Healthy grocery shopping habits to protect yourself (and your family) from the virus

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One thing that has remained constant despite the pandemic is grocery shopping. We all still need to eat and keep ourselves clean after all. If you’re the person assigned to do this for your family, follow these tips to make it safe, not only for yourself but for everyone in the store:

  1. Plan your shopping

    • Plan your meals – Make a list of things to buy based on your meal plan. Don’t forget essential items like toiletries, cleaning solutions, diapers, medicine or pet food. Stick to to your list. This will lessen your shopping time which also means less exposure for you. As always, go for healthy food like fruits, vegetables and grains to keep your immunity up. At this time, you may need to buy less perishable food like dried or canned beans, dried fruits, nuts and soups (see more suggestions here: 12 of the best non-perishable foods, healthline). These are great to have in stock in case you’re not able to go outside for a few weeks.
    • Shop for two weeks – This will help you avoid going to the grocery often. But don’t hoard. Panic buying puts a strain on the supply chain and prevents others from getting what they need. Suppliers have assured the Canadian public that there are enough food and supplies to go around. Buy only what you can use for this period.
    • Assign one person to shop for the family – You can also take turns as long as only one person goes (and that person is healthy). Don’t bring kids to the store if possible. Kids will be touching items and surfaces which could make them sick or carriers of the virus.
    • Go on off-peak hours – Go when the store is less crowded. This could be early or towards store closing. But be sure to check store hours. Some stores dedicate the first hour of opening for seniors and high-risk/disabled customers.
    • Take advantage of special store hours for seniors and high-risk individuals – If you are 60 years old and up; immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions like respiratory diseases, heart disease or diabetes; or disabled, you can shop at some grocery stores and pharmacies that dedicate the first hour of opening for you. This will allow you to shop with less people around. A safer option is to have groceries for pick-up or delivery. It may be hard to get a slot with the greater demand so order early. Arrange to have it delivered to your doorstep and tip electronically so you don’t need to have contact with the delivery person.
      Update: Older Winnipeggers can now call 311 for help with the delivery of groceries, medications or specialized social services including well-being resources.
    • Be mindful of neighbours who need help – If you are not a high-risk individual, call to ask your elderly or disabled/sick neighbours if they need anything before going to the store.
  2. Observe good hygiene and social distancing rules at the store

    • Bring sanitizing wipes – Disinfect your shopping cart (especially the handle) with wipes. Use a tissue on frequently used surfaces like freezer door handles to prevent direct contact. Wipe the cart handle before returning it to the corral for the next customer.
    • Wear a mask – Consider wearing mask upon entering the store. This is an additional protection not only for you but for others as well. Read Should you wear a mask? Here’s Q&A to help you understand why you should to know the best type of mask to wear and where to get one.
    • “If you touch it, buy it” rule – Don’t keep touching products and putting them back on shelves. Check products from a distance and pick them up only if you are sure that you are getting them. Use a hand sanitizer every now and then and don’t touch your face. Sanitize your hands again after grocery shopping and before driving. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you reach home.
    • Keep a good distance from others – Follow the store’s physical distancing rules. Stay at least two to three shopping carts away from the next person to be safe. Be mindful of the tape markers on the floor that separate customers at the check-out line.
    • Be kind to stockers and cashiers – Grocery staff are doing their best to provide this essential service even while they continue to remain at risk. A little courtesy and appreciation will go a long way. When paying, use your card and other electronic means, or use self check-out to maintain distance from the cashier. This also prevents them from handling cash which can be contaminated.

    How to handle your groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak, CBC News

  3. Cleaning your groceries and safe food practices

    Experts have pointed out that catching the virus from your goods is less likely than person to person transmission. But better safe than sorry! Handle your goods carefully to limit the chances of spreading the virus to other people or surfaces in your home (especially if you have seniors or other high-risk individuals living with you). Here are some steps to do this:

    • Unpack your groceries in one area – This will make it easier for you to clean and sanitize later when you’re done unpacking.
    • Remove unnecessary packaging – Throw away extra plastic or cardboard packaging on goods. This eliminates the chances of keeping virus particles on the packaging, plus items will take up less space in your pantry.
    • Wipe and wash – Although contamination from jars and plastic containers is not a big risk, give them a quick wipe before storing or using them. It is not necessary to wash fruits and vegetables with soap but you should rinse them well before cooking or eating.
    • Sanitize your countertops – Use disposable wipes or a rag and cleaning solution to clean and sanitize surfaces where you unpacked your groceries. It is important to sanitize your kitchen countertops often, especially on areas where you prepare food.
    • And again, wash your hands after storing your groceries away.

Article updated May 22, 2020.
Sources: Who knew grocery shopping could be so stressful? Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times; Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared, The Government of Canada; and Here’s how to clean your groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak, Shawn Radcliffe, Healthline. Accessed March 31, 2020.

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Canadian E-Market is another option for grocery delivery. It is now available for Winnipeggers.

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