People are ordered to stay indoors except when they need to do something important like shopping for groceries, noted NPR, an American media organization. Many consumers like you are going outside to purchase food and other essential items, but how can you shop for groceries safely? What do you have to do once you have brought your groceries home?
Changes In Grocery Shopping Habits During the Pandemic
C+R Research, a market insights agency, asked 2,012 consumers about their grocery shopping and delivery experiences during the outbreak from March 27 to March 28, 2020. C+R research inquired about the respondents’ shopping habits, diets, experiences, and budgets have changed.
Most consumers (40%) shopped for groceries in the morning while 22% shopped in the afternoon. 17% shopped mid-day, 17% shopped in the evening, and only 4% said they do their shopping at night. The report also found that grocery delivery has increased 3.5 times while online/Amazon use has increased by 2.5 times. 73% of respondents were making fewer trips to physical grocery stores since the pandemic.
Other changes in shopping habits were shopping off-hours (46%), spending more (45%), using grocery delivery (30%), increase in restaurant delivery (17%), making more trips to the grocery store (15%), and spending less (8%). The report also revealed that 88% of respondents could not find certain items they normally buy and 89% believed that stores should place limits on items. Only 46% of shoppers are now buying in bulk. Brand loyalty changed as 76% chose not to go out of their way to find their favorite brand of food (versus 24%).
50% of respondents had witnessed prices of products skyrocketing and 48% found themselves paying more for items. 48% compared prices while 52% bought whatever is available. Consumers’ eating habits also changed as they ate more processed foods (47%), less produce (36%), and less meat or poultry (26%).
21% of consumers said they ate more produce, ate less processed food (20%), and consumed more meat or poultry (14%). Apparently, 60% of respondents admitted they are afraid of shopping at a grocery store. 45% disinfected groceries when they get home and 60% admitted that they felt a sense of panic or anxiety when shopping.
35% believed that grocery stores are doing enough to safeguard customers from the virus while 50% said stores are not doing enough to protect employees. When asked if they feel safe handling items from delivery drivers, 58% said yes and 42% said no. 47% disinfect deliveries before handling (versus 53%) and 59% stated they have completely stopped ordering takeout or deliveries (versus 41%).
4 Tips to Shop for Groceries
1. Know the Dangers
Focus on the people, not the food. Most buyers worry about contracting the virus from things such as cereal boxes and grocery store conveyor belts. However, the biggest risk is being inside the grocery store itself with other shoppers who may be potentially be infected.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, explained that it is possible to contract the virus from contaminated surfaces, but majority of transmissions is probably from respiratory droplets from people you are exposed to.
2. Plan your Visit
This is not the time to shop impulsively, stressed June McKoy, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Northwestern Medicine, as quoted by Sarah Elizabeth Adler of AARP, the largest non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers Americans aged 50 and above to choose how they live.
You can visit groceries during off-peak hours when fewer shoppers are present, said McKoy. This approach helps maintain social distancing to curb the outbreak’s spread. Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and professor at North Carolina State University, suggested shopping at stores that employ precautionary measures such as limiting the number of shoppers inside the store, putting markers that help buyers spaced in line, or having panels between customers and cashiers at checkout.
Shop quickly and efficiently. It is recommended to have a list with you when shopping. Be respectful of other buyers and practice social distance, Donald Schaffner, a food microbiologist and distinguished professor at Rutgers University.
Don’t forget to wear face covering to protect other shoppers from you in case you have the virus. There is growing evidence that individuals can have the virus before symptoms manifest so they might not know that they have the virus.
3. Sanitize Carts, Baskets, and Hands
Sanitize the handles of your cart or basket once you are in the store. Avoid touching your face until you can sanitize again. Rasmussen also suggested not using your phone while you are in the store. He said that a “phone is a great way to get your hands right up next to your face."
Ditch the gloves! When you touch something, the contamination goes to the glove. If you still want to wear gloves, Rachel Graham, a virologist who studies coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health, said to remove them properly. The best way to remove them is to hold the gloves from the inside of your palm side, pulling them out like how you would pull off a pair of socks. This way, the gloves will be turned inside out, Graham explained.
4. Don’t Disinfect Your Groceries
There’s not much evidence about shoppers getting infected from bringing home their groceries, according to infectious disease specialist, Frank Esper, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center. The virus is usually untraceable within one to two or three days. If you are not going to use a can of soup for two to three days, you can store it away and wash your hands.
But if you want to disinfect your groceries, don’t use disinfecting sprays or wipe and stick to soap and water, Graham said. She warned, “A lot of the packaging that groceries come in is really not meant to be sprayed with disinfectant, and you [could] actually end up contaminating your food." Disinfecting sprays and wipes are used on hard surfaces, which do not include many kinds of plastics or cardboard used for packaging food, Schaffner said.
Practice good hygiene in the store and at home. Skip the gloves and wear face masks instead. You don’t need to disinfect your groceries as it might contaminate the food. If you don’t want to go to the store itself, you can have your groceries ordered and delivered online.