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Grocery Shopping While Social Distancing

March 27, 2020
Published in: COVID-19, Nutrition

Woman choosing fruit at the grocery store

Quarantining and social distancing to prevent the spread and of the COVID-19 virus changes our habits and the way we do every day activities, such as grocery shopping and meal planning. Healthy meals are even more important in times of stress, though, so these tasks may be more essential than ever.

Most grocery stores have expanded their services or changed their hours in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. If your grocery store has special hours for those over 60 or with compromised immune systems, take advantage of those hours to shop if you are eligible. They are usually early in the morning, so these customers are the first to shop after deep cleaning has taken place. Grocery stores have also developed shop on-line features with scheduled pick-up and delivery options that you can investigate. These options are becoming quite popular, though, so you may need to place your order several days in advance.

Here are some additional helpful ideas and tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to consider as you think about you and your family's nutrition.

Tips for when you have to go to the store

To get in and out of the store as efficiently as possible, plan your meals and snacks ahead and shop from a list. If you know the store layout, put your list in order of the store departments. Planning before you shop can save both time and money. Check your recipes for ingredients that are needed, then check to see what foods you already have on hand and make a list for what you still need to buy.

Try to buy perishable items, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and frozen foods, toward the end of your shopping trip to reduce the amount of time they spend at room temperature.

Use the disinfectant wipes available to clean your hands and wipe down cart and basket handles before shopping. It is important to wash your hands as soon as you get home from shopping. Wipe down the external surfaces of canned or wrapped foods. You should always be washing vegetables and produce, but be sure to wash your hands before and after washing the vegetables. Put the perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer right away. After you've put everything away, wash your hands again.

Keep your pantry and freezer as well-stocked as possible

Planning your menus a week or two in advance can help you stay on track at the grocery store. Since you'll probably be making fewer trips to the store, here are some suggestions of foods with a long shelf-life or good freezer life to keep on hand, if possible, for easy to prepare and quick meals.

Things that can sit on the shelf:

  • Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt
  • Dried or canned fruit in 100% fruit juice
  • Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet and whole-wheat pasta)
  • Pouches or canned fish and chicken
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Olive, canola or other vegetable oils
  • Dried herbs and spices

Freezer items:

  • Vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts)
  • Fruit (such as berries and cherries )
  • Whole wheat pizza dough/ rolls/ bread dough
  • Poultry
  • Seafood

When thinking about what to make at home, consider foods that also freeze well. Casseroles, soups, muffins and breads are easy to portion out and store in the freezer in individual containers. These foods can be frozen for 2 to 3 months without significant loss to quality.

With a bit more planning than before, grocery shopping and meal preparation are tasks we can adapt for our 'new normal.'