up what barrier we can, maintain the maximum distance we can, minimize the time in the enclosed space.

When I go to the grocery store, I wear a mask (now mandatory, but I've been doing it since I got one)--I put on an old used N95 underneath it, but not even sure how much that helps after several rounds of disinfection. I wear gloves and I disinfect over them right before and right after my visit. (In practice, that is not too different from sanitizing over bare hands before and after. Honestly, it's mostly psychological. I didn't say I was immune to the dynamic I discussed above.) Local stores have been restricting capacity and most people are pretty good, at least now, about trying to maintain the six-foot distance. Plan in advance so you can minimize the time inside. They may or may not let you use your own bag at checkout (actually kind of silly, but whatever). Ask the people in line around you to maintain the six feet if your store hasn't already marked it off (haven't seen a grocery that hasn't in some time). Then thank your cashier profusely and get out of there. If you can go during a weekday, the crowds tend to be less. In my experience, weekday early mornings (after senior hours) or mid-afternoons seem to be the least crowded. The walk to and from outside, in the fresh air and sunlight, is frankly the least dangerous part. I sanitize over my gloves again before removing them carefully (take the second glove off using the inside of the first glove as a barrier), putting them in a sealed bag, and tossing them in an outdoor trash container. Again, probably overkill, more a gesture of pro-social respect towards sanitation workers than anything else. I take my shoes off as I go inside, go straight to the sink to wash my hands (use wrist to turn on), then remove my mask using the strings only and toss it directly into the wash. Then--again, probably overkill--I go back and use one precious wipe on the locks and other stainless steel on the door that I'm likely to have touched, and the sink faucet, too. I don't shower or wash my clothes. The risk involved really is trivial. On the other hand, if you're not going out much and it would make you feel better, there's no harm in doing so. You've really got to balance what you find comforting and what has disproportionate costs/makes you feel more crazy and obsessive.
posted by praemunire at 2:52 PM on April 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was a bit anxious about grocery stores, but feel like I've gotten into a routine. Generally I've been going during off hours (late morning weekdays usually - fortunately my job is flexible). I do my best to minimize trips and move reasonably quick while I'm in the store.

I take my own basket or two-wheeled cart, as all of the stores around here seem to run out of wipes to clean the carts at the entrance - and I really don't like the idea of touching a communal cart anyway. I also wear a basic cloth mask and take a pair of gloves specifically for using the payment terminals. After loading the car I use a bit of hand sanitizer, then after putting groceries away I wash more thoroughly with soap and water. I personally don't bother with wiping down groceries as it seems like overkill.
posted by photo guy at 3:08 PM on April 18, 2020

If there's a local Facebook or other group you can ask in, there might be alternatives to grocery stores specific to your city/neighborhood. For example: people in my neighborhood told me that produce trucks (which are a thing here - people sell produce from the back of a box truck) are operating and having people pay via Venmo, and that's safer because you're not hanging out with other people inside an enclosed space. And the bakery near me is letting people do online pre-orders of stuff for contactless pickup (at no extra charge), and expanding their usual offerings to include flour and yeast and nuts and some other baking supplies.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:31 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

People are freaking the heck out about "germy" hands and such, when really everything we have seen so far indicates that by far the most likely means of transmission is airborne droplet or possibly aerosol.

I don’t think this is true. I especially don’t think this is true in a grocery store setting or outdoors. It is of a much greater concern when in a medical setting with a patient who is suffering from the virus. Grocery stores (in general) have ventilation requirements and air exchange requirements. It is always going to be easier to effectively surface transmit a virus into your nose or mouth from your hands than breathing in an errant, airborne micro-particle.

I recommend calling ahead to your planned grocer and see what they are doing. If they aren’t wiping down surfaces and controlling numbers of shoppers then I’d either go somewhere else or go at a low-volume time.
posted by amanda at 3:43 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Airborne particles are definitely a transmission source, and air con can help dissipate them it does not remove the source sufficiently for it not to be a worry. Keep your distance from others, especially in queues, avoid crowds/busy times, wear a well fitted proper mask. Don't just wash your hands with soap and water, wash your face too, wash anything that you have/might have touched since you last washed your hands - pen, wallet, phone etc - to avoid re-infecting your hands next time you touch them.
posted by GeeEmm at 4:07 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don’t think this is true. I especially don’t think this is true in a grocery store setting or outdoors. It is of a much greater concern when in a medical setting with a patient who is suffering from the virus.

Why? There are no confirmed cases of transmission via packaging. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened, of course, but there aren't any. I'm not aware of anyone vaguely credible who thinks that airborne transmission isn't the main vector.

It is always going to be easier to effectively surface transmit a virus into your nose or mouth from your hands than breathing in an errant, airborne micro-particle. said so? There are any number of scenarios in which the opposite might be true. Regardless, it's pretty clearly not what's happening.

Grocery stores (in general) have ventilation requirements and air exchange requirements.

You do understand that moving air currents will help carry droplets to you? See the quite interesting study here, where a/c flows seem to have been heavily involved in determining who got infected. A grocery store is a place where people are relatively crowded together breathing each other's air much more than when they are outside. That's why it's a relatively high-risk location.

None of this means you should be indifferent to the possibility of surface-to-surface and not wash your hands, but, yeah, you are way more likely to get this by breathing in somebody's droplet (possibly aerosol) than by touching something they touched once.
posted by praemunire at 4:07 PM on April 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I think it's fine to go buckwild and whip off all your clothes and shower after you get home if it makes you feel better, but not if you start to miss what's most important. You have to remember that the most important thing is to wash your hands. I got home after the farmers' market today and was so excited about showering I didn't wash my hands 'til I'd done like twelve other things, including take off my mask. Eeeewps...
posted by Don Pepino at 4:25 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Here is the NYT's take on this and related questions, as of yesterday. Their coronavirus coverage is open so this should not be paywalled.

Some of the content (there are some links in the original):

Should I change my clothes and shower when I come home from the grocery store?

For most of us who are practicing social distancing and making only occasional trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, experts agree that it’s not necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. You should, however, always wash your hands. While it’s true that a sneeze or cough from an infected person can propel viral droplets and smaller particles through the air, most of them will drop to the ground.

Studies show that some small viral particles could float in the air for about half an hour, but they don’t swarm like gnats and are unlikely to collide with your clothes. “A droplet that is small enough to float in air for a while also is unlikely to deposit on clothing because of aerodynamics,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. “The droplets are small enough that they’ll move in the air around your body and clothing.”

Why is it that small droplets and viral particles don’t typically land on our clothing?

I asked Dr. Marr to explain further, since we’re all getting a mini lesson in aerodynamics.

“The best way to describe it is that they follow the streamlines, or air flow, around a person, because we move relatively slowly. It’s kind of like small insects and dust particles flowing in the streamlines around a car at slow speed but potentially slamming into the windshield if the car is going fast enough,” said Dr. Marr.

“Humans don’t usually move fast enough for this to happen,” Dr. Marr continued. “As we move, we push air out of the way, and most of the droplets and particles get pushed out of the way, too. Someone would have to spray large droplets through talking — a spit talker — coughing or sneezing for them to land on our clothes. The droplets have to be large enough that they don’t follow the streamlines.”

So, if you’re out shopping and somebody sneezes on you, you probably do want to go home, change and shower. But the rest of the time, take comfort that your slow-moving body is pushing air and viral particles away from your clothes, a result of simple physics.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2020 [17 favorites]

Some great suggestions here, and I will add that if you wear any sort of glasses for reading the smaller the surface area of the lens, the less they fog up when you are garbed up to shop.
posted by effluvia at 5:53 PM on April 18, 2020

My current strategy is:
* Visit the store before I'm desperate. This allows me to
* Walk away if I'm uncomfortable for any reason (other shoppers aren't respecting the social distancing guidelines, it's crowded, whatever)
* Wear a mask
* Carry hand sanitizer or wipes just in case (so far, stores have had sanitizer)
* Don't rush, stay calm.
posted by bunderful at 9:14 PM on April 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

You can get free shipping from a variety of stores, like Kroger, Target, or Walmart, for nonperishable and shelf-stable goods, to reduce the amount of items you are shopping for to only what you cannot get shipped, and thereby reduce the time you spend in the store, and probably also get better deals by getting larger sizes that can only be ordered online.

When going out, I've felt better when wearing something with a hood, because of science such as the recent JAMA study, which notes "under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs and just exhaling can travel more than 26 feet and linger in the air for minutes." (USA Today). I think that changing clothes after returning home (after hand washing, of course) is a reasonable practice, and if anything, just for peace of mind.
posted by katra at 10:10 PM on April 18, 2020

I do many of the things listed above, including carrying hand sanitizer, wearing a mask and washing my glasses. I do use my cart or basket to enforce spacing. Before things really took off I placed my basket on the floor behind me to stop somebody from inching up.

Some other things I do:

- Wear a scarf or hat over my hair. I haven't read about this but it makes sense to me that droplets could land in my hair, which I then touch, and then I touch my face. Or I may be a carrier, and spread it from my hair (?).
- Time my shower for when I get home.
- Wear clean clothes, more to protect others than myself.
- Take only my debit card and other essential cards, and leave the others home. I sanitize the card before and after swiping.
- I wear my two-layer scarf over my hair and head, leaving just my eyes, and take it off from the inside when I'm home.
- If you can, just leave your phone home.

I've also found some people don't respect social distancing. The question of what to do about that will have different responses in every setting. One thing I tried, as someone zoomed toward me, was putting my hand out straight toward them, palm facing them. You can say something like "Hey" or "Excuse me." They're probably deep in their thoughts, so this physically and verbally shakes them out of it. You aren't touching them, yet most people will at least pause. You could practice it in the mirror.

I told that person, "Excuse me! I'm trying to keep me space than you're giving me." I don't think reasonable people can argue with that even if they themselves wouldn't care for the same radius. I have found both staff and shoppers can be blase. Meanwhile, others will be very diligent. It's worth being cautious with everybody.

I really enjoyed leaving the house! I hope you can find enjoyment in it too.
posted by rockyraccoon at 6:32 AM on April 19, 2020

Check the cost of delivery in your area. If it will help your peace of mind and you can get delivery, memail me. Happy to venmo, etc. you the cost
posted by TravellingCari at 6:37 AM on April 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Chiming in to say, every time I have gone to the grocery store it has left me a little shaky and weird afterwards. It’s weird to deal with things being out of stock and people being in masks and everyone being on edge, especially if you’ve prone to anxiety and have been strict about self-isolation. Just be prepared for a little self-care afterwards.
posted by wearyaswater at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

In case it's still useful... here's a really long answer.

I went out grocery shopping on Saturday for the first time in more than two weeks; it was my first visit to an actual supermarket (as opposed to smaller local food shops) since the lockdown began. I also don't drive, and I'm an anxious person. My lessons learned:

One worry off your plate:

- If you've been at home and isolated for weeks, you can be as sure as you'll ever be that you don't have the virus. That's great: it means you don't have to worry that you'll pass it on to anyone else.

Before you set out:

- Clear space in the fridge / freezer / cupboards. Everything in them right now is clean. What you bring back might not be. Much easier to separate/quarantine if there's already space available.

- Open the bathroom door, and any other doors in between the front door and the bathroom sink. You'll want to wash your hands before touching anything inside your house.

- Put some pieces of paper in your pocket so that you can wrap the handle of the shopping basket if the store doesn't sanitise them between uses (tissues, kitchen roll sheets or lengths of toilet roll work really well, but anything will do if your stocks of those are low).

- Write a shopping list on as small a piece of paper as possible - I used an index card, and tiny handwriting. Organise it as best you can by aisle, which will help you shop efficiently (less roaming back and forth around the store), plus you may find a one-way system in operation. Hold the list in the same hand you're using to carry the basket, so that your other hand's free to pick up groceries and you're not having to either rely on memory (I find mine's not so reliable right now) or keep going into your bag or pocket and maybe contaminating it. This is much easier to do if it's physically small.

- Definitely take that backpack. If you're not allowed to use it (not a thing I have personal experience of, but I'm in the UK and we don't have people bagging up groceries for us in the supermarkets here, which I guess is the issue...?), then unless they literally won't let you through the door carrying it, you can always decant the groceries into it after you've left. Awkward, but better than the alternative if you've far to go, especially if you end up buying heavy things like flour or bleach or laundry detergent.

- If you're going to be paying with a card, keep it loose in a secure pocket or a zipped shoulder bag, not tucked tightly into a wallet. You can get it out of a pocket or bag with just one hand; you can't (well, I can't) get it out of a wallet without using both, or putting the wallet down on a surface. Not that it's likely to matter particularly, but I feel less stressed if I know I'm keeping my personal possessions as clean as possible.

At the store:

- Because you're not shopping as frequently as usual, you'll end up buying more than usual. Don't use a trolley; pick up a basket. When it's starting to get too heavy to carry with one hand, stop: it's going to be just as heavy to carry home.

- If you get a choice about how things are bagged up, keep the cold things separate from the rest; when you get home, you can put the ambient-temperature bags down somewhere and just leave them for three days, if you want to.

- If you find you need to visit more than one store in order to get all your essentials (I ended up visiting three, and still didn't get the whole list), don't try to combine them into one trip. This is already a stressful experience; don't make it worse by trying to navigate a grocery store while already burdened down with shopping bought at another one. Go home, drop off what you bought, wash your hands, start over.

Back at home again:

- Between the basket bashing into my legs a bit (oh no, it's touching my jeans!) and the unaccustomed exercise after weeks of not leaving the house, I found I did want to change my clothes and take a shower when I got in from the visit to the final shop. I didn't bother to put them in the wash at once, though - they've just gone in the laundry hamper to wait for next week's load. As someone else remarked, I'm not exactly going to be rubbing my face in them in the meantime.

- Similarly, my bags are just going to sit in a corner untouched for a few days. The virus will die, and I'm not going to need them again for at least another two weeks.

Final note:

- If things don't all quite go to plan, if you don't come back with all the things you wanted, if you find a particular grocery store really stressful, if you find you can't even face going into another one... it's OK, and not a personal failing. Which sounds obvious, but I spent some time inwardly berating myself for having been so flustered by the surprise one-way system in one of the shops I visited that I didn't even try to get half the items I'd hoped to find there. Hey-ho.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:08 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh, and one other thing I meant to say: I searched for $supermarketName $myTown in order to get Google's assessment of how busy each shop was right now, and how busy they'd expect it to be. Numbers visiting shops are way down compared with usual, so "Less busy than usual" is not all that telling: but if you look at the graph and it shows that there are fewer people there right now than there usually would be at the absolute quietest time of day - that's a good sign.

Also, in the UK, if you were planning to go right at the start or end of the day, I'd advise you to check the supermarket's website to see what their current opening hours are (they've all reduced them), and which times they've designated as for key workers or especially vulnerable people only. I don't know if that's relevant in your part of the world.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:38 PM on April 21, 2020

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