There are lots of tips for how to get food while limiting your exposure to COVID-19. The good news is that consuming foods is a very low risk as a transmission vector. However, handling the packaging of foods is a possible source of food contamination.
Video On Cleaning Groceries
A doctor from Grand Rapids made this video which has gone viral with advice on handling groceries in your home.
We used many of his ideas like a clean and dirty side of the island and wiping things down. We decided against transferring items out of their original containers.
Channel 4 provided an article and video with tips from their medical expert, Dr. Frank McGeorge. He echoes some of the same tips. My biggest takeaways from his video was to let groceries sit for a few days before handling again and do not spray chemical disinfectant directly on foods.
And here is a counterpoint from a food microbiologist shared on Twitter and consolidated by threadreaderapp. He recommends washing your hands before eating especially after handling packages. He absolutely does not recommend leaving items like dairy, meat, and ice cream outside. He also recommends against washing fruits and vegetables with soap.
Many local groceries, big box, and specialty markets are still open. Be sure to check out our Grocery Shopping During COVID-19 Article for updated operating times, special shopping hours, and delivery and pickup information.
Getting Delivery and Take Out
Many restaurants are offering contactless delivery. Payments are taken online or over the phone. When you arrive they will place the food in your trunk. I love that with curbside takeout I can wait to handle the food until I am home and can wash my hands instead of using sanitizer in the car.
Again, the tips in the videos above will apply to groceries. Consider the packaging to be sources of contamination and transfer them to a clean plate or dish without touching them. Two people can make the transfer much easier than one. Designate one person to handle the containers while the other person handles the food itself. Make sure to wash up and sanitize counters after coming into contact with the containers.
Our Tips for Obtaining Groceries
I picked up groceries on Thursday. We previously stocked up on most non-perishables. Now, we are just looking to replace some of our perishables. Our list was mainly dairy, eggs, produce, and bread. I placed an order Wednesday evening for in-store pickup at Gordon Food Services.
While I am by no means an expert, I wanted to share what I observed and some strategies I used or considered.
In Store Tips
- Look into curbside pickup and delivery options – if you are lucky enough to get a time slot.
- Skip the large grocery stores for smaller specialty stores that may be less crowded – especially if you can get everything in one place. When I pulled into GFS, there were only 9 cars in the lot (including mine) and less when I left.
- Minimize contact as much as you can. Even if you can’t do a curbside order, try an in-store pickup.
- If possible, leave the kids at home. They are more likely to touch everything and their mouths. Also, send only one adult.
- Minimize what you bring into the store. I left my purse and just took my credit card, phone, key, and hand sanitizer. I left my phone in my pocket the whole time and used hand sanitizer after paying at the register and again after putting the groceries in my car before opening the door.
- Try to leave 6 feet between you and other customers. Many stores have this marked at the registers. When shopping, aim for a 2 shopping cart distance or pass as quickly as you can.
- Use Apple Pay or Google Pay where available to reduce contact with the credit card machine or cash.
- Stores are discouraging use of reusable bags during this time since they can transmit the virus. If you do use them, please remember to wash them when you get home.
- If you are shopping in-store, consider one that allows scanning and paying on your phone. I frequently use this option at Meijer and Sam’s Club.
- At Meijer, you will still go through a self-checkout or dedicated Shop & Scan lane based on the store to scan your phone, add any weighed produce or age restricted items, and pay. Sometimes a cashier will need to scan a few items with the handheld scanner. Try to place items with bar codes facing up to facilitate this.
- At Sam’s Club, you fully checkout on your phone aside from any items held in the security cage and select items. The receipt checker will scan your phone and an item. Make sure to leave a few with the bar code facing up so they do not have to handle your food items.
At Home Tips
When I got home we took a few simple steps to minimize any germs that were transferred from the newly purchased food items. I would say the biggest step that we took was shopping a few days before we needed the items so they can sit for a few days before we need to handle them again.
- In the car, I split our grocery order into two sets. One needing refrigeration and one that was room temperature stable.
- Room Temperature Stable Items:
- We are leaving the room temperature stable items in the back of my car in the garage for a few days.
- After 3 days we will bring them in and start using them.
- Items needing Refrigeration
- We brought these into the kitchen where we split handling the items. I handled the “dirty” items, he handled the clean.
- Our refrigerated items were milk, eggs, and packaged lettuce
- I held them while my husband started wiping them with a Clorox Wipe. He then took them from me grabbing a section he already cleaned and finished cleaning where I had been holding.
- We placed the items in our second refrigerator and will wait a few days to use them.
We were probably more cautious than we needed to be, but it was a little bit of time for some extra peace of mind..