With roughly a quarter of the world’s population on some type of lockdown due to coronavirus, heading to the shops to pick up some groceries is a luxury and a risk all at once. We still all need fresh meat and vegetables, some still need to buy toilet paper, and of course prescription medicine can’t be ignored. Limiting time in the store and how many surfaces you come into contact with are big concerns right now, a consideration that had never crossed most people’s minds.  

Next time you head out to pick up your essentials, you need to have a plan of action. Katie Connor has prepared a list of tips and hacks to get you through your next trip to the grocery store that first featured on cnet. She counsels to stay calm and be patient; keep a smile on your face. Everyone out there is dealing with the same things. Here’s some ways you can successfully shop whilst social distancing.

Get your shopping list in order

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The goal is to get in and out of the store fast, so make a mental note of the aisles and organize your list in order you’re going to walk through the shop. There are apps for some stores like Kroger that tell you the aisles you’ll find each item on.  

Once your list is done, get things into aisle order. This is going to help you avoid zig-zagging all over the store because you forgot to grab the canned corn when you were picking up the tuna tins. 

Get what you need

Clearly, it’s human nature to panic and buy everything we can during a crisis. We’ve all seen the videos on social media of stockpiling and fights over toilet paper. Stocking up on what feels like essentials isn’t actually very helpful. People hoarding supplies has led to shortages of things like frozen peas. It’s not fair to your community, particularly vulnerable people and those on low incomes, and you’ll struggle to find what you need when you run low if everyone clears the shop shelves. 

Even if you wanted to stock up, there are stores that have placed limits on how many of one thing that you can buy. When you’ve already got 20 rolls of toilet paper, leave some on the shelves for everyone else. When you’ve got plenty of Clorox wipes, think about the mother who has just ran out before you pick up any more. Supplies will replenish when everyone calms down. 

Disinfect or protect when you’re touching the cart

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Your first instinct is to grab a cart when you head into the store, but before you put your hands on it you need to give it a good wipe down with a sanitizing cloth. A lot of retailers have supplies available and some places are even offering to wipe down your cart for you before you head in. No disinfectant wipes? You can put on a pair of latex or single-use gloves to put a barrier between you and potential virus droplets. Wear them all the time you shop and discard them once you’ve loaded your car and returned the cart. 

Go it alone

Wherever possible, don’t take anyone with you when you shop. There’ll be less people needing to doge each other down the aisles, keeping the 6ft social distance is easier with less people. If childcare constraints mean you need to take children with you, keep a close eye on them so they’re not touching anything and they’re doing social distancing, too.

Live in your 6-foot bubble

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If someone is in the aisle that you want something from, be sure to wait for the other person to finish and move past you. You’ll be following the social distancing rules, and you’re also not going to worry the other person when they’re probably already as stressed as you.

At the checkout, be sure to keep that all-important 6-foot distance from other shoppers. When they’re available, use the self-checkout facilities. You’ll be less worried about someone getting too close to you. 

In-store hand hygiene is key

No gloves? No biggie. Carry hand sanitizer with you, with at least 65 percent alcohol, to keep your hands clean in case you accidentally touch your face. You don’t need to sanitize every time you touch a new surface, but when going into and out of the store is a useful habit to form. 

Be sure to sanitize surfaces in your car once you’re back from the store. 

Contactless payment is your friend 

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Now might be the time to get around to setting up something like Apple Pay or Google Pay for when you’re checking out. Alternatively, use the tap-to-pay contactless option on your debit card if you have it; it’s the method where you hover your card over the payment terminal to make payment. Doing this rather than swipe and sign or entering your PIN means you’re avoiding contact with shared surfaces.

Where these technological options are available, be sure to sanitize or wash your hands with soap for twenty seconds before you touch anything else at all. Make sure you sanitize your card if someone else touches it, even if they have gloves on. 

Take from the back

The stock that’s at the back of the shelf has been touched by less people so that’s the stuff you want to get. Try to use your arms to handle items on the shelf towards you rather than your hands to avoid unnecessary contact. You can try pushing things to the side to get at them easier. This is going to protect the next person too because you’ve not touched what they’re going to buy. 

Off-hours visits help everyone

If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible schedule, go to the store when most people won’t. Social distancing will be a lot easier. Every town and city will have a little variation in these hours, but you can do a drive past to check if the store is busy, or do a shout on social media to see what other people know about busy hours locally. A general guide is that when a store opens they have less customers than lunch time. Lots of stores now offer alerts when the products you want come in, a great service to save a wasted trip. 

In just a few short weeks, our lives and schedules have been shifted beyond measure, but it’s possible to adapt to the new reality and keep us and those around us safe. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do social distancing so that the virus won’t spread and our hospitals won’t get overwhelmed. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest scientific information and advice about the coronavirus pandemic, head to the WHO website.

All the information and advice in this article is meant to be used for education and information only. It’s not meant to be medical or health advice. If you have any concerns about your medical condition or health objectives, speak with a physician or qualified health care provider.