Shopper pushing cart in grocery store

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues and experts encourage people to practice social distancing, grocery safety is an issue on everyone's mind.

What is the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus when you are shopping?

First, the fewer people in your household going to the store, the better. If you can, leave the kids at home to limit everyone's exposure.

Shopping in Store

Try these tips for shopping safely at the store amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Take Advantage of Senior Hours

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize people age 65 and older – especially those with underlying conditions – as being at higher risk for severe symptoms related to COVID-19.

Many grocery chains have designated certain "senior" days and hours when the CDC's recommended social- and physical-distancing guidelines will be more closely followed.

If you are a senior, contact your store to ask about hours and services they offer. They might also offer curbside grocery pick-up.

And for those who are not seniors, respect these hours and shop another time.

When to Shop for Groceries

Make a plan and shop during less crowded times of day. Typically this is as soon as they open, although these early hours may be designated as senior hours on some days. Check the store's website first.

Plan what you will buy before heading to the store. If possible, purchase enough groceries for two or three weeks. This will minimize your trips to the store.

Wipe Down Your Cart

Wipe down your shopping cart with disinfectant wipes and sanitize your hands before touching items. Many stores have these wipes at the door, but consider bringing your own, just in case.

Don't touch or pick up items you aren't sure you're going to buy. If you do pick up an item, be sure not to touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth directly after.

Get Your Groceries Delivered

Better yet, stay out of the store entirely. Use a grocery delivery service or ask a friend or neighbor who is planning to go to the store to pick up items for you.

Avoid a direct hand-off. Ask that groceries be left outside your door. Use electronic payment to tip the delivery person or to send money to a friend who shops for you so you can avoid direct contact.

Order Groceries Online

Consider placing your online order earlier than normal, as wait times may increase. Many grocery delivery services mention on their websites when customers might experience minor delays.

Pay attention to the expected delivery date. Sometimes this date will change just before payment, so check and then double-check to make sure the date works for you.

Grocery Pick-Up

If delivery is not available in your area, see if your store will do curbside pick-up for orders placed online or over the phone.

Cleaning Produce and Disinfecting Groceries

Whether you went to the store, had groceries delivered or used curbside pick up, you'll want to clean for coronavirus before you put your food away.

According to a preliminary study, novel coronavirus can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours. Recent reports indicate it might survive on hard surfaces for at least 17 days.

Here is how to make your groceries safe:

  • Keep groceries outside, bringing in one bag at a time to sanitize items before putting them away.
  • Use disinfectant spray or wipes to clean external containers. If possible, move food items like bread and cereal to alternative storage containers.
  • Scrub fruits and vegetables thoroughly for 20 seconds and then rinse.
  • After you've put your groceries away, wash your counters and any other surfaces you've touched.
  • Wash your hands after opening any containers, including cardboard boxes.
  • If you use reusable grocery bags, keep them outside or in your car, as they might have traces of virus on them. Wash them when you can, but consider them dirty after each new visit to the store.