I went grocery shopping this weekend. Not just a quick stop to pick up a few things, but a cart-filling trip to replenish supplies at both my apartment and at my boyfriend’s.
I expected my grocery shopping to be part of a productive Sunday. But my plans for the day went awry when the trip put me on the verge of a panic attack. I’m naturally anxious, but woof—it was a rough afternoon.
If it’s been a while since you took a “typical” trip to the grocery store, you might find a different shopping experience than you might expect. Here are my recommendations for how you can prepare for the journey in the time of coronavirus.
Spend extra time organising your list
If you’re going to the store where you usually shop, take a few extra moments to organise your list by department or aisle.
Your goal during this period of physical distancing should be to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. It is not the time when you want to be criss-crossing the store because you walked right by that item you stuck onto the bottom of your list.
Designate one shopper
If you typically go to the store with your partner or kids, it’s time to fly solo. The fewer people who are in the store at one time means the easier it will be to stay at least six feet apart.
If you can complete your shopping for more than one household at a time, now’s the time to band together to do it. As I mentioned, I did the shopping for my house and my boyfriend’s house (and let me tell you, I’m making him go next time). You might be able to pick up items for your next-door neighbour or a friend who lives close by to minimise their travels.
You may have to wait to enter the store
You can stroll right into many grocery stores right now. But you might be surprised to find a line outside your store entrance if the staff is limiting the number of people who can shop at one time. Wait times can vary, but it’s best to expect you’ll have to wait. Think you can squeeze in your grocery run before your next Zoom call? Wait until after that meeting.
If the idea of making small talk in line to buy groceries makes you sweat, grab a pair of earphones on your way out the door.
Pay attention to cart sanitation processes
Some stores are having staff sanitize carts between shoppers. Some are still allowing you to wipe down your own. And some stores are out of sanitizing wipes altogether.
If you’re not sure what the deal is at your store, ask an employee—you’re sure to find a few near the entrance.
Don’t expect people to stand far enough apart
Grocery aisles do not have a reputation for being spacious. It’s hard enough to keep physical distance from others everywhere you go, but it’s even more difficult when someone is standing in front of the chicken display for what feels like an eternity.
Do your best to be patient and avoid getting close to anyone. But also be forgiving if someone invades your personal space—scolding is only going to raise tensions further. They probably got distracted by their own grocery list and forgot that things aren’t normal anymore.
Simply step aside gracefully, if you can.
Expect the store to be out of a lot of items
My grocery store was out of eggs, toilet paper, and most types of bread.
I anticipated those items to be out of stock. But every single type of pasta? Mustard?
Go into your grocery trip expecting many shelf areas to be empty. Many of them will be restocked within hours, but the odds are high that you’ll leave the store without getting every single item on your list.
Plan for back-up items
Mustard aside, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get what you need, even if it isn’t your first choice. If you’re just shopping for yourself, it’s easy to adjust when the grocery store is out of your favourite brand or flavour of a product. But if you’re shopping for anyone else, like a partner, child or neighbour, ask them this important question: “If they’re out of that kind, is there another option you prefer?”
You might argue that this isn’t a time to be picky. But if you’re someone who would normally stop in the grocery aisle and send a text to ask, “They’re out of Cocoa Pebbles, what do you want?” preparing some alternatives before you venture out to the store can help you reduce your shopping time. It can also help set expectations for the folks who stayed home.
Expect new bagging rules
If you usually bring your own reusable bags, you might find your store won’t use them right now. If you typically bag your own groceries, this is less likely to impact you. The virus isn’t known to survive very long on soft items like tote bags, but some stores that usually have baggers have been offering paper or plastic only in an effort to reduce the items store employees have to touch.